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Obama Administration Deploys Biden to Engage on Sudan

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Obama Administration Deploys Biden to Engage on Sudan

Posted by Laura Heaton on June 8, 2010

“Vice President Joseph Biden is leading an interagency delegation to Africa this week, but his final stop at the 2010 World Cup is not the point of the journey. Biden is there to get involved in Sudan policy and lend some senior-level supervision to an issue that has split the Obama administration for months.”

In a post on Foreign Policy’s The Cable, blogger Josh Rogin wrote that while Vice President Biden will touch down in Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa during his seven-day trip to Africa, Sudan is actually the main attraction. Citing unnamed sources from inside the Obama administration, Rogin’s post delves into the internal dynamics and power plays behind the administration’s Sudan policy. Rogin notes that the Sudan advocacy community has been calling for this high-level engagement from the Obama administration for months, but also points out the sense among advocacy groups – quoting Enough’s John Norris and John Prendergast – and some members of Congress that this trip should be the first of many rather than a one-off effort. Rogin’s full post is well-worth a read.

For months, the Sudan advocacy community has been calling for sustained, direct involvement by top U.S. officials to generate the leverage that will allow them to hold Sudanese parties accountable for backsliding on commitments in the lead-up to the southern referendum. Direct ownership of the Sudan policy by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton would also send the message to key regional and international actors that challenges in Sudan will require concerted attention and coordination in order to prevent a return to war between North and South. For this reason, it is encouraging to hear that Vice President Biden met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday and was slated to meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga today to discuss regional implications of southern secession and the associated potential for violence. (N.B.: For more on the impact of southern independence on the wider region, International Crisis Group recently published this valuable report.)

Let’s hope that Biden’s trip is a sign that the Obama administration plans to involve its highest-ranking officials in implementing the Sudan policy from this point forward. Biden’s trip should lay the groundwork for meaningful follow-up to ensure that the United States and its partners are proactively heading off potentially explosive rifts in Sudan at this crucial stage, rather than trying to simply maintain the status quo and being overtaken by events on the ground. As a U.S. senator, Biden was certainly of this mindset, as this new video by Stop Genocide Now shows. It is now Vice President Biden’s chance to show that his words – then and now – are not empty promises.


The Save Darfur Coalition organized a letter signing campaign addressed to Vice President Biden, which has so far generated more than 13,000 signatures. “Without increased leadership from the U.S. and international cooperation, an environment within Sudan to tackle the interlocking political crises and challenges without a resort to deadly violence is unlikely to develop,” SDC wrote in the letter delivered to Vice President Biden’s office. “We call upon you to send a message to these partner countries that peace, security, justice and democracy for all Sudanese is a priority to the United States.” Click here to read the full letter and sign it.