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Note: 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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+


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 Booker.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Critique of the CSIS Report on Sudan

February 25, 2001

Prepared By

Roger Winter, Eric Reeves, and Ted Dagne

[for more information on this critique contact Alison Seiler at the U.S. Committee for Refugees (]

Tomorrow [Feb. 26] the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will publicly unveil its Report of the Task Force on U.S.-Sudan Policy.

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 comments.


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 arbitrators.

CSIS Report

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 negotiations.

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 unnecessary bloodshed.

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 Nuba?

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 Khartoum.

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.

Effective Alternatives

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 talent ambassador."
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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