Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
| on your newsreader!
Print this page
Sudan: Into Uncharted Territory
Mar 9, 2009 (090309 )
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Sudan has entered uncharted waters as a result of the ICC
[International Criminal Court] arrest warrant against President
Omar al Bashir. And indeed it is a nothing less than roll of the
dice, a gamble with unknown consequences. Yesterday marks a turning
point. We cannot say for sure in which direction Sudan will turn
but there are many reasons to be fearful." - Alex de Waal
Other analysts may disagree with de Waal about the wisdom of the
ICC indictment, but no one can contest his observation that it is
a turning point. Human rights advocates may celebrate the
declaration that impunity will not stand, but they must also
consider that it may in practice be an empty or even
counterproductive gesture. The question is what next? Some,
acknowledging that Bashir will not actually stand trial, see the
indictment as an opportunity for increased pressure and compromises
Even so, there is no sign that the world (or the Obama
administration in particular) is ready for the complex mix of
pressure and diplomacy that would be necessary to give peace a
chance, or to protect the people of Darfur, when even the existing
UN force in Darfur is far under strength.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains reflections on the new situation
after the ICC indictment from Alex de Waal, the International
Crisis Group, and the Enough Project. It also contains talking
points from Africa Action stressing the imperative for the Obama
administration to integrate policy on Darfur into a coherent
approach on Sudan.
Additional analyses and updates from the various points of view in
the statements included here can be found on the respective
http://www.crisisgroup.org, http://www.enoughproject.org, and
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan, and additional
background links, see
For regular updates on Sudan see http://allafrica.com/sudan,
http://www.sudantribune.com, and http://www.reliefweb.int
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Alex de Waal
March 5, 2009
"Making Sense of Darfur" Blog
The die is cast. Sudan has entered uncharted waters as a result of
the ICC arrest warrant against President Omar al Bashir. And indeed
it is a nothing less than roll of the dice, a gamble with unknown
consequences. Yesterday marks a turning point. We cannot say for
sure in which direction Sudan will turn but there are many reasons
to be fearful.
Conflict resolution is in part an exercise in reducing uncertainty,
bringing former enemies together, and finding a solution that
everyone can live with. For the last eight years, a great deal of
effort by Sudanese and their international partners has gone into
trying to accommodate diverse and distrustful people, all of whom
have the capability to bring the country back into the abyss of war
and destruction, within a common agenda of making Sudan function.
Incentives, sanctions and pressure were all part of the package.
But key to success was a shared vision, often blurry but
nonetheless real, that solving the Sudanese problem was a common
national challenge and that all without exception have a place in
the new Sudan which arises from this effort.
The ICC is the reverse: a human rights absolutism that demands that
some people be ruled out entirely. The ICC pretends to be outside
politics, representing principles on which no compromise is
possible. The key word is 'pretense', to paraphrase David Kennedy:
it is a nice fiction for the human rights community to believe that
it is 'speaking truth to power' and not actually exercising power.
The ICC arrest warrant is a real decision with real consequences in
terms of lives saved and lost and the political life of a nation.
I for one cannot see a political way out of this mess. The
International Crisis Group writes that 'the NCP is likely to look
for a way out of a situation, by changing its policies or
leadership. To succeed, it will need to change both.' This is
groping in the dark. What is ICG actually advocating here? It seems
to me that it is calling for a coup. An internal coup is possible
though unlikely and not, to my mind, a solution.
As of yesterday, everything that any commentator or expert thinks
he or she knew with confidence about Sudan becomes moot. Wishful
thinking took the place of analysis. Nick Kristof wrote a few days
ago that fears of aid agency expulsion were 'overblown.' He got it
wrong. Many among the advocacy groups in Washington DC see this as
an opportunity for leverage, a chance for peace. I fear not: the
ICC is a terribly bad instrument of pressure, because (a) the
pressure can never be removed and (b) pressure only works if the
end point to which the pressure is applied can be accepted by the
party being pressured. The ICC indictment meets neither of these
The examples of the arrest warrants against Slobodan Milosevic of
Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia are routinely held up to
demonstrate that good outcomes can prevail against skeptics such as
myself. I don't believe it. Milosevic was in the process of losing
a war against NATO and Taylor was in the process of being eased out
of power (with a promise of safe asylum). The one international
policy towards Sudan that has really worked the CPA is focused on
a negotiated transition. Milosevic and Taylor ran one-man
dictatorships which crumbled when they were removed. Bashir is not
a one-man dictatorship on the contrary he has been overshadowed by
his lieutenants for most of the last 20 years so the idea that his
replacement by one of his colleagues would represent a democratic
transformation is not well-founded. The precedent of Joseph Kony of
the Lord's Resistance Army is more pertinent. The ICC arrest
warrant against Kony initially galvanized the peace process but
when Kony realized the warrant could never be lifted it became an
obstacle to an agreement. Ugandans who initially celebrated the ICC
have become disillusioned.
The international community is playing its second highest card by
demanding an arrest warrant (the highest card would be invading the
country). That card is a dud. The Sudan Government will ignore it
and the leverage that the internationals possessed is shrinking
fast. I suspect that we will look back on the last few years as a
time when things worked as well as they ever did in contemporary
Sudan when the CPA was implemented as well as could be expected,
when death rates in Darfur fell from levels of famine and war to
just 150 per month, when there were numerous opportunities for
international engagement in moving things forward, slowly and
imperfectly, but none the less forward.
Perhaps it will revert to this after a hiatus. Perhaps, with a wave
of a magic wand, all of peace, justice and democracy will be
realized in an instant. Possibly, some unexpected benefit will
arise. Most likely, not. Yesterday was a sad day for Sudan.
The ICC Indictment of Bashir: A Turning Point for Sudan?
International Crisis Group
[Excerpts only. For full press release and statement visit
Nairobi/Brussels, 4 March 2009: The International Criminal Court's
indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir for atrocity crimes in
Darfur provides an opportunity for Sudan and the international
community to both fight impunity and bring peace to the country.
In an extended statement released today, The ICC Indictment of
Bashir: A Turning Point for Sudan?, Crisis Group examines the
consequences of his indictment for crimes against humanity and war
crimes, both for Sudan and for the international community. It
offers next steps for the ruling majority National Congress Party
(NCP) and for the outside world to transform the political
institutions and policies that drive conflict in Sudan.
Crisis Group's statement warns Khartoum of the risks of responding
by lashing out against its own citizens in retaliation by declaring
a state of emergency or clamping down on internal political
opposition. Sudan's international allies have a strong interest in
the country's stability, and they must pressure the regime to react
with restraint. The ICC prosecutor should make it clear that anyone
responsible for further atrocities will be held accountable.
Ideally, Bashir would resign and submit to the Court, but this is
unlikely. Yet the status quo is unsustainable in the long term.
There are increasingly those within the senior ranks of the NCP who
believe Bashir's policy of confrontation with Sudan's peripheral
regions (Darfur, Kordofan, Eastern and Southern Sudan) has been
counterproductive. To preserve its economic interests and guarantee
its survival, the NCP is likely to look for a way out of a
situation, by changing its policies or leadership. To succeed, it
will need to change both.
The government should make immediate and genuine moves to establish
a credible system of judicial accountability and create an
environment conducive for a peaceful settlement of the Darfur
conflict, while fully implementing the agreed political reforms
mandated under the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The signature of a declaration of intent with Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM) rebels in Doha is a useful first step to relaunch
the Darfur peace process, but too many such commitments have been
violated in the past to be taken as a evidence of a change in NCP
As an incentive to drive change in Sudan, the international
community should offer to lift sanctions and provide international
aid, but only if the NCP provides irreversible and unconditional
evidence of its commitment to the peace process. Similarly, the UN
Security Council can consider the prospect of a deferral of
Bashir's prosecution, but only after clearly demonstrated progress
by the Sudanese government on all of these fronts. ...
Statement on the NGO Expulsions by Sudan
Mar 05, 2009
"The Obama administration and the other members of the United
Nations Security Council must convey a simple and direct message to
Khartoum: Access for relief agencies needs to be immediately
restored, or the international community will use all necessary
means to restore this access," said John Norris, Executive Director
of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress.
"The time has come for the international response to Darfur's agony
to move beyond the rhetorical, and the vulnerable people of Sudan
do not have time for lengthy policy reviews."
In response to the International Criminal Court arrest warrant for
President Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese government has moved to
expel humanitarian organizations from the most vulnerable areas of
Darfur and other areas in East and North Sudan. In addition, a
number of important Sudanese human rights defenders around the
country have faced a broadening crackdown.
Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast noted, "The decision by
Sudan to cynically deny its own citizens lifesaving aid threatens
a profound humanitarian emergency and demands a robust and decisive
response from the international community - and the Obama
administration in particular."
President Bashir's government has a long history of cutting off
humanitarian aid as a deliberate military and political strategy,
and this tactic was widely used in Sudan's earlier North-South
President Barack Obama should now take a number of key steps,
- Working with the U.N. Security Council to support a resolution
authorizing an expanded United Nations peacekeeping force, known as
UNAMID, backed by air support to guarantee the safe delivery of
- Accelerating discussions both at the U.N. and with NATO allies
regarding the institution of either a no-fly zone or other
practical steps to counter continued violations by Sudan on the
U.N. ban on offensive military flights in Darfur;
- Working with the U.N. Security Council to implement targeted
sanctions against those most responsible for violence in Sudan and
imposing a comprehensive arms embargo against the government of
- Making UNAMID effective with a robust force on the ground in
Darfur, with a competent lead nation and a clear
- Working closely with interested parties with leverage in Sudan
and the region, especially China, the United Kingdom, France, and
key African countries, to coordinate efforts on peace, the
protection of civilians, and accountability; and,
- Appointing a senior special envoy to address not only the
situation in Darfur, but Sudan's multiple conflicts and their
Africa Action Talking Points on U.S.-Sudan Policy in an Obama
March 03, 2009
Nearly 3 million internally
displaced people. Hundreds of thousands dead. While the massacres
of 2003-2004 are no longer commonplace, 4.7 million people today
are affected by the conflict in Darfur. The Sudanese government
deliberately restricts humanitarian access to these populations.
Military aircraft continue to bomb rebel controlled areas where
civilians reside. Over the past year, government forces have tried
numerous times to forcibly evict civilians from some of Darfur's
biggest camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Civilians,
particularly women, work hard to live with dignity in the sprawling
urban communities that IDP camps have become, but a climate of
lawlessness, violence (including rape) and impunity for human
rights abusers persists.
Darfur has not burned for five years because of a lack of global
attention. On the contrary, the international community has mounted
the world's largest humanitarian aid operation there. Over 13,000
humanitarian workers and one hundred relief agencies operate in the
region, providing lifesaving support for civilians, but unable to
address the root causes of conflict and poverty.
The United Nations Security Council has twice authorized UN-led
peacekeeping missions for Darfur, and even with less than half of
its 26,000 personnel in place as of October 2008, the hybrid
African Union-UN force known as UNAMID is the world's biggest peace
operation. Yet these forces have been unable to effectively fulfill
their mandate of protection.
The massive and well-intentioned international response to the
genocide in Darfur has been tragically ineffective for two main
reasons. First, because of lack of political will, the
international community has failed to follow through on its
promises and back up its commitments with real action. Second, the
U.S. and other external actors have approached Sudan's conflicts in
isolation from one another. U.S. and European diplomats worked
tirelessly to help broker the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement
(CPA) that ended Sudan's decades- long North-South civil war, while
ignoring massive atrocities unfolding in Darfur. As grassroots
activists forced policymakers to focus their attention on Darfur,
the international community essentially forgot about the CPA, and
tensions between the North and South have escalated over the past
year and pushed the treaty to the brink of collapse.
Despite the US' inability to garner a stronger international
response, Qatar has taken upon itself to foster what has come to be
known as the Qatari Initiative. By organizing talks between rebel
groups and the Sudanese government with hopes of securing peace in
the region, this initiative has recently been successful in
brokering a peace agreement between one rebel group, The Justice
and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese government.
However, with President Obama's expressed commitment to Darfur
during his campaign trails, this new administration offers an
opportunity for a new and more effective U.S.-Sudan policy. This
Africa Action resource outlines a plan of action for the next
president to break from the failures of the past and achieve peace,
human security and justice for the people of Darfur and all Sudan.
The U.S. president should NOT pursue a parallel track of
counterterrorism intelligence sharing with Khartoum.
President Obama's unwavering dedication to human rights began with
the mandate to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Similarly, this new
administration should continue to prioritize human rights abroad as
it has demonstrated with its approach to domestic affairs. It
should end this hypocrisy and make human rights, not the so-called
"war on terror," the unambiguous top priority in U.S.- Sudan
relations. Bilateral and U.S.-led multilateral diplomatic pressure
has little credible effect when Sudanese officials know that
despite whatever State Department officials say, U.S. intelligence
agencies will continue to coddle them. John Prendergast of the
Enough Project has aptly described the task faced by U.S. diplomats
as "Sisyphean," as negotiators struggle to build leverage against
Khartoum but are undercut by senior national security officials
eager to maintain friendly intelligence sharing relations with the
regime. This two-faced policy is outrageous, unacceptable, and
should be reformed.
Rather than treating each of Sudan's conflicts in isolation, the
U.S. must pursue an all-Sudan strategy where both Darfur and the
CPA are top priorities.
A return to war between North and South Sudan would be a
humanitarian disaster in and of itself and would doom hopes of
peace and security for Darfur. The CPA stipulates that Sudan hold
national elections by July 2009. Serious challenges emerged while
conducting the national census in 2008 that will affect the fair
representation of the citizens of Darfur and South Sudan in these
polls. Adherence to the timeline laid out in the CPA is of
particular importance to Southerners because of the 2011 referendum
on whether South Sudan will remain part of the country or secede as
an independent nation.
The U.S should do what it can in the short timeframe before polls
occur to promote elections that are as free and fair as possible
while vigorously preparing for contingencies around different
likely contested election scenarios. U.S. development assistance
should prioritize widespread social and economic development
programs such as healthcare, education and food security across
Southern Sudan, rather than military assistance. Violence and
instability are less likely to erupt around flawed or contested
elections if Southerners feel they are experiencing "peace
dividends" tangible economic and social benefits linked to the
CPA. The chance of full inclusion of Darfuris in the election is
unlikely. Jumpstarting political negotiations between Darfuri
rebels, the government and civil society leaders is the best thing
the U.S. can do to help Darfuris gain an expanded voice in their
In addition to the UNAMID force in Darfur, the U.S. should focus on
improving the effectiveness of the separate UN peacekeeping
operation in Southern Sudan known as UNMIS. UNMIS failed miserably
in protecting civilians along the border region of Abyei when
violence displaced some 50,000 people there in May 2008. The U.S.
should work diplomatically and logistically to secure and implement
a more robust mandate for UNMIS that will allow it to enforce
demilitarized zones in the sensitive North-South border areas of
Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.
While Darfur and the CPA should be the top U.S. priorities in
Sudan, this administration must also do a better job of
anticipating conflicts in other marginalized regions, such as the
Northern state where communities have been forcibly displaced to
accommodate hydroelectric dam construction. The international
community should also put pressure on the Sudanese government to
better implement the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement.
Real diplomatic resources must be devoted to the pursuit of
A full-time U.S. Presidential envoy should be appointed and
equipped with a full team of dedicated junior and senior staff,
including personnel based in Sudan. This team should persistently
pursue round the clock diplomatic efforts to ensure both CPA
implementation and to bolster a peace process for Darfur.
In the case of Darfur, the international community awaits the ICC's
decision to indict President al-Bashir. With growing concern that
his indictment could trigger a violent backlash, UN efforts should
be emplaced to protect those working on behalf peace and justice in
the region. U.S. diplomatic efforts should support the efforts of
AU-UN Lead Mediator Djibril Bassole. In part, a new peace process
should be modeled on the successful approach that yielded the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, but negotiators must also
realize that these conflicts have different dynamics. The inclusion
of Darfuri civil society and women's voices in political
negotiations must be a top priority.
U.S. diplomacy needs to be better coordinated with the
international community, including European allies, Arab and
African states, and other countries that hold key leverage over
Sudan such as China. Economic pressure such as sanctions won't be
effective in changing Khartoum's behavior unless it is coordinated.
The decline in U.S. international standing due to other foreign
policy decisions over the past eight years has weakened U.S.
ability to build effective multilateral coalitions. This
administration should seize the political space presented by the
end of the Bush presidency to reengage with the full range of
international actors in pursuit of peace for Darfur.
The U.S. must do everything in its power to salvage success for
On October 7, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that the UN
aims to reach 65% deployment of the 26,000 person UNAMID
peacekeeping force by the end of 2008, and 80% deployment for March
2009. Going beyond these benchmarks to get the full force on the
ground as quickly as possible in 2009 and sustaining an effective
presence for as long as necessary will require stronger U.S.
leadership in the international community.
While it is true that some responsibility for the force's glacial
deployment rests with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations,
it is unfair for the UN's most powerful member state to pass the
blame to UN bureaucracy without doing more to solve the problem
itself. The U.S. should continue to engage with the "Friends of
UNAMID" working group to match troop contributing countries (TCCs)
with appropriate training and logistical support from donors. These
support efforts should see TCCs through every stage of the
The U.S. needs to ask our allies in the international community to
do more to provide the helicopters and other vehicles and equipment
that UNAMID lacks. U.S. financial support for UNAMID so far has
been robust President Bush authorized $100 million for the force.
President Obama must ensure that this commitment continues and is
matched with diplomatic pressure on the government of Sudan to stop
obstructing the mission's deployment and free operation. Even in
a time of increasing economic uncertainty at home, U.S. funding for
UNAMID should not come at the expense of support for other
peacekeeping missions in Africa and worldwide or other foreign
Keeping the promise to protect
Congress has shown a deep interest in Sudan, including passing the
landmark Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. However, it takes
strong executive leadership to exercise the diplomacy and
international pressure that the U.S. must use to effectively help
bring peace to Darfur. President Obama has pledged to pursue peace
and security for the people of Sudan with "unstinting resolve."
From Day One in 2009 through the rest of his presidency, the
American people must hold him to this task.
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.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see