Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
Sudan: Policy Proposals, 2
Sudan: Policy Proposals, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 010320
Document reposted by APIC
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information
service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa
Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American
Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for
Africa at http://www.africapolicy.org
Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
This posting contains a critique of a new policy report on U.S.-
Sudan Policy prepared by the Center for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS). The CSIS is faulted for a 'deeply flawed' report
that short-changes the primary victims, goes too far to appease the
government in Khartoum, and fails to "address the immediate and
devastating consequences of oil development for the local
population." In contrast to the CSIS report, the critics propose
energetic U.S. pressure for a freeze in oil production as an
incentive for a settlement.
Another posting sent out today includes several other recent policy
comments, including a cover note from Africa Action director Salih
A Critique of the CSIS Report on Sudan
February 25, 2001
Roger Winter, Eric Reeves, and Ted Dagne
[for more information on this critique contact Alison Seiler at the
U.S. Committee for Refugees (firstname.lastname@example.org)]
Tomorrow [Feb. 26] the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
will publicly unveil its Report of the Task Force on U.S.-Sudan
We believe the Report can make a significant contribution to the
increasing debate on U.S.-Sudan relations. Yet because we also
believe that in Sudan's terrible war, the National Islamic Front
(NIF) government in Khartoum is the primary abuser, while the
civilians in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains are the primary
victims, we find the CSIS Report's strategy to be deeply flawed.
The recommendations in the report, in our view, cannot lead to the
"just peace" it claims as its goal.
Herein is an initial version of a more balanced approach that does
not short-change the victims. Additional materials will be
forthcoming. We invite others who are like-minded to send us their
The second civil war in Sudan has entered its 18th year, with over
2 million casualties and an estimated 4 million people displaced.
The war is grinding the South into oblivion, slowly but surely. A
number of efforts to end the war have failed over the years, in
large part because of the habitual intransigence and arrogance of
regimes in Khartoum. In fact, the NIF overthrew the civilian
government in 1989, deliberately aborting the agreement reached
between the SPLM and the civilian government in Khartoum.
The most recent and perhaps serious peace effort, under the
auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development
(IGAD), has not led to a major breakthrough, despite significant
progress on some issues. The National Islamic Front government has
consistently and deliberately undermined the IGAD peace talks. In
1994, the NIF government walked out of the talks only to return in
1997 after a string of military victories by the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA).
Peace has been elusive in Sudan because of the NIF government's
belief that it can win the war militarily, a view that is at the
core of the NIF political philosophy. The SPLA for its part is
determined not to retreat or be forced into surrender.
Consequently, as long as the NIF regime believes that it can win
the war outright, a just peace will be unattainable, for Khartoum
will not make real concessions to the south.
Another obstacle to a negotiated settlement is the constant shift
in the balance of power between the NIF government and the SPLA. In
the late 1980s, the SPLA had the military upper hand with over
ninety percent of southern Sudan under its control, which led many
observers to conclude that the war would be over by the end of the
decade. By 1992, after the ouster of the Mengistu regime in
Ethiopia, and a split within the SPLA/M leadership, the balance of
power shifted in favor of the NIF regime. At that, most observers
suggested the end of the SPLA.
By the mid-1990s, the balance of power once again shifted in favor
of the SPLA. NIF support for radical groups in neighboring
countries and support for international terrorism led to its
isolation and loss of allies in the region. Ethiopia and Eritrea
shifted their support from the NIF to the SPLA, while the United
States launched a campaign to isolate the NIF regime. With Khartoum
isolated, the SPLA soon regained lost grounds.
The military option is seen as viable in large part due to the
absence of a serious commitment to a negotiated settlement by the
NIF regime. At the core of this dilemma is the SPLA conviction
that real concessions from the other side will only come through
military and political pressure. The SPLA is unlikely to accept a
settlement based on the putative goodwill of Khartoum or one-sided
pressure from the international community. In the view of many
southerners, a just peace can be secured only by strong guarantees
from the international community, especially the United States.
The challenge to prospective mediators is not to identify the
"right formula", but rather to put in place a set of strong
"enforcement mechanisms," a clear timeline and agenda, and support
for these from a unified international community. If peace is not
to be frustrated, mediators must act swiftly in the face of obvious
intransigence and compel the obstructionist party to return to the
negotiating table. The mediators must also be prepared to offer
"solutions" in the event of deadlock and be prepared to function as
A new report by a CSIS task force on Sudan, scheduled to be
launched on February 26th, proposes to shift significantly U.S.
policy toward Sudan, focusing on "the single overriding objective
of ending Sudan's war." The U.S., along with its European allies
and Sudan's neighbors, should establish a new peace process, using
the Declaration of Principles (DOP) adopted by IGAD as a basis for
The report proposes a "One Sudan, Two Systems" formula, supposedly
modeled on the SPLA confederation proposal for the interim period.
This formula, according to the report, offers a way out of the
current quandary since Khartoum's desire for a united Sudan and the
SPLA's aim for a self-governing southern political entity will be
achieved. As an incentive for the SPLA, the report calls for the
international community to provide substantial resources to enable
"a viable self-governing south."
The Clinton Administration's policy of containment and isolation is
harshly attacked in the report as "rhetorical excesses...unbacked
by sufficient political will and material resources to meaningfully
strengthen the south's hand in its war against the north." The
report asserts that the "web of sanctions" imposed by the Clinton
Administration did not weaken the NIF regime, although it
contributed to the isolation of the NIF regime.
The CSIS report offers some constructive proposals and may have
triggered a useful debate over the direction of U.S. policy toward
Sudan. The report, however, is excessively governed by issues
deemed by the authors as "politically acceptable"to decisionmakers
in Washington. Its findings are largely based on
questionable assumptions and a problematic analysis of the
situation in Sudan. Moreover, the authors are insufficiently
specific on a number of key issues.
Some of the shortcomings of the CSIS Report:
1. The document asserts that "oil is fundamentally changing Sudan's
war. It is shifting the balance of military power in favor of
Khartoum." Oil revenues are indeed likely to change the balance of
power in the future, but no one can be certain how this shift will
occur. In the short to mid-term, the new revenues are unlikely to
have significant impact on the balance of power. Over the past
several years, the SPLA has taken the military initiative and has
gained additional ground both, in the south and other parts of the
country. There is no clear evidence, as the report suggests, that
oil revenue has already shifted the strategic balance of power in
favor of the government, although government attacks on civilian
populations in the oil regions have intensified very significantly
and become more brutal.
The report argues that it is important for the south to negotiate
now instead of waiting for several years. The presumption here is
that the south has not been serious about negotiations. In the late
1980s and early 1990s, the SPLA was seriously engaged in
negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria; former President Jimmy Carter also
put considerable efforts in the 1990s, and the Bush Administration
in the early 1990s proposed a "disengagement" proposal-only to be
rejected by the NIF regime. A peculiar assumption in the report is
that since the government is getting stronger because of oil
revenues, the best time for them to make a deal is now. But this
forces an obvious question, why should the NIF government negotiate
seriously or make concessions if it is getting stronger and the
south getting weaker?
The report considers oil development in Sudan in the context of
overall military balance, but fails to offer clear policy options
that address the immediate and devastating consequences of oil
development for the local population. The depopulation and
terrorizing of civilian populations around the oil fields should be
taken much more fully into account in policy formulation. Instead,
the report largely ignores this unacceptable state of affairs.
Allowing oil development to continue unimpeded creates a major
disincentive for a negotiated settlement, exacerbates conflict,
especially in Upper Nile, and thus produces more suffering and
2. The document argues, "Regional initiatives hold little promise
for ending Sudan's war." Consequently, the authors propose to
establish a "new international nucleus dedicated to ending the
Sudan's war." The United States can and should take a leadership
role, but not always, according to the report. But in the same
paragraph, the authors suggest that the United States should be
relegated to helping Norway and Britain, since this approach
"offers the greatest promise of bringing heightened pressures and
inducements to bear." This leaves the precise role of the U.S.
unclear. If the highest priority of the United States should be to
end the war, why not take the leadership role instead of passing on
that responsibility to others. Is the assumption that Norway and
Britain have more clout and credibility than the United States in
getting the job done? In what circumstances would this be true? The
authors of the report have not offered a sufficiently clear roadmap
for the U.S. Administration.
The assumption that Norway and Britain can play this central role
without the U.S. is misguided. Britain and the other European
countries for some time have been engaged with the NIF government
in a "critical dialogue." But this engagement has become in effect
appeasement. For this reason, the south is likely to express
serious reservations about a process led by countries already
engaged in a process of economic and diplomatic exchange that seems
to have ignored their just and pressing interests. Moreover, though
it is given a marginal role by the authors of the report, the
active participation of regional actors, including Egypt, Nigeria,
and members of IGAD, will be key in the process.
The report ignores the uniquely significant role that can be played
by the United States. No other country can assume such a
leadership role. The U.S. alone has the diplomatic and political
force required to confront NIF intransigence and insure that
sufficient pressure is applied to produce good faith participation
in any peace process. Moreover, the United States is the only
country that is acceptable to the south in playing such a key role.
Even the NIF government has said repeatedly that without
Washington's leadership, a negotiated settlement would be
difficult. The argument that Washington cannot be effective
because it is seen as a supporter of the south and therefore not
neutral is belied by the facts of past negotiations. For example,
the 1972 Agreement was facilitated and secured by Ethiopia,
considered then a staunch ally of the south.
3. The report ignores or fails to provide appropriate remedies for
continued bombardment of civilians in southern Sudan and the
enslavement of southern Sudanese. The report criticizes the NIF
government for targeting civilians and slavery, but does not offer
clear policy options to deal with these immediate problems. The
authors assert that by ending the war these problems will be
resolved. But what are the victims expected to do in the interim?
And what of continuing, unabated liquidation of the peoples of the
4. The report consequentially ignores northern opposition groups
allied with the SPLA and considers the problem in Sudan as a
north-south problem. The conflict in Sudan is not merely between
SPLA and the NIF. This narrow view of the Sudanese conflict is too
simplistic and ignores the reality on the ground. The people of
the Nuba have been fighting for survival and dignity alongside the
south for over a decade. Northern opposition forces have also been
fighting the NIF government since it forcefully and violently
overthrew a democratically elected civilian government in 1989. Is
it a desirable policy objective to ignore the democratic forces of
Sudan? To do so is to implicitly legitimize further the NIF, which
is surely not in the interest of improving their willingness to
negotiate in good faith.
5. The authors problematically assume that there is no political
will in Washington for a tough, yet constructive policy toward
Sudan. In doing so, they ignore the critical role that can be
played by Congress and the powerful and growing constituencies
across the country working to influence the new Administration.
The purported consensus of the report is not reflective of the
views of the majority of the Sudan constituencies and offers no
clear vision for policy-makers. Normalization of relations and
consultation with allies will not by itself bring peace to Sudan
nor will it change the behavior of the extremist government in
In fact, if the proposed approach is adopted by policy-makers in
Washington, it will make the NIF more intransigent and give it
undeserved legitimacy. An extremist government that has proved its
anti-American sentiments repeatedly over the years, sitting on a
large oil reserve, will only become a greater obstacle to peace and
stability in one of the most sensitive regions of the world. This
is the same NIF government that played the key role in the
assassination attempt on President Mubarak of Egypt; that provided
safe-havens to well-known terrorist organizations and individuals,
including Osama bin-Laden; and is the same NIF that backed and
continues to back Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
6. The report proposes the resumption of "full operations of the
U.S. embassy" and calls for the appointment of "a senior talent as
ambassador." The authors also propose the designation of a
"senior-level lead contact" with the SPLM. In the same paragraph,
the authors suggest the appointment of a Special Envoy "to conduct
consultations" with allies in Europe, Middle East Africa, that is,
if the "Bush Administration see the compelling need" for an envoy.
The authors cannot have revealed more clearly the internal
contradictions in their report. Despite the justification for an
envoy, the authors undercut both the ambassador and the envoy by
creating another layer of contact with the designation of a senior
contact with the SPLM. The authors also reduce the role of the
envoy to one of mere "consultation" with allies. Even the Clinton
Administration gave Special Envoy Harry Johnston a broader mandate
than is being proposed in this report. If the United States'
objective is to end the war, the Special Envoy must be given a
clear mandate in this area.
- Ending the War. The United States must lead a new peace effort
to end the war with the support of the international community, and
if necessary, to work unilaterally in forceful ways. If we are
serious about ending this intolerable conflict, we must be prepared
to act accordingly.
- Special Envoy. Appoint a high profile, effective, Special Envoy
with a clear mandate to lead a new peace initiative. The Envoy
should have exclusive control over management of the peace process
and be the lead contact to both the government and SPLA.
- U.S. Embassy. Resume embassy operations WITHOUT the appointment
of a high profile ambassador since such a move will create
confusion about the role and function of the Envoy. U.S. interests
can be well served with a full staffed embassy without a "senior
- Maintain Sanctions. U.S. unilateral sanctions and international
pressures should be maintained against the government of Sudan
until the government effectively halted its aerial bombardments of
civilians, its participation in slavery, and has disarmed and
controlled the marauding militia. It must also halt the brutally
destructive military actions in the oil fields, and reach an
agreement with the SPLM on an interim arrangements.
- Oil Development. Tens of thousands of civilians have been
forcefully displaced from their homes because of oil development
projects in southern Sudan. Revenues from oil are being used to
kill innocent civilians. The Bush Administration should actively
consider imposing capital market sanctions on the foreign oil
companies participating in Sudan's various oil development
projects, thereby insuring that American capital is not directed
toward supporting these projects. The United States government
should also work energetically to produce a freeze in oil
production until a settlement is reached or arrangements are made
to insure the safety of civilians, the constructive use of oil
revenues, and equitable sharing of these resources between the
south and the government.
- Ending Slavery and Aerial Bombardments. The United States
government should do everything in its power to end slavery in
Sudan and the deliberate targeting of civilians.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by
Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information
Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa).
Africa Action's information services provide accessible
information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and
international policies toward Africa that advance economic,
political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.