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Cookies for Khartoum?

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Cookies for Khartoum?

Posted by Laura Heaton on September 28, 2009

Cookies for Khartoum?

Last week, the U.S. was offering honey to incentivize good behavior from Sudanese ruling party. This week, cookies and gold stars seem to round out the U.S.’s diplomatic arsenal in its dealings with Sudan. That is, if you ask the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Maj. General Scott Gration.

The Washington Post just came out with a scathing article reviewing the performance of Special Envoy Gration, ahead of a top level meeting between President Obama’s key advisors tomorrow on U.S. policy toward Sudan. Post correspondent Stephanie McCrummen traveled with General Gration during a recent trip to Sudan, and her piece is chockfull of accounts from local leaders in camps for Darfur’s displaced population, human rights activists, southern Sudanese officials, and rebel leaders – all of whom express grave concern about the U.S. approach toward Sudan, and in particular, the man at the helm of the diplomatic efforts.

The comments made by McCrummen’s sources are pretty damning, but even some of General Gration’s own statements make one cringe. Take, for instance, General Gration’s explanation of his incentives-heavy approach:

"We’ve got to think about giving out cookies," said Gration, who was appointed in March. "Kids, countries, they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."

Or this passage about an exchange between southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and General Gration:

In the southern capital of Juba, the region’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit told Gration he is concerned that his approach is emboldening the ruling party to dictate unfavorable terms for the south’s secession vote, such as demanding 75 percent turnout. Southerners have repeatedly accused the government of arming militias to create chaos ahead of the vote, and tribal violence has killed 2,000 people in the south this year.

But in his meeting with Kiir, Gration backed the ruling party’s argument, saying it had legitimate concerns about the referendum. Gration urged southerners to trust the government that waged a brutal war against them for 20 years.

"It is the other side that can build trust," Kiir countered during a press conference. "How will you trust that person that was killing you yesterday?"

The article is sure to cause fireworks, so stay tuned.


Photo: Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration