A bipartisan group of 62 Members of Congress sent a letter this week to President Obama urging the administration to recalibrate U.S. policy towards Sudan in order to address the serious humanitarian and security crises that millions of civilians are facing.
Citing evidence of government attacks on civilians gathered and analyzed by the Satellite Sentinel Project, the letter implores the administration to adopt a renewed approach toward Sudan in order to end the gross human rights violations being committed by the government in Khartoum.
The representatives argue that U.S. policy must no longer deal with the many conflicts in Sudan as discrete entities, but rather look at each separate conflict as a symptom of a larger problem–political and economic marginalization of peripheral areas by the center.
The letter argues that the Obama administration’s model of mediating an end to each conflict individually is not working:
Long time Sudan watchers assert that U.S. policy should immediately press for a central, comprehensive process that pulls in all parties in conflict across Sudan to seek peace and structural democratic reform.
Furthermore, the letter prescribes that U.S. policy must shift to address the root causes of the conflicts.
In order to address the source—rather than just the symptoms—of the problems in Sudan, the Administration should refocus its current policy on mediation, democracy promotion, accountability, and civilian protection. If we, as a key stakeholder, fail to take swift action, the ongoing violence will only increase and the peace that so many Sudanese hoped for will fade into the abyss of instability and war.
Coincidentally, on the same day as the letter’s release, the Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough joined the Special Envoy for Sudan, Princeton Lyman, on a short visit to Khartoum. These two top administration officials met with representatives from the Sudanese government and discussed the various crises and points of concern, including continued fighting in the border areas, the importance of Darfur, negotiation of the remaining post-CPA issues, and the nature of U.S.-Sudan bilateral relations.
Sending McDonough—a top national security advisor reporting to the White House—to Khartoum is an encouraging sign that the Obama administration is reflecting on its policy toward Sudan in light of recent developments. As the Congressional letter emphatically argues, administration officials must push for holistic solutions rather than continuing a piecemeal approach to Sudan.
Photo: People displaced by fighting seek refuge near the U.N. compound in Kadugli, June 2011 (UNMIS)