On Thursday, President Obama will deliver a much anticipated speech in Cairo. What he says, or does not say, about the situation in Sudan will rightly be seen as a barometer of his commitment to the issue not only by those in the Arab world, but also by activists here in the United States. President Obama has an opportunity to make a strong case that the Arab world must be part of an effective response to President Bashir – not just because Bashir is wanted for war crimes and has cut off aid for hundreds of thousands of people, but also because the National Congress Party’s divide and rule approach to governance in Sudan is ultimately destabilizing and not in the self-interest of Sudan’s neighbors.
President Obama should make clear that the United States will lead a multilateral diplomatic approach that puts all of Sudan’s multiple conflicts on the table at the same time. If President Obama is silent on Sudan, or only mentions the situation in a passing line, it will be painfully apparent to everyone that the strong words of Senator Obama on the campaign trail regarding Darfur and Sudan in general have been swept away within his administration. It remains extremely troubling that the government of Sudan expelled 13 aid agencies delivering lifesaving assistance, and the response from the administration remains extremely muted. We here at Enough have always been supportive of giving the new special envoy the time and space he needs to conduct complex negotiations, but our fear is that the Khartoum regime has little reason thus far to think that it should not carry on with business as usual. The president’s speech is a chance to change that calculus, and we hope he does so.