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Obama, Sudan, and the UN General Assembly Speech

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Obama, Sudan, and the UN General Assembly Speech

Posted by John Norris on September 23, 2009

A good speech by President Obama at the U.N. today, although most if it remained at the 30,000 foot level without getting into specifics. The speech was well-crafted and well-delivered. The president rightly stressed that all nations have both rights and responsibilities. He also made specific mention of Sudan, saying:

“That is why we will strengthen our support for effective peacekeeping, while energizing our efforts to prevent conflicts before they take hold. We will pursue a lasting peace in Sudan through support for the people of Darfur, and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, so that we secure the peace that the Sudanese people deserve. And in countries ravaged by violence – from Haiti to Congo to East Timor – we will work with the UN and other partners to support an enduring peace.”

But it is important to note, in keeping with his theme on the responsibility of nations, that the government of Sudan has repeatedly abrogated its fundamental responsibilities by deliberately targeting innocent civilians while failing to fulfill peace agreement after peace agreement. We cannot just talk about war crimes and international law in the abstract, and the practical steps the administration has taken in dealing with Sudan remain very much a mixed bag.

It was also disappointing to hear that the situation in Sudan was not raised specifically in President Obama’s luncheon meeting with African heads of state yesterday. Given that it is the largest country on the continent, and has an independence referendum for the South pending in 2011 (and a wanted war criminal as president), it certainly deserved discussion and will have huge strategic ramifications across the continent. Many African leaders will likely take the omission of any discussion on Sudan during such a gathering to indicate that Sudan is not a central priority for the administration.

Now is the time for President to Obama to galvanize an international response to the growing crisis in Sudan.


Photo: U.N. Headquarters in New York (AP/Mary Altaffer)