Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 29 April 2009

Is President Obama’s Sudan Policy Becoming One of Capitulation?


By Eric Reeves

April 28, 2009 — In April 2008 candidate Barack Obama described the Bush administration’s
move to normalize relations with the Khartoum regime in Sudan as a
“reckless and cynical initiative,” rewarding a brutal junta with a
“record of failing to live up to its commitments.” Yet in April 2009
President Obama is engaged in an effort precisely to normalize relations
with these same men---men he and his advisors have repeatedly described
as guilty of ongoing genocide. We can’t know what precisely was agreed
upon when newly appointed special envoy Scott Gration traveled to
Khartoum in early April, but we learn a good deal about the tenor of
discussions from Gration’s words on arrival: he declared that he came
“with my hands open,” hoping Khartoum would “respond with a hand of
friendship.” Like all Americans, Gration continued, Ana ahib Sudan, or
“I love Sudan.”

Here we must hope that Gration would distinguish sharply between the
long-suffering people of Sudan and the cabal of génocidaires who rule
Sudan and last month (March 4) expelled thirteen international aid
organizations from Darfur, representing over half the total humanitarian
capacity for a desperate population of some 4.7 million
conflict-affected civilians. The UN estimates that of 2.7 million
internally displaced persons, over 1 million will have no access to
food, clean water, and primary medical care by May. Conditions have
already deteriorated badly in some camps for displaced Darfuri
civilians, particularly water and sanitation, and the hunger gap and
rainy season loom ever closer. Numerous reports from the ground suggest
that the stop-gap measures mounted so far have still left effective
humanitarian capacity at only slightly more than 50 percent of pre-March
4 levels.

Faced with the first critical challenge posed by Darfur, Obama has
capitulated, deciding that “normalized relations” with Khartoum aren’t
such a bad idea after all. We are still missing many details of this
new policy, but most notable is its timing, coming at the very moment in
which the international community, preeminently the US, must decide
whether to resist Khartoum’s latest effort at blackmail. For the regime
has turned to advantage the March 4 announcement by the International
Criminal Court of an arrest warrant charging regime President Omar
al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Long
anticipated, though with far too little planning by the Obama
administration and its Western allies, the ICC announcement has served
as the perfect pretext for Khartoum to expel aid organizations it had
long wished to see gone. Predictably, even further expulsions are the
blackmailing threat against robust actions by international actors.

Following Gration to Khartoum, and clearly representing the Obama
administration, was John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. Kerry went even further in signaling that the US was
prepared to grant Khartoum more of what it has sought for many
years---including a removal from the US list of state sponsors of

“Kerry, who says a new dialogue has been brought about by Obama’s
special Sudan envoy Scott Gration, suggested diplomacy could eventually
result in a lifting of sanctions against Sudan and its removal from a US
list of state sponsors of terrorism. ‘Absolutely. That is entirely on
the table. I can’t tell you when, that’s a decision President Obama
makes,’ said Kerry.” (Reuters [dateline: el-Fasher], April 17, 2009)

This was precisely the feature of Bush administration overtures that so
exercised candidate Obama.

In order to sell what will be for many Americans a betrayal of Darfur,
Obama, Gration, and Kerry have in public commentary elided or ignored
Khartoum’s brutal record of the past twenty years and finessed the
question of how to provide aid to millions of people on the very cusp of
survival. Moving from declaring in early March that the expulsion of
aid groups was “not acceptable,” Obama now speaks nebulously of
“find[ing] some mechanism whereby we avert an enormous humanitarian
crisis." But as Khartoum has made plain, this “mechanism” will not
include the expelled organizations, with their substantial resources
(including Sudanese personnel) and their invaluable institutional
knowledge of Darfur. The measures so far proposed are short-term and
wholly inadequate in nature.

The deepening humanitarian crisis facing the people of Darfur is obvious
to all who will honestly look, and so it is either cynicism or willful
ignorance that led Kerry to declare on April 17, “We have agreement
[with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent
capacity.” In fact, the text of the agreement is shockingly glib,
consisting of little more than exhortations and general ambitions; there
are no mechanisms of enforcement or assessment, no articulation of
consequences for non-adherence.

Even ignoring Khartoum’s long history of reneging on agreements, the
time-frame specified in the Kerry agreement (April 10, 2009) is simply
impossible, as all in the aid community recognize---even with a complete
re-admission of all expelled groups. And despite various commitments
made by the regime in the agreement document, evidence points to
Khartoum’s continuing restriction of humanitarian access and
compromising of working conditions. Many expelled aid workers, on
leaving Sudan, speak of Khartoum’s “extortion” of humanitarian assets;
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres went so far as to
declare Khartoum was holding aid workers “hostage” (UN Integrated
Regional Information Networks [dateline: Cairo], April 24, 2009). For
his part, Gration baldly declared, “We have to come up with a solution
on the ground within the next few weeks” (Agence France-Presse
[dateline: Khartoum], April 4, 2009). But a “few weeks” later it is
clear that there is no “solution” in sight for Darfur. Instead, it has
become obvious that the Obama administration doesn’t recognize that the
problem is not “on the ground,” it is in the genocidal politics in
Khartoum---politics that have now been given much freer reign as the
regime senses that it will face no effective pressure to restore fully
the previous humanitarian capacity.

Nor is anyone in the Obama administration addressing the disastrous
consequences of the humanitarian expulsions from Eastern Sudan or the
marginalized areas close to the north/south border (Southern Blue Nile,
Abyei, Southern Kordofan, including the Nuba Mountains). Several of the
thirteen expelled organizations had a disproportionately important role
in providing assistance to these extremely needy areas, and many of the
critical projects---providing food, water, education, primary medical
care, and livelihood assistance---have been shut down. Little reported,
this “other catastrophe” has received no meaningful attention from the
Obama administration, a fact not lost on Khartoum.

The change in the Obama policy is an expedient substitute for the hard
diplomatic work that should have begun during his transition. Forceful
negotiations with China, Khartoum’s enabling ally; securing more support
from a fitfully engaged European Union; vigorously pressuring Egypt,
which dominates Sudan policy in the Arab League; engaging with
sympathetic countries in the African Union (e.g., Senegal, Uganda,
Kenya, Tanzania, possibly the new president of South Africa). There is
no substitute for concerted, intense diplomatic pressure on Khartoum
because at this point in the crisis there are no military options
available that don’t pose unacceptable risks to civilians,
humanitarians, and peacekeepers on the ground. But this does not
dictate the easy course of capitulation. The diplomatic energies
required are certainly daunting. But in their absence, Khartoum will
have prevailed by outwaiting and finally blackmailing the international
community. This development bodes ongoing catastrophe throughout Sudan.

Eric Reeves is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the
Darfur Genocide

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  • 30 April 2009 00:35, by Samani

    Mr Reeves, i think we’ve heard enough of you hatred towards Sudan over the last 10 years. Its time for you retire, disappear and go die somewhere in peace. You sick perverted twisted man.

    repondre message

  • 30 April 2009 03:18, by Akol Kiir

    Mr Reeves article after article you parrot your same nonsense. You have no right at all to judge this government or its actions in Darfur. Your racism towards our Arab brothers is prevalent in every article you write.

    Stop meddling in our internal affairs. You make one visit to Sudan and now you think you’re a scholar.

    repondre message

    • 30 April 2009 10:08, by Akol Liai Mager

      Here you go! Akol Kiir;

      "Your racism towards our Arab brothers is orevalent in every article you write"

      The sentence I have just qouted has revealed your identity clearly Akol Kiir. You are just an Hyena in Grandmum uniform or a Wolf in a sheep skin.

      Arab have never been brothers in their actions to the people you are using their names and will never be either, but in contrast, Mr Reeve’s feeling makes him more brother to; Dendit, Wani, Tut, Kuku, Yaqub, Ucu and Okech’s children.

      Reeve articles shows that he has kept his humanised values given to him by God as a special gift. If you don’t see that in his point of view, then it is because Arabs and their brothers gave up God’s gifts and have taken devil ones.

      Anyway my apologies for generalising Arab because there are few Arabs who believe in peace and ready to share this planet with non Arab people.

      You need to be reminded that; all African Sudanese will never be fool again and by the way, you Arab are occupied by fear that if African Man/Woman rule Sudan, then your security may be undermined or you will not get power again. This feeling is not only not helpful, it’s a great enemy than the people you fear. So, it will be a good idea if you ask God to liberate you from this captivity instead of calling for death to America, France, African Sudanese as God may give you the opposite of your request.

      But, the fact is that; Obama is with Terrorists and you must be lucky.

      covering identities meant that you intend to cheat people and cheating is not a good behaviour my friend and that the enemy Mr Reeve want to fight out in you on your behave.

      Take care, and may God bless you if you realy think you are doing what he reuired you to do.

      repondre message

      • 30 April 2009 14:55, by Akol Kiir

        This is the problem with you. Blind SPLM supporters who are ignorant to the realities. And if I’m Arab out of all the names why would I choose this one? I lived with Arabs and I see them as my brothers that may be different to you because you are a racist.

        repondre message

        • 30 April 2009 17:46, by David Glenn

          The Scriptures talk of Haggar,wife of Abrham,mother of Ishmael,the father of the arabs.For those who don’t know,Haggar was a Nubian Princess,from Sudan.Does’nt this mean something for arabs and africans?Do they realize this bond?I pray they do...

          repondre message

        • 1 May 2009 07:06, by Akol Liai Mager

          I wouldn’t disagreed with you Akol if it is African who killed 2.5 millions in the South, unknown number in the East and now 300,000 thousands in Darfur. My disagreement is based on the fact that; it is Umma-DUP, Umma-NIF and now NIF-Umma-DUP-Arab Ba`th who killed and still killing African in Darfur and you call them your brothers.

          They are not your brothers my friend, they are you and you are them. So your real name can be identify just by using Algebra formulae that will produces this outcome: Sadiq Al Bashir and you should be proud to use your real name instead of trying to fool whom you will never be able to fool them again.

          If God give me a choice to select between blindness or kill innocent people, I will shoose to be blind if that may help me sustain my hands clean of innocent people’s blood.

          Dear friend Akol Kiir or Sadiq Al Bashir, do not mistakenly think that there are ordinary Jaang people who may support your racist Arab/Islamic killer goverment than those few traitors, the Kennana Forum organisers.

          I will support you and your outlaw NIF regime only if you stop killing and dividing people into first, second and third class citizens.

          Staying 20 or more than that in power doesn’t legitimate your NIF regime Akol, it only prolong the suffering of non Arab Sudanese people, but still as an outlaw and genocidal regime. You grabbed power at night using Tanks to terrorise people and installed yourself in power without people blessing.

          Enjoy killing Darfurians, but bear in mind that you will never escape ICC on this planet nor final judgement from God.

          repondre message

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