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Sudan: Walking Loudly, Carrying a Toothpick

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 22, 2007 (070422)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The UN Security Council, the EU, and the Bush administration are expert at threatening to punish those who commit atrocities and obstruct peace-building efforts, but equally skilled at not following through. It's business as usual in Sudan. For the U.S. in particular, instead of walking softly and carrying a big stick, the Bush administration has been walking loudly and carrying a toothpick." - John Prendergast

Prendergast also quotes an unnamed U.S. diplomat involved in Sudan policy as saying, "The U.S. doesn't have to understand the dynamics of the Sudan; we just need to help them move forward." Prendergast adds: "Disinterest in history leads to its repetition, as we are seeing in Darfur, where all the mistakes that were made for years by the international community in the deadly southern Sudanese war are being made again. Willful ignorance results in bad policy, and costs lives. Darfur negotiations."

The United Nations is now preparing a "heavy support package" for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, after longdelayed acceptance from the Khartoum government, continued military action by the government is a grim confirmation of Prendergast's analysis that the international community is still being outmaneuvered by the Sudanese government. After repeatedly threatening "Plan B" sanctions, on April 18 U.S. President George Bush again threatened and again postponed stronger action.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a brief UN News report on the most recent developments, and excerpts from an extensive March 2007 analysis by Prendergast on what doesn't and what might work to stop the violence in Darfur.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin being sent out today contains excerpts from a new report from Reporters without Borders calling for international media to pay attention to Sudanese reality and particularly the insights of the diverse Sudanese civil society and media.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan and additional background, see

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

Ban Ki-moon voices 'deep concern' at reports of arms flights into Darfur

18 April 2007 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern today at evidence presented to Security Council members of the flying of arms and heavy weapons into the war-torn region of Darfur, a direct violation of a United Nations embargo.

Mr. Ban "is especially troubled by reports that private or national aircraft have been illegally provided with UN markings and used for military purposes," according to a statement released by his spokesperson at UN Headquarters in New York.

"If further substantiated, such actions would be in clear violation of international law and in contravention of the UN's international status."

A senior UN official told journalists today that there had been three sightings recently of planes with illegal UN markings one over Darfur, one over a Government-controlled area in neighbouring Chad and one over the Central African Republic (CAR).

In the statement, Mr. Ban pledged to work closely with the Security Council on the issue, and expected full cooperation from the Sudanese Government and other States "to provide prompt clarification" about the aircraft.

Since 2003 more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to leave their homes to escape fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups. Entire villages have been burned down during the clashes.

Concern has mounted recently that the conflict may spill into Chad and the CAR, and earlier this year Mr. Ban described Darfur as the scene of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

On Monday, Mr. Ban and the Council both welcomed Sudan's announcement confirming that it accepts the entire "heavy support package" of troops, police officers, civilian staff and helicopters which the UN will provide to the existing and overstretched African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

The heavy support package is the second phase of a three-step plan that is supposed to culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force of approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers. This force is to be staffed mainly by Africans.

Under the support package, which is expected to cost $300 million over its first six months, the UN will supply more than 2,200 troops, 350 police and 1,100 civilian staff to the AU mission, known as AMIS. Helicopters will also be deployed. The UN is already providing a $21 million "light support package" which includes police advisers, civilian staff, technical support and other resources.

How to Resolve the World's Hottest War

By John Prendergast, International Crisis Group

ENOUGH Strategy Paper 1 March 2007

[John Prendergast is Senior Advisor at the International Crisis Group. His forthcoming book, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, co-authored with actor/activist Don Cheadle, is available in late April. The mission of ENOUGH, a joint initiative of the International Crisis Group and the Center for American Progress, is to end crimes against humanity in Darfur, northern Uganda and eastern Congo, and to prevent future mass atrocities wherever they may occur.]

Though it has garnered the concern and condemnation of governments worldwide and triggered unprecedented grassroots activism in the United States, the crisis in Darfur continues to intensify. In response to what both the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government have repeatedly called genocide, the gulf between rhetoric and action on the part of the Bush administration is profound. What is driving U.S. policy and that of the broader international community is a strategy of constructive engagement with the Khartoum regime driven either by considerations of counterterrorism (United States), commercial connections (China, Russia, and some other Asian and European countries), and solidarity (Arab League). Four years into the Darfur crisis, it is imperative to take a fresh look at what has led to successful outcomes in past efforts to affect the Khartoum regime, and what is urgently needed today.

A policy of gentle persuasion interrupted occasionally with public statements and resolutions that suggest but do not lead to increased pressure on Khartoum has encouraged the Sudanese regime to intensify its divide and destroy policy in Darfur, particularly in the aftermath of the May 2006 signing of the deeply fl awed Darfur Peace Agreement. Regime offi cials have heard the message loud and clear: crime pays. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir felt so emboldened in early March that, in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, he clearly rejected an internationally negotiated plan to deploy a United Nations/African Union hybrid force.

But on the heels of four years of failing to act effectively upon the international responsibility to protect civilians, there are finally signs of a pulse within the global crisis response framework:

  • The International Criminal Court is pressing forward with indictments of a senior Sudanese offi cial and a Janjaweed militia leader for crimes against humanity, and is preparing more cases
  • The Bush administration is suggesting that it may soon move forward on the implementation of some elements of long-threatened "Plan B" punitive measures
  • The Blair government has indicated its intention to raise in the U.N. Security Council the imposition of targeted sanctions against key merchants of violence in Darfur, the extension of the arms embargo on the government of Sudan, and perhaps an enforcement mechanism for the ban on offensive military fl ights by the government of Sudan.

Enough is Enough

The international community cannot credibly claim to have done enough unless and until all measures have been employed to promote an effective and durable peace agreement, ensure the protection of civilians, and punish the perpetrators for their complicity in one of the worst crimes against humanity in the world today.

But if these signs of change mark a new beginning, and if the United States, United Kingdom, ICC, and other signifi cant actors rapidly follow these initial moves with more substantial actions, particularly through the U.N. Security Council, the horrors in Darfur can be brought to a swift conclusion.

Most importantly, President Bush has fi nally decided that the present course of U.S. policy is inadequate and must be buttressed by more robust measures. Unfortunately, dissent, disagreement, and interagency turf battles within the "Principals Committee" of leading cabinet secretaries mandated to deal with foreign policy continue to stifl e the implementation of multilateral punitive measures that would, if pursued aggressively, alter the political calculations in Khartoum. The Principals have met six times in the past four months to discuss ways to ratchet up U.S. pressure on Khartoum, but most of the proposed policies have been rejected or watered down.

Others, such as additional fi nancial sanctions against Sudanese companies, will be irrelevant unless they are multilateral and the agencies tasked to carry them out devote signifi cant resources to monitoring and enforcement, which in most cases would require additional resources for those agencies given competing demands. The United States has had strong unilateral sanctions in place against Sudan since 1997, and the best way to isolate the perpetrators of mass atrocities in Darfur is intense diplomacy aimed at imposing similar measures multilaterally. It is unfortunate, not only for the United States but more so for the victim's of Khartoum's policies, that the president's request for a muscular policy response to mass atrocities in Darfur has not yielded the robust set of actions and high-level diplomacy that are so urgently required.

Hope and unrealized intent are insufficient to influence the Khartoum regime, and "Plan B," as currently configured, is too little, too unilateral, and very, very late. In order to break the logjam on more meaningful action, President Bush must act decisively and instruct the Principals Committee to finalize a much more robust plan that ratchets up the pressure rapidly in response to continuing obstruction and destruction `y Khartoum.

Such a plan which must be implemented multilaterally would mark an important reversal from an approach that Khartoum has viewed as all bark and no bite. It would also refl ect the fact that no single punitive measure in and of itself is likely to have much economic or legal impact, but the political impact of an array of measures that would steadily ratchet up the real pressure on Khartoum and gradually isolate regime officials as international pariahs would force a change in behavior in due course. Such pressures would aim to support a peace and protection initiative that would seek a new or significantly amended peace deal and a U.N./A.U. hybrid force focused on protecting civilian populations.

Ultimately, President Bush will have to decide that the United States must pursue multiple objectives in Sudan with singular intensity. Currently, counterterrorism efforts remain the unspoken elephant in the Situation Room (the room for Principals Committee meetings inside the White House) preventing a more robust U.S. policy. While Washington and its allies must continue to ensure that the Sudanese remain sources of information for the war on terrorism, they must merge this counterterrorism imperative with the equally compelling goals of ending the crisis in Darfur and ensuring the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for southern Sudan. Walking, chewing gum, and whistling at the same time are prerequisites for a successful policy in Sudan.

The stakes could not be higher. Time is running out for huge swaths of Darfur. Insecurity is increasing, and humanitarian access is shrinking rapidly. The State Department recently reported that a staggering 1,500 villages have been damaged or destroyed in Darfur. Mortality rates are set to skyrocket as the crisis metastasizes into Chad and the Central African Republic. Furthermore, the already shaky implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the southern Sudan-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement is increasingly at risk because of profound disagreements over what to do about Darfur between the ruling party and the SPLM. Perhaps most ominously, recent withdrawals of aid personnel in response to targeted violence threaten to result in widespread famine and increased epidemics, as well as much more violence as the last external witnesses are removed from the scene.


American and other policy-makers are ignoring Sudan's own recent history, and thus the bulk of the most potentially effective policy instruments are still on the shelf. This paper outlines three highly relevant historical lessons, and puts forward a comprehensive policy that brings together all of the available tools in a unified framework focused on promoting peace, protecting people, and punishing perpetrators, the "3 P's" of confronting atrocities.

This strategy paper lays out these required actions, arguing that no single initiative will be sufficient for success. All six sides of the following policy Rubik's Cube must align and be pursued simultaneously by the international community, led by U.S. policy-makers in the executive and legislative branches and citizen activists:

  1. Support rebel unity
  2. Build an effective peace process
  3. Secure full-time, high-level U.S. diplomacy
  4. Accelerate military planning and action for protection
  5. Impose punitive measures now
  6. Ramp up global citizen activism


History Lessons

Since the ruling National Congress Party (formerly the National Islamic Front) came to power in a 1989 military coup, sound policy choices by the international community have forced the regime to reverse abusive or threatening policies on three separate occasions. The three cases examined here are the regime's support for international terrorism, its pursuit of a military solution in southern Sudan, and its unleashing of militias that led to the resurgence of slavery. Understanding why regime officials made these U-turns is critical to constructing a successful strategy for Darfur.

[see full report for detailed account of the three cases]

What Doesn't Work

History has shown what works; now for the history lesson about what doesn't work. After 18 years of empirical evidence regarding the reactions of ruling party officials in Khartoum, the tactics that have failed to change their behavior and calculations are obvious. Yet the international community and the Bush administration in particular continues to pursue the following policies and initiatives that repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

  • Drive-by diplomacy: As long as the various envoys are part-time and their roles are not clearly delineated in an international division of labor, Khartoum offi cials will run rings around the putative peacemakers.
  • Intermittent peacemaking: As long as there is no clear, transparent, urgent peace initiative that coordinates closely among the relevant international actors and brings the necessary leverage to the table there will be no peace in Darfur.
  • Constructive engagement: As long as governments pursue policies of gentle persuasion and eschew punitive measures, using only carrots but no sticks, the Khartoum regime will continue to pursue a military solution to Darfur.
  • Barking without biting: As long as the Bush administration and the U.N. Security Council continue to threaten punitive measures and then fail to implement them when their edicts are ignored, the Khartoum regime will be emboldened to intensify its divide and destroy policy in Darfur.
  • Stove-piped policy: As long as the United States has three separate policy lenses those for Darfur, southern Sudan, and intelligence sharing and there is no one comprehensive policy that demands progress on all three fronts simultaneously, regime offi cials will believe that U.S. fear over loss of intelligence access and the failure of the southern Sudan peace deal will effectively protect them from stronger measures in response to Darfur.
  • Cart before the horse: As long as the international community puts much more effort into deploying an A.U./U.N. hybrid peacekeeping mission than it does in taking the tough stands necessary to negotiate a peace deal that would make a peacekeeping force more relevant and effective, then the regime in Khartoum will slow-roll deployment of critical U.N. assets and continue to give the false impression that change is forthcoming.


[see full report for detailed alternate policy proposals]

The Necessary Sea Change

Reversing course and pursuing a pressure-based strategy for Darfur is not without obstacles. Both U.S. and European offi cials have other interests at stake, with Washington focused on Khartoum's counter-terrorism cooperation and our European allies sticking to their belief in quiet diplomacy, with some eager to maintain access to investments in the Sudanese oil sector. Distracted by the crisis in Iraq and wary of the risks of non-consensual intervention, the international community has offered up neither the leadership nor the persistence needed to craft a solution. While issuing repeated statements of concern and alarm, the international community has failed utterly to act on its responsibility to protect the citizens of Darfur, and has instead chosen to offer rhetorical backing for a non-existent peacekeeping force at a time when there is no peace to keep. The policy status quo has failed the people of Darfur. Activist efforts have raised awareness but not moved that status quo suffi ciently. The current approaches of both policymakers and activists must be rethought and reformed.

The central paradigm shift must be to move away from the current policy of constructive engagement without any leverage (with gentle persuasion being the preferred tool) to a more muscular policy focused on walking softly and carrying and using a bigger stick. Unfulfilled threats and appeals should be replaced quickly with punitive measures backing a robust peace and protection initiative. We may not know the names of the victims in Darfur, but we know the names of the orchestrators of the policy that led to their deaths.

Until that fundamental sea change in the overall approach to the crisis occurs, Darfur's suffering will continue and intensify. And the longer activists continue to pursue piecemeal and uncoordinated advocacy initiatives, the further away a durable solution will be for the people of Darfur.

There is hope. The growing constituency in the U.S. focused on countering the atrocities in Darfur is expanding by the day. The crescendo of activism has been heard and noted in Washington, and has resulted in the fi rst baby steps by the Bush administration towards a more muscular policy towards a regime it accuses of committing genocide, though President Bush must wade into the paralyzing interagency battles and make clear decisions to implement specific punitive measures, and then fi nd the staff and resources to oversee these measures.

The kinds of actions spelled out here in this paper for the most part will not require major resources or huge numbers of personnel. The Horn of Africa is of significant strategic interest to the U.S., and of commercial and humanitarian interest to a number of U.S. allies, so real policy investments can be justifi ed. But most importantly, the moral credibility and leadership capacity of the U.S. is on the line, after throwing down the genocide gauntlet and making Sudan a major priority of the current administration.

Ultimately, the key to the right policy lies in politics and the effectiveness of political activism. Just as during the antiapartheid movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, the political will necessary to properly confront the atrocities in Darfur is politically malleable, and the backbones of elected offi cials will potentially stiffen if the activist community is successful in making enough noise to render the status quo politically unacceptable, and perhaps some day even politically costly.

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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