What was otherwise a very good speech in most respects by President Obama in Egypt fell very short on the Sudan side. Here is his reference to Sudan in the speech:
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
So, Sudan is lumped in with the financial crisis, swine flu and Bosnia in a single paragraph. This is enormously disappointing given that the speech was delivered in Cairo, and that Egypt is one of Sudan’s most important neighbors. President Bashir felt emboldened enough to visit Cairo himself in March despite facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mention of that from President Obama at a time when the entire world was watching what he had to say. No discussion of diplomacy or U.S. leadership of a peace process.
Stylistically, the construction of the reference is also troubling. The speech lumps Bosnia and Darfur together, almost as if both were historical events now in the hazy rearview mirror of the past. From these remarks you would never know that the crisis in Darfur and across increasingly large parts of Sudan is ongoing, and deserving of a robust, coordinated and well-leveraged response from the United States.
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Photo: President Barack Obama delivers his address on America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world at Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt. AP/Ben Curtis