Monday, August 3, 2009

Envoy Gration Says U.S. Seeks Sustainable Settlement in Sudan

President Obama's special envoy for Sudan says a negotiated political settlement to the civil strife in Sudan is the only way to bring a sustainable peace to the Darfur region.

Special Envoy Jonathan Gration said the goal is to conclude an agreement that will allow the Sudanese to return to their homes and resume their lives in safety and security. Previous peace efforts have faltered, Gration testified before a Senate committee July 30, and the United States has learned from those experiences. Gration laid out for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee what he called a "whole-of-government approach" for Sudan that is designed to be integrated and comprehensive.

"We are collaborating with the African Union and United Nations joint chief mediator, Djibrill Bassole, to ensure that the peace process is inclusive and that it adequately addresses the grievances of the people of Darfur," he said in prepared testimony.

To further help restore peace and security, the United States is engaging with the fragmented movements in Darfur to bring them to the peace table with a single voice; is working with Libya and Egypt to end the proxy war between Chad and Sudan; and is supporting the full deployment of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur to protect Darfuri civilians, he said.

The second aspect of the emerging U.S. strategy involves sustaining peace between the north and the south, he said. In January 2005, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending a 22-year war. However, Gration said that more than four years after the agreement, peace remains fragile.

Sudan will hold national elections in April 2010 and referendums in southern Sudan and the Abyei region in January 2011. "Our timeline is so very short; it is urgent that we act now to support the full implementation of the CPA," Gration testified. Tensions and emotions remain high, he added, and the concern is that these tensions could erupt into violence that could derail the peace agreement.

"These are just a few of the major challenges ahead as we help the parties implement the remaining milestones in the CPA," Gration told the committee.

Gration said the U.S. strategy calls for a functioning and stable Sudanese government, and one that either will include a capable government of southern Sudan or coexist peacefully with an independent southern Sudan. The United States is seeking to help the south improve its security capacity and become politically and economically viable if it chooses independence, he added.

An international arbitration panel meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, July 22 awarded the Sudanese government control over a large oil field, settling a boundary dispute with southern Sudan that had been a source of considerable debate and recent civil strife. The five-member Permanent Court of Arbitration affirmed the northern boundary of the Abyei region that was set by a 2005 boundary commission.

Gration said the United States seeks improved counterterrorism cooperation with the Sudanese, and wants to promote regional security.

U.S. AID TO SUDAN

Since 2005 and the signing of the peace agreement, the United States has provided more than $6 billion in assistance to Sudan. The program has included helping to create a new regional government that has worked to rebuild and govern the south, conducting wide-ranging civic education programs and immunizing children, said Earl Gast, acting assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

In addition, USAID has worked to improve economic opportunities and public infrastructure, while also providing food aid and support for Sudan's farmers and entrepreneurs, he said.

"We have saved lives, and we have improved living conditions for millions of Sudanese. But with the continuing challenges [in] Darfur and with less than 24 months left to follow the CPA's road map for consolidating peace, our most critical tasks lie ahead," Gast added.

USAID has worked since March to fill gaps created when the Sudanese government expelled 13 international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but those measures have been temporary and must be replaced with a more sustainable, long-term strategy, Gast said in prepared testimony for the committee.

Compounding the humanitarian crisis are carjackings, staff abductions and assaults, break-ins targeting NGO facilities, and ongoing military campaigns, which impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Darfur and have resulted in temporary and permanent suspensions of life-saving programs, Gast said.

"The U.S. government approach to Sudan's multiple challenges requires complex and creative solutions, implemented in cooperation with government officials, tribal leaders and civil society representatives throughout Sudan," Gast said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.