Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 4 November 2003

Hope From an African Trouble Spot


Editorial, The New York Times

NEW YORK, Nov. 04, 2003 — Sudan, the largest country in Africa, has been at war for 36 of its 47 years. In the last 20 years more than two million people have died. But today there is hope for peace. The government in the north, which is largely Muslim, and the major guerrilla group in the largely Christian and animist south are on the brink of signing a peace agreement. Intense involvement by outside governments, including the Bush administration, made the difference. Continued attention will be crucial to the agreement’s success.

Sudan used to be a major supporter of international terrorism. But since the American invasion of Afghanistan, it has cooperated - although far from fully - with antiterror measures. Still, the country remains a police state. The North’s discrimination against the South, which has virtually all of Sudan’s oil and other riches, provoked the war.

Sudan is an example of how sanctions have worked to further peace. American and European financial sanctions against Khartoum and citizen pressure against investors have pushed the government into talks. Sudan has realized that it cannot get loans or investments to exploit oil reserves while the war continues. Pressed by American Christians outraged at the religious discrimination, the Bush administration has made Sudan one place in Africa where it is truly engaged.

The South will participate in a Khartoum government, but it will govern itself for the next six and a half years and then vote on independence.

The burden of making the agreement work lies mainly with the north. To persuade the south not to secede, Khartoum must put an abrupt end to decades of discrimination. The international community must quickly deploy a robust peacekeeping force and offer a peace dividend. Bush administration officials have said they will ask for more money for Sudan early next year. It is vital that Washington not lose interest after the war’s end.

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