As you may have heard, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is in Sudan this week, where he is making multiple stops aimed primarily at continuing negotiations between North and South on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, and assessing the humanitarian situation in Darfur.
A couple of thoughts on this trip:
It was striking that the press release put out by State ahead of the special envoy’s trip noted that discussions of the CPA will focus on “the remaining two issues” that a renegotiated timeframe for the CPA implementation, signed off by both sides in an agreement in Juba, did not address. They include the census and the referendum for southern self-determination, currently slated for 2011. As contentious as those two components are, this way of framing the trip certainly gives the impression that the peace process will be back on track once we’ve checked the box on those last two items. I’m all for being optimistic, but this portrayal of the situation just sounds a little overly confident. Even with those two components agreed to on paper, the real proof of progress will be in implementation, and the NCP’s track record on the initial timeframe for compliance is not promising.
Second, it is very interesting to see the emphasis during this trip on examining the conditions for women in the displaced persons camps, which Gration plans to do by meeting with women leaders to discuss sexual violence. This is an important move, particularly in light of recent suggestions that the situation in Darfur is improving, despite the fact that 2.5 million people remain in camps. Special Envoy Gration will be in Darfur tomorrow and Sunday, and we’ll be eagerly awaiting the readout. Hopefully this leg of the trip will be much smoother than the last time Gration went to Darfur. From comments printed today, it’s clear he’s going to have to prove himself.