Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 15 August 2003

In search of peace in Sudan

Editorial

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

August 15, 2003

Warring factions in Sudan are negotiating in Kenya what may be the end game in peace talks. The Bush administration’s efforts have been well calibrated and directed, considering America’s security interests and humanitarian concerns. Talks have led to agreement on major principles, but are making little progress on technical but significant matters. If talks fail this time, the outcome likely will be more war, so our government must now step up engagement and rally international community.

The Khartoum regime has contradictory policies: It has supported terrorists groups but also aided America’s counter-terror efforts (which Mr. Bush has publicly noted). Khartoum has also continued its genocidal assaults on the people of the south while trying to win America’s favor.

Mr. Bush has made clear that, while the counter-terror help is appreciated, Khartoum must end its onslaught of the southern Sudanese and support of terror groups if it is to emerge from its rogue status. This has been both a principled and wide-eyed policy. Ignoring the killing of innocents in exchange for counter-terror aid would have been a Faustian bargain. Sudan, a country of about 34 million people, is Africa’s largest in terms of land mass and has a small, but virulent, fundamentalist Islamic contingency. To the degree Sudan establishes stability, one could hope that fundamentalists would be marginalized. If war escalates, these Islamic fundamentalists would rise in clout and power in Sudan, and beyond.

Apart from these strategic considerations, many American Christians have been instrumental in raising awareness in Congress and elsewhere of the plight of the slaughtered Sudanese Christians and others at Khartoum’s hand. This heightened awareness must not be in vain.

There is much America can do for the persecuted in Sudan. Khartoum is in a corner. It’s military has been demoralized by its inability to trounce rebels in the south, who haven’t benefited from the regime’s millions in oil income. The regime is deeply in debt, with its arrearages to the International Monetary Fund are the highest in the world. America won’t support new loans or debt forgiveness if Khartoum fails to negotiate in good faith and continues supporting terror groups. Khartoum’s need for multilateral loans is a strong incentive to improve its behavior.

Also, the United States can leverage its global leadership to rally support for peace in Sudan from key players. The administration should lean on Egypt to ensure it supports the general guidelines of the framework agreement put forward by mediators of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD should also be pressed to step up its constructive involvement. If these carrots fail to be effective, the United States can always use sticks to strengthen Khartoum’s determination to strike a peace deal.

Both Khartoum and southern rebels have been boosting arms caches in anticipation of a breakdown of talks. Currently, negotiations are shaky, but some critical elements are in place, such as self-determination and freedom from sharia law for the south and an ability for the southern Sudanese to opt for secession about six years down the road. Resolution is far from a foregone conclusion, but is within sight. This is Sudan’s best and last chance for peace.