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"Put Up or Shut Up" on Sudan

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By Anne Bartlett

February 5, 2013 - If the last year has taught us anything about Sudan, it is that there is already so much hot air in Khartoum that the Sudanese government does not feel in the slightest bit concerned about some more from the international community. Endless discussions about Abyei, the 14 mile area, Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan have singularly failed to protect innocent people or provide any hope for security. Sudanese government airplanes bomb large areas of Kordofan, Darfur and even inside the territory of South Sudan with apparent impunity. They cut off food supplies and humanitarian corridors in flagrant breach of international laws. They renege on deadlines, ignore reasonable requests, fail to pay their UN dues and play the international community like a violin. And well they might, because all evidence suggests that moral equivalency has become high fashion for diplomats and governments the world over, leaving no consequences whatsoever for the Government of Sudan’s actions.

Princeton Lyman’s miserable tenure as US Envoy to Sudan is now at an end, but the bigger question is whether the new incumbent will continue with the equivalent of diplomatic stonewalling, or have the courage to face up to the bullies in Khartoum. Chances are that unless Senator John Kerry and the State Department have a sudden change of heart, the former is most likely. In a meeting I attended in May 2012 in Arizona, it became clear that not only not only was the US prepared to play the game of moral equivalence, but they were willing to place unfair burdens on the Government of South Sudan and to blame the victims of the violence who they consider to be soft targets. Addressing the meeting, Lyman was clear that the SRF operating along the border needed to be reined in, but was rather less willing to confront the excesses of the government in Khartoum. The argument of course was that the SRF were defined as “rebels”, but one has to question by whose judgment the NCP can actually be called a legitimate or functioning “government”?

If the US has failed to hold the Sudanese government to account, then so has the African Union. It is one thing to talk about agreements and deadlines, but quite another to take action when the Sudanese government fails to meet them. Of course, those in Khartoum know that the AU is more about “carrot” than “stick”, so they play with negotiations and summits, knowing full well that nothing will happen to them. In response, AU negotiators are more comfortable in pushing the Government of South Sudan to make more and more concessions, rather than being the immovable object they should be, when Khartoum’s representatives continually prevaricate and lie through their teeth.

This of course brings one to the question of what will happen if the failure to confront the Sudanese government actually continues. Diplomatically, many western governments are now extremely concerned about the prospect of uncertain, Islamist leaning governments across North Africa and hardcore Islamist elements galloping across the Sahel. There seems to be an idea that pandering to a Sudanese government that gave birth to some of these groups will provide some leverage. This is, however, a very dangerous game. Not only does it overplay the actual influence of Khartoum, which is today unraveling at the seams, but also assumes that the Sudanese Government is even concerned about what the West has to say. If one analyzes the last decade, then engagement with the fundamentalists in Khartoum has certainly not resulted in stability across the Sahel. Moreover, Sudan’s parading of Islamic Jihad around the Presidential Palace in Khartoum in the last few days and their relations with Iran do little to indicate a de-escalation of their extremist credentials.

All of these diplomatic missteps are bought at the expense of legitimate chances for peace. Today people of the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur are being bombed to within an inch of their life, while the international community looks the other way. The Government of South Sudan is forced to do all the running where “peace” is concerned, even if that running takes them up a dead end road. In the Jebel Marra, people sit in caves literally freezing due to lack of blankets and wonder why the world has forgotten about them. In Yida camp, those who have fled from butcher Haroun, now find themselves heading into the dry season with dangerous levels of malnutrition and insecurity. Hope for these populations is in short supply, but still the international community carries on with their agenda because it is much easier to disregard the rights of powerless people.

But just for the sake of argument, what could happen if the international community decided to follow a different diplomatic path? What would happen if instead of trying to encourage Sudan to negotiate, the international community got tough and took an oppositional stance? What if Sudan was subjected to punitive resource freezing measures and a promise (backed up with action) that further attacks on civilians would prompt an internationally enforced no fly zone? What if, in the case of South Sudan, international oil producing nations worked with the GoSS to discuss alternative oil futures? This could mean international investment in an oil pipeline not for cost effectiveness reasons, but rather as an investment in regional peace and stability. In Darfur, why not use the region as a buffer to stop the extremist elements in the Sahel, by locking the region down under existing UN mandates? This approach would prevent Sudanese government destabilization projects and would have a huge payback for international security. Why not start larger peace talks about how to resolve regional conflicts in Sudan without involving countries like Qatar that have a wider Islamist agenda?

The point here is that there are choices to be made. The international community can bury its head in the sand and deal with each conflict incrementally, hoping that the problem will go away. But engaging the Sudanese government, while ignoring their predilection for violence, has two major problems. First, as we saw in the case of Osama bin Laden, it can come back to haunt you. Second, it will bring about the destabilization of large parts of Africa that will make the problems in Afghanistan look miniscule by comparison.

Working proactively with the African Union, the Government of South Sudan, the disenfranchised people of Darfur, Blue Nile and Kordofan will not only achieve a sustainable peace over the long term, but will, for a change, put the West on the right side of history. It will create long lasting partnerships based on respect and gratitude, rather than the cat and mouse game of that is currently being played with Islamists in Khartoum and elsewhere. It will speak to Bashir and his government in a language that they understand and are ready to listen to: force. Finally, it will cut the extremist producing cancer that is the Government of Sudan, out of North Africa once and for all. For these reasons, and for many others, the international community should now take a long hard look at their position and analyze where they are heading. In short, the time has come to “put up or shut up” on Sudan, before it is too late.

Dr. Anne Bartlett is a Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in International Studies at the University of San Francisco. She may be reached at: albartlett@usfca.edu



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  • 5 February 2013 06:46, by Mohammed Ali 2

    Why don’t shut up Prof? If you are so concerned, you better go to SS and stop the unprcedented mega theft of the poor, starving and marginalized pple of SS. Otherwise go to Bor where more than half of the had been burned down to aches by your beloved army in a relentless campagin to extreminate the poor Murle tribe from the face of earth. A criminal call which had resonated even inside the US..

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    • 5 February 2013 06:51, by Mohammed Ali 2

      con: and funds had been raised towards that evil cause.Some decency a little bit of honesty is needed, Prof!Or, the looooooooooooooooooooted billions are reaching Clifornia! Pathetic.

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      • 5 February 2013 07:03, by Mohammed Ali 2

        con: "It will speak to Bashir and his government in a language that they understand and are ready to listen to: force." You are calling for war against Sudan? Why? We have seperated SS and the whole world knowes that they failed because they are THIEVES who looooted in 6 years more than $ 12 billions leaving their pple starving and the UN begging to feed them.What a filthy war and hate-monger!

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        • 5 February 2013 07:52, by Mohammed Ali 2

          Con:The American pple are fed up with endless & useless wars,yet you are pushing for a non-sense war.Nobody will force Sudan to allow oil to go through Sudan.Your evil call for a dirty useless war will fall on deaf ears inside the US.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/01/us-military-suicide-epidemic-veteran?INTCMP=SRCH What will you say to such a mother who lost her son infront of her eyes

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          • 6 February 2013 15:38, by Paul Ongee

            Statistically, we have a good number of Ph.D holders in the so-called institution, African Union (AU) in particular and Africa at large but no one dares to stand up, write or articulate decisive action to be taken against the coupe-addicted regime on the planet/continent for reasons best known to them.

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            • 6 February 2013 15:39, by Paul Ongee

              It seems like Khartoum and its allies (Iran and others) are not just superpowers but super-democratic countries in the world that other countries across the globe should simply imitate. Otherwise, endless negotiation between Khartoum and Juba, Khartoum and Darfur, Khartoum and SPLM-N/SRF is the order of the day in a scheduled summit over summit.

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              • 6 February 2013 15:43, by Paul Ongee

                They just go to sleep in that air-cooled conference room; that is how political business is taken care of here at the AU summit in Addis Ababa. It is not like in the UN Conference Room in New York where they let the sleeping dogs sleep, waking only to find out a decision is already taken on how to process their economic aid and development programs. I hate seeing their pictures.

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                • 6 February 2013 15:48, by Paul Ongee

                  We should frankly tell the West that we are educated theoretically but not practically because we are “NOT” capable of making “tough” decisions on our current and future political and economic affairs without Western economic aid or intervention. Tough decisions need to be made regardless of colonial influence, religious ties or regional political affiliation.

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                  • 6 February 2013 15:51, by Paul Ongee

                    Anyway, thank you, Dr. Anne for your wake-up call on regional and international actors to pull up their socks and start thinking and making critical decisions on regime that often plays a cat-and-mouse game. Now Mali Islamist groups have arrived in Sudan for the next mission toward Darfur rebels, SPLM-N/SRF and South Sudan. NCP would never survive this time should it attempt to make any move.

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                    • 6 February 2013 16:06, by Paul Ongee

                      You don’t need to be an American at the AU summit to tell Khartoum "Shut up" or "Shut the f...k up". I wish I was there so that NCP delegates would hear it right on that historic day as the Iranian president got hit with a shoe in Cairo today. Will Saudi Arabia bid to buy the shoe at $10 million US dollars?

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        • 6 February 2013 23:05, by Gordon

          "It will speak to Bashir and his government in a language that they understand and are ready to listen"
          Just a question: Are you sure, that al-Bahir is able to understand English? I have my doubts. Better you write your comments in Arabic. That is the language, which do most people in Sudan are knowing.--- My advice to Sudan Tribune: Please allow contributions in both languages on this side!

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          • 6 February 2013 23:55, by Gordon

            By the way: Would be the utmost favour to me, to accomplish my knowledge of Arabic in writing and reading. As an Europian, it is utmost difficult to me, to express my views in your great arabic language, not in speaking, that has never been a problem to me, but in writing an reading.
            I never had the priviledge to attend an arabic school, where I could get an idea, what about Ismalic Religion.

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  • 5 February 2013 10:16, by Pif Paf

    Dear Anne,
    Your article is very biased. You fail to acknowledge the currently crisis is mainly due to the GOSS support for SPLM-N and hence its attempt to destabilize Sudan and its effect on negotiations. Security will always be a priority for anyone regardless of how hot the air is. The ball is in SPLM court now, as long as they continue to support the SRF things will only get worse cont ..

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    • 5 February 2013 10:26, by Pif Paf

      and could lead to all out war. You should look at Sudan’s acceptance to South Sudan’s secession and its sacrifices for peace rather than criticize it for defending itself from rebels who are supported by the people we signed the CPA. The best way to solve these outstanding issues is to look at them from each other perspective and then we can get somewhere.

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  • 5 February 2013 19:00, by master

    it’s not deserve to reply but for huge amount of stupidity and tremendous quantity of dullness i would like to say something may be help you
    you thing USA & EU just love you bez you are s sudanese and can wage war for your beautyful eyes
    you shut down your oil to kill us so since we are survive and you strangled your self alone

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    • 5 February 2013 19:18, by master

      don’t be stupid to expect that we will allow your oil to pass
      where on the planet of the earth you found state compeled to make relation with other state ? as you are free to do what you want also we are free to do what we want
      co-operation agreement showed your bad intention
      why for 3 years only ? bez you want to build other pipeline althuogh it useless econemicaly
      we no longer trust you anymor

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      • 5 February 2013 19:48, by master

        when your president shut down the oil he said today we achieved our economical independence and all MPs and journalist cheered for the bold decision and said we can survive without oil for decades although south sudan never paid one dollar since 9 jul tell they shut down the oil in jan and they called us as thieves
        my adivse to go to your frineds to build other pipeline if you have real friends
        fo

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  • 6 February 2013 19:19, by Gordon

    Is there really nobody who is able to change Sudan’s politics, when AU, UNO and EU are failing? Of course there is a most powerful foreign country in the background. A country with tremendous investments in the north since two decades, military aid included. Without her assistance and support, no northern government is able to survive. Guess who it is!

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  • 6 February 2013 19:49, by Gordon

    They are hiding in the background and waiting until both Sudanese Governments are so weak, that they can easily take over the whole country. They are very patient and do have time. That’s my view of a new chapter of African Colonization, after having had the privilege of being a witness of African History since more than half a century. Be cautious! Kind regards, Gordon

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  • 6 February 2013 20:38, by Gordon

    A last remark: Don’t hope for any assistance from European Countries. They have given billions and billions of “Developing Aid” to Africa. Especially from Germany to Sudan. All this money was thrown into the ovens, not the slightest sign of a good investment, to the contrary, having al-Bashir in focus. Our people are fed up by experience, to invest furthermore money in your country, money which is

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  • 6 February 2013 20:46, by Gordon

    Cont.: money which is not coming up from heaven, but out of the pockets of ordinary tax-payers, most of them are struggling to survive, like as you are.
    P.S. Please Sudan Tribune: Grant us some more lines for our statements! Thank you.

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