As we mentioned last week, Senator John Kerry announced during his visit to Sudan that the government in Khartoum had agreed to allow some of the expelled aid agencies to return. Back in Washington, Senator Kerry spoke to NPR about the news, explaining that "in some cases, some of the very same people will go back, wearing a different title, but providing the same service."
This picture seems to be shaping up as this: Sudan will allow some of the aid groups back if they are ‘rehatted’ under different names. It also seems clear that some of the 13 groups probably will not be allowed back at all. No timetable for any of this has been announced by the administration, aid groups, or the Government of Sudan.
It does strike me as strange that all of the comments to date on this topic seem to have come from Senator Kerry rather than the administration. This issue is far too important to leave the people of Darfur and the American public guessing as to what has been agreed or not. In general, the government of Sudan is much, much better at making agreements than keeping them, and the entire episode should give Special Envoy Scott Gration a good sense if the government is willing to actually implement what it offers in discussions.
It is also important to remember that even if some aid groups are allowed back in, the overall situation remains dire: UNAMID remains ineffective, there is still no viable peace process for Darfur, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is under tremendous strain. We will only see real change when there is genuine momentum for a lasting negotiated solution to Sudan’s multiple conflicts.
File photo: Men haul bags of grain at the WFP storage facility in West Darfur, courtesy of Doug Mercado