Tuesday, October 20, 2009

U.S. policy for resolving the conflicts in Sudan

Sudan Policy Aims at Ending Genocide, Implementing Peace Accord

By Stephen Kaufman, Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a "comprehensive" U.S. policy for resolving the conflicts in Sudan, focused on ending human rights abuses and genocide in the Darfur region, fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and ensuring Sudan does not become a haven for violent extremists.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department October 19, Clinton said today's Sudan, four years after the signing of the CPA, is "at a critical juncture, one that can lead to steady improvements in the lives of the Sudanese people or degenerate into more conflict and violence."

The people of Darfur still live in "unconscionable and unacceptable conditions," Clinton said. The U.S. focus, she said, is on "reversing the ongoing dire human consequences of genocide by addressing the daily suffering in the refugee camps, protecting civilians from continuing violence, helping displaced persons return to their homes, ensuring that the militias are disarmed and improving conditions on the ground."

The situation in Sudan has emerged as one of the largest and most devastating humanitarian crises for the 21st century, the State Department said in an October 19 statement. More than 20 years of fighting between the government and the SPLM has killed more than 2 million people, and key portions of the 2005 CPA remain unfulfilled and will be a flashpoint for future armed conflict unless implemented, Clinton said.

In addition, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party and government-supported militia launched a genocidal campaign in 2003 against ethnic groups affiliated with a potential rebellion, killing hundreds of thousands, displacing 2.7 million people and creating more than 250,000 refugees, according to the State Department statement. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in the Darfur genocide.

Instability in Sudan not only jeopardizes the future of the country's 40 million inhabitants, but can also "be an incubator of violence ... in an already volatile region," Clinton said.

The fate of Sudan's people is "profoundly important" to U.S. officials, from President Obama on down, Clinton said. The decision to pursue the two goals of improving human rights in Darfur and fully implementing the CPA "simultaneously and in tandem" reflects the Obama administration's "seriousness, sense of urgency, and collective agreement about how best to address the complex challenges" to both, she said.

"We are realistic about the hurdles to progress," but "the problems in Sudan cannot be ignored or willed away," Clinton said, adding that although dialogue will continue with the parties in the conflict, "words alone are not enough" to end the conflict and humanitarian suffering, and the United States is prepared to take measures to encourage progress.

"Assessment of progress and decisions regarding incentives and disincentives will be based on verifiable changes in conditions on the ground. Backsliding by any party will be met with credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners," Clinton said.

The secretary said the United States has "a menu of incentives and disincentives" that includes both political and economic measures, but added "we want to be somewhat careful in putting those out" when she was asked to specify potential actions.

In an October 19 statement on the comprehensive strategy, Obama warned that Sudan is "poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken," and the conscience of both the United States and the international community requires action "with a sense of urgency and purpose."

The president said he plans to renew U.S. sanctions on the Sudanese government. "If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community," he said.

At the State Department, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said there will be "no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress," and "significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still."

To track progress on the ground, the United States has more sources of information than in the past, including the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), the 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the south, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "We're in contact with all the parties, and I'd have every confidence that our challenge will not be lack of information," Rice said.

ELECTION, REFERENDUM SCHEDULE ADD TO URGENCY

Retired U.S. Air Force General Scott Gration, who is the Obama administration's special envoy for Sudan, said there is a strong sense of urgency to improve the situation in the country because Sudan is scheduled to hold national elections in April 2010. And a referendum in southern Sudan on self-determination, which could lead to that region's independence, is likely to be held before the end of 2011.

"Success requires frank dialogue with all parties in Sudan, with the regional states and international community. We all must work together to get tangible results on the ground, to achieve a lasting peace, a better life for future generations of Sudanese. And we must not stop until our task is complete," Gration said.

According to the October 19 statement from the State Department, the Obama administration has learned "critical lessons" from previous U.S. efforts to resolve the conflicts in Sudan, including the need to engage both with allies and "with those with whom we disagree," holding individuals responsible for genocide and humanitarian atrocities, and valuing Sudanese counterterrorism support, but not as "a bargaining chip to evade responsibilities in Darfur or in implementing the CPA."

The October 19 statement said that rather than viewing process-related accomplishments such as the signing of a memorandum of understanding between two parties as a means of determining progress, U.S. officials instead will base their assessments on "verifiable changes in conditions on the ground."

"Each quarter, the interagency at senior levels will assess a variety of indicators of progress or of deepening crisis, and that assessment will include calibrated steps to bolster support for positive change and to discourage backsliding. Progress toward achievement of the strategic objectives will trigger steps designed to strengthen the hands of those implementing the changes. Failure to improve conditions will trigger increased pressure on recalcitrant actors," the statement said.

The statement also said the United States will be working with international partners to provide assistance for the April 2010 elections and the 2011 referendum with the goal of "a peaceful post-2011 Sudan or an orderly transition to two separate and viable states at peace with each other."

Along with providing assistance for voter registration and education, balloting, election monitoring and other services, the Obama administration will encourage parties in the north and south to enact legal reforms conducive to a more credible electoral process, work for the "timely and transparent demarcation of the north-south border," and support efforts to develop a post-2011 wealth-sharing agreement between the two.

Read the full text of President Obama's statement and a transcript of the briefing by Clinton, Rice and Gration.

(Published by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.