Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 17 July 2003

US criticised for ’minimal’ Sudan role

US policy towards Sudan has been criticised for focusing too much on the ’war on terror’ rather than securing lasting peace ahead of a visit by US special envoy John Danforth arrives in Khartoum.

BBC NEWS
Thursday, 17 July, 2003

Mr Danforth arrived in Khartoum on Wednesday shortly after a five-day visit to Africa by US President George W Bush.

Policy think-tank Africa Action - the oldest African advocacy group in the USA - told BBC World Service’s Africa Live! programme that Mr Danforth’s visit was little more than window-dressing.

"I think the United States is not doing enough to encourage peace in Sudan," said Africa Action’s Saleh Booker.

Mr Booker added that he believed the increased US involvement in Sudan was merely down to acquiring help in fighting the ’war on terror’.

"They’ve increased their call for co-operation with the minority regime in Khartoum - precisely because Osama bin Laden used to live there," he said.

"The Khartoum government is offering intelligence on al-Qaeda.

"There’s an interest more in collaborating with the Khartoum government for the purposes of intelligence-gathering than there is in solving the very difficult conflict in Sudan - not only between north and south, but between those who favour democracy in Sudan overall and the minority government that doesn’t."

Peace hopes

Sudanese-US relations have undergone a thaw since the end of the Clinton era, after experiencing turbulence in the past.

In 1997 Washington imposed sanctions on Sudan, and in 1998 bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the country.

Clinton’s White House administration initially claimed the factory was being used to manufacture chemical weapons.

"The Sudan Government claimed it was targeted because America does not like Islam - but recently the United States has played a more positive role in Sudan," the BBC’s correspondent in Khartoum, Alfred Taban, confirmed.

"It has supported the Igad mediators [from East African states] who are trying to bring the conflict to an end."

And there are many in Sudan who hope Mr Danforth’s visit will be successful.

"The American government has played and can still play a great role in the peace process," Mohammed, a student in Khartoum, told Africa Live!.

Sudan’s President Bashir himself recently told crowds in the country that: "There will be no wars, there will no more death, there will be no more rifles."

Others, however, remain sceptical.

"Of course he will be welcomed, but regarding the prospects of his accomplishing the purpose of his visit remain very vague," Oscar, a student from the north of the country, said.

Meanwhile in his last meeting before heading to Khartoum, Mr Danforth was told by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher that any prop should be "balanced to encourage the continuation of negotiations and not the contrary."