Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama on Sudan: Go Ahead

Back when then-Senator Obama was running for the White House, the condemnations of the behavior of the Sudanese government was commonplace. In the documentary The Devil Came On Horseback, which chronicled the Sudanese military's campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Darfur, the last part of that film included a speech by Obama promising more action against the Sudanese authorities.

Here is candidate Obama on what should be done about Darfur.

Well, I think you know what is coming.......

Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 13:45 EDT

Obama unveils new Sudan policy

The Sudan policy that the Obama administration announced Monday was a shift in more than one way. The administration will be taking some steps to reach out to the government in Khartoum, which appears at least somewhat contrary to the tough stance that President Obama discussed during last year's campaign. Moreover, the administration has typically taken a tougher line on foreign policy than the president did while he was running -- this is one of the first times that the situation's been reversed.

The U.S. will reportedly be offering the Sudanese government some incentives to end the violence in Darfulr, and it will also be engaging with some levels of the government -- though not President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who's under indictment for war crimes.

Obama's full statement on the policy:

Today, my Administration is releasing a comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan.

For years, the people of Sudan have faced enormous and unacceptable hardship. The genocide in Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced. Conflict in the region has wrought more suffering, posing dangers beyond Sudan’s borders and blocking the potential of this important part of Africa. Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken.

Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur. Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace. These two goals must both be pursued simultaneously with urgency. Achieving them requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners. Concurrently, we will work aggressively to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe-haven for international terrorists.

The United States Special Envoy has worked actively and effectively to engage all of the parties involved, and he will continue to pursue engagement that saves lives and achieves results. Later this week, I will renew the declaration of a National Emergency with respect to Sudan, which will continue tough sanctions on the Sudanese Government. If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community. As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the Government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction.

Over the last several years, governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals, and from around the world have taken action to address the situation in Sudan, and to end the genocide in Darfur. Going forward, all of our efforts must be measured by the lives that are led by the people of Sudan. After so much suffering, they deserve a future that allows them to live with greater dignity, security, and opportunity. It will not be easy, and there are no simple answers to the extraordinary challenges that confront this part of the world. But now is the time for all of us to come together, and to make a strong and sustained effort on behalf of a better future for the people of Sudan.

I have to wonder what the Save Darfur folks think about this policy shift now?

You might be speculating as to the reason for this "engagement." It appears as though realpolitik has come into play.
I am not saying this policy shift is wrong (he may have no choice [indeed, it is not entirely contradictory to the administration's belief in engagement with other states with less-than-friendly relations with the US]), but it is not the same as his previous statements about Sudan. For its part, the Sudanese government, like the US, refuses to join the International Criminal Court, and ironically enough they cite the American example for why they refuse to be judged for committing war crimes in places like Darfur.

Notice, the US, even under Obama, has not changed US opposition to the ICC, even though he has previously stated his support for the permanent war crimes court (and the court is the lead institution on the potential prosecution of Sudan for its war crimes in the Sudan). Furthermore, if we are going to "deal with" with Sudan's government, which probably makes sense, while refusing to ratify and join and court that would potentially prosecute its head of state, it seems engagement is going to be rather one-sided on the part of the US (since the Sudanese know they can do as they please and will not be noticeably punished anymore than in the past).

The tough part of the administrations 'new' policy (the sanctions) are not going impact the government (those sanctions were imposed three years ago by an act of Congress), but the negotiations and engagement (i.e., incentives) will have an effect. Maybe this will work. Maybe not. Still, it is a far cry from the candidate who gave public support for the ICC and the potential prosecution of the government for its conduct in Darfur (never mind his past proposal for putting a "hybrid" military force on the ground in Darfur and equipping other forces with our arms).

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