U.S. Needs Int’l Partners for Its New Sudan Policy, But Many Countries Are Uncooperative

By Patrick Goodenough | October 20, 2009 | 5:12 AM EDT

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi welcomed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Tripoli on March 26, 2009 despite the ICC indictment for war crimes changes. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration’s newly unveiled Sudan policy envisages working with a broad “multilateral coalition,” but many Islamic, African and other countries do not see eye-to-eye with the U.S. and Western allies on the situation there.
In international forums, these countries consistently have blocked efforts to apply pressure on the Sudanese government or condemn it for the conflict in Darfur.
The strategy announced on Monday aims to work with Khartoum in grappling with the Darfur crisis and the process of implementing the north-south comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). It says unspecified “incentives and disincentives” will be used to achieve progress.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any “backsliding” by the parties concerned would invite “credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners.”
A State Department document outlining the new policy referred several times to international cooperation, and the broadening and deepening of a multilateral coalition.
“To advance peace and security in Sudan, we must engage with allies and with those with whom we disagree,” it said. “United States diplomacy must be both sustained and broad, encompassing not just [the parties in Sudan] but also critical regional and international actors.”
According to U.N. estimates, some 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million driven from their homes during six years of conflict in the western Darfur region. The CPA ended a two decade-long civil war which cost two million lives.
In his response to Monday’s announcement, co-founder of the anti-genocide Enough Project, John Prendergast, said the administration “must be prepared to build and lead an international coalition of countries that will create consequences for any party in Sudan that undermines the peace process in Darfur and the peace agreement between the North and South.”
Countries that have been involved in the issue at various levels include Sudan’s partners in the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) group, especially Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia; a donors group of mostly Western nations; a group comprising envoys from the five permanent Security Council members plus the European Union; and blocs to which Sudan belongs – the African Union (A.U.), the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
While all publicly agree on the need to end the conflict in Darfur and prevent a resumption of the north-south civil war there are wide differences between mostly Western countries on one hand and many developing countries on the other over how to move ahead:
-- Several times since 2004, China – Khartoum’s biggest oil customer – has used the declared or “silent” threat of its veto in the Security Council to ease international pressure on Sudan, usually in collaboration with fellow permanent member Russia and non-permanent members including Pakistan, Algeria, Libya and South Africa.
The occasions have included opposing a U.S. reference to sanctions in a resolution on Darfur; British proposals to institute a travel ban and assets freeze on Sudanese individuals involved in the conflict; and attempts by delay an International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against President Omar al-Bashir after prosecutors accused him of involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity and murder relating to the Darfur conflict.
-- The OIC, A.U. and Arab League have spearheaded opposition to the ICC indictment, calling it “the politicization of a purely legal issue” and portraying Bashir as a victim of Western imperialism.
-- At the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the OIC holds around one-third of the seats, resolutions on Sudan have noted the seriousness of the Darfur situation but also praise Khartoum’s “cooperation” and do not identify it as a key sponsor of the violence.
-- Organizers of the U.N. conference on racism known as “Durban II,” held in Geneva last May, left the Darfur conflict off the program altogether, despite its severity and despite what experts say is clearly a racial element.
-- At the Human Rights Council last June, a group of Islamic countries plus China, Cuba, Russia and South Africa, tried to block a European initiative to keep a special investigator in Sudan for another year. In a rare victory for Western countries at the HRC, the resolution passed by a single vote, with two African countries breaking ranks and four other abstaining.
At a background briefing on the Sudan policy Monday, a senior State Department official said that the administration’s Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, was working with “many international players,” including Sudan’s neighbors Chad, Libya, Egypt and Ethiopia, other IGAD members, and China and Russia.
During a press conference led by Clinton earlier in the day, Gration said the Chinese had been “very helpful” on the Sudan issue.
“If you look at their objectives in the region, they require stability and security,” he said. “And while we might have differences in some of the tactical issues, certainly strategically, we have the same goals.”
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow