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Sudan: Why Doesn't Bush Act on Darfur?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 29, 2006 (061229)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The crisis in Sudan's Darfur region is intensifying without a meaningful response from the White House [despite President Bush's promise not to allow genocide 'on his watch'] Perhaps Harvard professor Samantha Power's tongue-in-cheek theory is correct: The memo was inadvertently placed on top of the president's wristwatch, and he didn't want it to happen again. But if Bush's expressions of concern for the victims in Darfur are genuine, then why isn't his administration taking real action?" - John Prendergast

In an op-ed article last month, included in this issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin, Prendergast analyzes the reasons behind U.S. policy on Darfur and why rhetoric about "genocide" seems to have little connection to actual policy. Also included below are reflections on Darfur by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his "farewell address" on December 11, and an earlier more detailed statement by the Secretary-General on Darfur.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains an analysis of the abortive Darfur peace talks. For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletin's on Sudan, and links to additional information, visit

[Note that these two year-end analyses are slightly longer than normal for AfricaFocus Bulletin. This is because, in my view, they are very useful in analyzing the outlook for Darfur in the coming year.]

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

"So How Come We Haven't Stopped It?"

John Prendergast in The Washington Post

19 November 2006

The Washington Post

[John Prendergast, senior adviser at the International Crisis Group (ICG), was director of African affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. This and other commentary and reports from ICG are available at]

Early in his first term, President Bush received a National Security Council memo outlining the world's inaction regarding the genocide in Rwanda. In what may have been a burst of indignation and bravado, the president wrote in the margin of the memo, "Not on my watch."

Five years later, and nearly four years into what Bush himself has repeatedly called genocide, the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region is intensifying without a meaningful response from the White House. Perhaps Harvard professor Samantha Power's tongue-in-cheek theory is correct: The memo was inadvertently placed on top of the president's wristwatch, and he didn't want it to happen again. But if Bush's expressions of concern for the victims in Darfur are genuine, then why isn't his administration taking real action?

The answer is one of the great untold stories of this young century, one in which human rights principles clash with post-9/11 counterterrorism imperatives. During my visits to Darfur in the past few months, I've heard testimony from Darfurians that villages are still burned to the ground, women are still gang-raped by Janjaweed militias and civilians are still terrorized by the Sudanese air force's bombings. As Darfur descends further into hell, all signs explaining the United States' pathetic response point to one man: Osama bin Laden.

In the early 1990s, bin Laden lived in Sudan, the guest of the very regime responsible for the Darfur atrocities. At the time, bin Laden's main local interlocutor was an official named Salah Abdallah Gosh. After 9/11, however, Gosh became a more active counterterrorism partner: detaining terrorism suspects and turning them over to the United States; expelling Islamic extremists; and raiding suspected terrorists' homes and handing evidence to the FBI. Gosh's current job as head of security for the government also gives him a lead role in the regime's counterinsurgency strategy, which relies on the Janjaweed militias to destroy non-Arab villages in Darfur.

The deepening intelligence-sharing relationship between Washington and Khartoum blunted any U.S. response to the state-sponsored violence that exploded in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. U.S. officials have told my colleague Colin Thomas-Jensen and me that access to Gosh's information would be jeopardized if the Bush administration confronted Khartoum on Darfur. And since 2001, the administration had been pursuing a peace deal between southern Sudanese rebels and the regime in Khartoum -- a deal aimed at placating U.S. Christian groups that had long demanded action on behalf of Christian minorities in southern Sudan. The administration didn't want to undermine that process by hammering Khartoum over Darfur.

The people of Darfur never had a chance.

The term "genocide" became a point of contention in the 2004 presidential campaign, with Democratic candidate John F. Kerry and a united Congress calling on Bush to use it. Finally, on Sept. 9, 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility -- and genocide may still be occurring."

Powell continued: "[N]o new action is dictated by this determination. We have been doing everything we can to get the Sudanese government to act responsibly."

Everything? The U.N. convention on genocide -- which the United States signed in 1948 and ratified 40 years later -- requires signatories to seek to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. But instead of being tried for war crimes, Gosh was flown to Langley last year to be debriefed by CIA officials. As a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times, "The agency's view was that the Sudanese are helping us on terrorism and it was proud to bring him over. They didn't care about the political implications."

In the eyes of many intelligence officials, Gosh and other Sudanese informants have become more valuable for U.S. counterterrorism objectives over the past six months because of the unfolding political upheaval in Somalia. The CIA has long pursued al-Qaeda affiliates implicated in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. To this end, Washington began secretly funding warlords in Somalia to pursue terrorism suspects. But this strategy backfired: Somali Islamists have taken control of much of southern Somalia, with hard-liners protecting al-Qaeda affiliates. Many leading Somali Islamists have ties to Gosh, a fact Khartoum exploits to strengthen counterterrorism links with Washington.

U.S. inaction on Darfur has continued in the face of the most energetic campaign by U.S. citizens on an African issue since the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. But so far, mobilization by Christian, Jewish, African American and student groups has failed to move the administration's policy.

Indeed, Washington's constructive engagement with the Sudanese regime is as ineffective and morally bankrupt as the Reagan administration's approach to the apartheid regime in South Africa. During Bush's first term, the State Department wanted increased dialogue with Iraq, Iran and North Korea, but lost out to the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney. As consolation, the department took the lead on Sudan, shifting from the Clinton administration policy of isolation and pressure to one of engagement.

That policy has endured as Darfur continues to burn. Along with Powell, former deputy secretary Robert B. Zoellick and Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, remained staunch advocates for engaging with Khartoum. In August, Frazer told reporters: "We believe that President Bashir and the Sudanese government want peace in Darfur." U.S. government sources have said that administration officials recently offered to lift some unilateral trade and investment sanctions imposed during the Clinton administration and move toward normalizing relations in exchange for Sudan's acceptance of U.N. peacekeepers. Khartoum refused.

Now, as the mayhem in Darfur escalates, Bush may have run out of patience. Administration officials say he regularly complains to national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley that more must be done. But to address both the administration's counterterrorism and human rights goals will require overcoming policy inertia and ignorance about the nature of the Khartoum regime -- two requirements perhaps beyond the reach of Bush's current team.

Consider prior efforts to influence the regime in Sudan. In 1995, Sudanese officials were implicated in the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Responding to the regime's failure to extradite terrorism suspects, the U.N. Security Council imposed travel restrictions on Sudanese officials and sanctions against Sudan Airways. Feeling pressured, the regime dismantled terrorist training camps and revoked passports given to known terrorists. And when the regime faced the prospect of a united armed rebellion in 2005, it signed a deal with southern-based rebels.

Clearly, diplomatic, economic and military pressure can have an impact -- both in pursuit of an end to the Darfur crisis and in the ability to access important counterterrorism information.

Last week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the United States and other governments moved closer to a deal with Khartoum allowing for a stronger peacekeeping force in Darfur. However, the regime retains control of the timing of new deployments. The likely result is that a few hundred more observers will arrive in the next six months. More peacekeepers will help only if there is a new peace deal and the Janjaweed militias begin to be dismantled.

The problem remains leverage. Possible pressure points include the threat of sanctions on Sudanese companies owned by ruling party officials doing business abroad; capital-market sanctions on foreign firms dealing with the regime; NATO planning to deploy forces to Darfur; and sharing information with the International Criminal Court to accelerate indictments of Khartoum officials for crimes against humanity.

Khartoum has taken the measure of the United States; it understands that from time to time the president may use the word "genocide" and that the State Department may issue a strongly worded statement to mollify religious activists. But walking loudly and carrying a toothpick only emboldens the regime to escalate its attacks in Darfur.

President Clinton often says that the biggest regret he has about his presidency was not responding effectively to the Rwandan genocide. If Bush does not change course, he may someday echo Clinton, lamenting that hundreds of thousands of Darfurian lives were needlessly extinguished -- on his watch.

Excerpts on Darfur from farewell address by Kofi Annan

[Excerpted from slightly abridged version of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's farewell address at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Mo. Source: CBC News in Depth ( Full text is available on]

Lesson one

My first lesson is that, in today's world, the security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else. ,,, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others. We all share responsibility for each other's security, and only by working to make each other secure can we hope to achieve lasting security for ourselves.


I would add that this responsibility is not simply a matter of states being ready to come to each other's aid when attacked, important though that is. It also includes our shared responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity - a responsibility solemnly accepted by all nations at last year's UN summit.

That means that respect for national sovereignty can no longer be used as a shield by governments intent on massacring their own people, or as an excuse for the rest of us to do nothing when such heinous crimes are committed.

But, as Truman said, "If we should pay merely lip service to inspiring ideals, and later do violence to simple justice, we would draw down upon us the bitter wrath of generations yet unborn."

And when I look at the murder, rape and starvation to which the people of Darfur are being subjected, I fear that we have not got far beyond "lip service."

The lesson here is that high-sounding doctrines like the "responsibility to protect" will remain pure rhetoric unless and until those with the power to intervene effectively by exerting political, economic or, in the last resort, military muscle are prepared to take the lead.


Lesson four, accountability

My fourth lesson ... is that governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one.

Today the actions of one state can often have a decisive effect on the lives of people in other states. So does it not owe some account to those other states and their citizens, as well as to its own? I believe it does.

As things stand, accountability between states is highly skewed.

Poor and weak states are easily held to account, because they need foreign assistance. But large and powerful states, whose actions have the greatest impact on others, can be constrained only by their own people, working through their domestic institutions.

That gives the people and institutions of such powerful states a special responsibility to take account of global views and interests, as well as national ones.


Sudan: Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterates call for immediate, unconditional cessation of hostilities in Darfur

SG/SM/10772, AFR/1471

30 November 2006

Following is the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Summit Meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Abuja, delivered today by Jean-Marie Gué‚henno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations:

Few crises have demanded the attention and energy of the United Nations more than the one that continues to unfold in Darfur. While progress has been made in efforts to alleviate the suffering and resolve the political situation, far more remains to be done if this brutal and tragic conflict is to be brought to an end.

Indeed, even as you meet, fighting continues between the Government of Sudan and the parties that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). There has also been violence between rebel groups, including those that have committed themselves to peace. Armed militias continue to attack civilian populations. And there has been no let-up in rape and other gender-based violence.

Over the past six months, approximately 220,000 more people have been driven from their homes. Although that is fewer than in the previous six months, it is still wholly unacceptable, especially after the signing of the peace accord.

Moreover, violence and insecurity have significantly reduced humanitarian access to the displaced and to others in need. Approximately one third of the vulnerable populations in Darfur are now "out of bounds" for the humanitarian relief community. Not since the early days of the crisis has access been so severely limited.

The high-level meeting two weeks ago in Addis Ababa gave AU (African Union) member States -- including, of course, Sudan -- as well as the Permanent Members of the Security Council, the League of Arab States and the European Union, an opportunity to engage in frank and detailed discussions on the way forward.

Let me stress in particular the great importance I attach to the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations. Our organizations cooperate very constructively on a wide range of common concerns, and are working very closely to address this crisis. AU troops in Darfur have performed very well given the demanding conditions, the limitations of their mandate, weak logistical support and funding difficulties. AU representatives have also provided crucial help in mediating peace talks. We must all do our utmost to build on these significant contributions.

As you know, a number of important agreements were reached in Addis.

First, the meeting agreed that the political process must be re-energized, and the Peace Agreement made more inclusive. The participants also stressed that the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) is an important complementary component of the peace process.

Second, the meeting stressed that the ceasefire mechanisms must be made to function effectively, and that all parties must be held accountable for their actions. The reign of impunity in Darfur must end.

Third, it agreed that the peacekeeping presence must have the troops, capacity and financing needed to help restore security, protect civilians and implement the security aspects of the peace accord.

It was also agreed to resolve the peacekeeping impasse through a three-phased approach.

Currently, in the first phase, the United Nations is providing the African Union Mission in Sudan with a "light support package" consisting of a modest number of military staff officers and police advisers, as well as material and equipment. This package is being implemented transparently, in full cooperation with the Government of Sudan. Let me once again express my gratitude to President Bashir for supporting the package and the tripartite mechanism, involving the Government, the AU and the UN, that is facilitating its implementation.

The second phase will consist of a "heavy support package" aimed at strengthening AMIS's capacity.

The third and final phase is to consist of an AU-UN hybrid operation. The operation will have a predominantly African character, with troops coming from African countries to the extent possible. The United Nations could provide funding, day-to-day support and guidance from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and an ability to identify and deploy capabilities and troops which may not be available among AU member States.

In principle, the hybrid operation would reflect the recommendations that evolved from the joint AU-UN technical assessment mission carried out this past June. This mission, which met with the Government of Sudan, concluded that approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 civilian police would be required to help implement the tasks emanating from the DPA in full and on time.

The UN Security Council is now looking to this Summit in Abuja for decisions that will facilitate the Addis agreement's rapid implementation.

The Government of Sudan, for its part, endorsed the phased approach, but noted that it would require further consultations on two elements of the hybrid operation: the size of the military contingent; and the joint appointment of the special representative and force commander.

President Bashir has informed me that he will be providing a written response on these issues, which we look forward to receiving. In the meantime, it is important to reiterate what was understood by participants at the Addis Ababa meeting: that the phased approach is a package, which makes sense when taken in its totality, including the hybrid phase, in which the United Nations would provide command and control structures, where the force would reach the levels I have just mentioned and where key senior officials would be double-hatted.

If the first two phases do not lead us to this result, and if there is not clarity that this is the agreed way forward, then it is highly unlikely that the Security Council will authorize United Nations funding for peacekeeping in Darfur. The Council will not agree to commit what could amount to a billion and a half dollars a year without the minimal compromise conditions arrived at in Addis Ababa. This was made clear by Permanent Members during our discussions in Addis Ababa and reiterated subsequently in New York, when the Secretary-General briefed the full Council on the issue.

It is vital that we ensure the continuation of a peacekeeping presence in Darfur, and that we make it as effective as possible. We cannot afford to compromise on that. The magnitude of the crisis requires a force with a robust mandate and a sound concept of operations. At the same time, a strong civilian component is needed to assist the parties in implementing the DPA and in supporting the many institutions envisaged by the Agreement.

While we will continue to make every effort to expedite delivery of the light and heavy support packages, such assistance is no substitute for the financial support which AMIS will continue to require while the possibility of UN funding is being pursued. AMIS partners must be prepared to continue to help in the interim -- a point I have stressed to the Security Council.

We are all familiar with the funding difficulties faced by AMIS and the concerns of both the AU Commission and its partners that financing for the AU force has been inconsistent, unpredictable and open-ended. In this respect, AMIS partners have made clear that critical additional funding will also hinge on achieving the clarity on the way forward, which I spoke about a moment ago.

And as we plan for the future, we must stay focused on events on the ground. I was very disappointed to learn that, even during the high-level meeting in Addis Ababa, there was no pause in the violence. Let me stress again that all parties must cease hostilities immediately and unconditionally. If violence persists, all o ur efforts to renew the political process, to strengthen the ceasefire mechanisms, and to put in place a sustainable peacekeeping presence will be in vain.

Let us also remember that, while peacekeeping can bolster and build confidence in a political process, it is no substitute for the will of the parties involved to reject violence and pursue a negotiated resolution of their differences. This requires a transparent and sustainable process, which rewards those who commit to dialogue. Expediency and short-term alliances of convenience will not bring lasting results.

This is why it was agreed in Addis that there is a need to broaden the base for peace in Darfur. The United Nations and African Union were asked to lead an all-inclusive process -- with DPA signatories and non-signatories -- in an effort to resolve outstanding issues by the end of the year. Your support will be essential for the success of this endeavour. We must concentrate our energies on a common goal, within a common framework, in a coordinated and cooperative manner.

The Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation must be an integral part of the renewed political process. The Darfurians themselves must be the ultimate custodians of peace, and the DDDC is the forum for ensuring that peace takes root. I look forward to seeing it convened as soon as possible.

There is also a strong regional dimension to the Darfur crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Darfurians have taken refuge in Chad and the Central African Republic. A UN assessment mission is exploring options for ensuring their safety and improving overall regional stability.

Relations between Chad and Sudan have been particularly tense in recent months, with each accusing the other of supporting its opposition groups. I welcomed the signing of the Tripoli agreement in July, which sought to de-escalate the tension, as well as recent follow-up meetings focused on fostering a safer, more stable regional environment. The United Nations stands ready to assist in these efforts.

Your deliberations today are critically important for putting us firmly on the road to resolving the crisis in Darfur. Together, we must continue to work towards one crucial goal: bringing an end to the violence, and restoring to its people the right to live a normal life free of fear, with hope for a better future.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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