With an emphasis on the “tight timeline” in Sudan, U.S. Special Envoy on Sudan Scott Gration outlined the effort he is leading to re-engage the numerous key actors needed to undertake a comprehensive peace process for Sudan during a State Department press conference earlier today.
Special Envoy Gration recently returned from a multi-country trip aimed at drumming up renewed support for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the North-South civil war in 2005 but now seems at risk of collapsing. Among its wealth and power-sharing provisions, the CPA mandates national elections in 2010 and a self-determination referendum for the South in 2011. Gration summed up the administration’s strategy by saying:
With these events fast approaching, it’s absolutely critical that we work together, that we seize every opportunity to save lives and facilitate a lasting peace in Sudan, and to promote stability and security in the entire region.
The special envoy emphasized the priority he has placed on getting various parties to talk, employing phrases such as “constructive dialogue” and “dialogue and engagement.” It is a strategy that many Sudan watchers worry is too soft on the government in Khartoum, but one that Gration puts forth as the cornerstone of his approach to tackling the challenges of both the Darfur conflict and the increasing tension between North and South.
Dialogue and engagement will be critical as we implement all aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement before the referendum for self-determination is held in January 2011, we have a lot of work to do. We have to secure agreements on border demarcation, wealth-sharing, and power-sharing. In addition, we need to make sure that all parties are involved and ensure that places like Abeyi do not become the next war zone in Sudan. To successfully tackle these challenges, we need the support of the international community. We must continue to deepen and broaden international coordination in Sudan.
Constructive dialogue will help us negotiate a ceasefire in Darfur so that people living in IDP camps and refugee camps have the opportunity to move back to the place of their own choosing. To be able to live in safety and security and dignity. This dialogue and engagement is also helping us in the second round of talks in Doha, a process that’s designed to produce a political settlement in Darfur…
Gration highlighted the upcoming Forum for the Supporters of the CPA, an event taking place in Washington next week, that Gration said he hopes will “restore the international commitment” and “rekindle the passion” that participants felt at the Naivasha conference in 2005 that led to the signing of the CPA.
When asked by a reporter whether the special envoy’s focus would now be directed primarily at bolstering the CPA, Gration said that a siloed approach to Sudan’s challenges is impractical, given the challenging events on the horizon.
Our approach is one that we do multiple things at the same time, just because our timeline is so short and the challenges are so great that we no longer have the luxury to focus on one thing and then switch to the other. We must work all these at the same time, in an integrated way, where all parties are part of the solution and the international community comes together in a unified way to bring about the results that we all want to see.
Without offering specific details about the nature of his meetings with various actors, Gration emphasized the all-encompassing nature of his recent efforts and his strategy moving forward. In response to a question, he clarified that his approach is indeed dynamic and results-driven.
We’re using all methods to accomplish this – whether they be carrots, or whether they be sticks. (…) We want to get results. We’re taking a look at all the elements of national power that we can bring to bear to get results to change the situation [in Sudan].
Gration also touched on some of the more contentious aspects of the situation that have recently taken center stage in discussions about how to resolve Sudan’s various challenges. On the topic of the return of expelled aid agencies, Gration emphasized that the agencies going in to Darfur would be “new” and spoke confidently about their capacity, which was a noticeable contradiction of reports last week from the U.N. humanitarian chief who said that four agencies would be returning to Darfur with new names and logos:
It appears that the 13 NGOs that were expelled will not be allowed back into the country. But you should note that right now, we are near a hundred percent capacity returned. We have – on the food side, we’re providing the same food resources as we were prior to
expulsion, a hundred percent. And in the WASH, which is water, sanitation and hygiene, we’re at about 95 percent, and the other services about a hundred. Now I must say that some of this is being done through emergency methods. In other words, it’s not sustainable. But with the new NGOs that are going back in right now, we believe we’ll be able to sustain these operations and actually get more capacity than we had on the third and the fourth when these were expelled.
The special envoy also weighed in on the question of whether the violence in Darfur today should be characterized as genocide:
What we see is the remnants of genocide. What we see are the consequences of genocide, the results of genocide. We still have thousands of people living in camps as IDPs. We have women who are still afraid to go out and collect firewood. And we have children that are not having the benefits of growing up in their homeland — that are growing up in these camps. (…)The violence still exists where bandits and Janjaweed and warlords and those kinds of folks do conduct terrorist activities on these folks and do increase terror. But it doesn’t appear that it is a coordinated effort that was similar to what we had in 2003 to 2006.
Watch for some reverberations on those last two points.
Click here to listen to a full audio recording of the speech.