While controversies over Sudan’s recent elections continue to emerge, attention is shifting to the next potentially explosive milestone on Sudan’s horizon: the referendum on South Sudan’s self-determination. The vote will take place in January 2011, but as editorial boards, members of Congress, some Obama administration officials, and the advocacy community are increasingly warning, there’s much to do before then to prepare for what many anticipate will be the split of Africa’s largest country and the emergence of the continent’s newest.
Yet while there is broad agreement that the stakes in Sudan – and the potential for a return to war – are higher than ever, remarkably little has been done by the Obama administration to respond to signs that the U.S. policy is proving ineffective.
President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, Maj. General Scott Gration, will be on Capitol Hill this week to answer questions from members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) called the hearing, which will focus on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Darfur peace process and will take into consideration regional issues.
With so many potentially volatile issues unresolved between North and South and the conspicuously low profile of the United States in the faltering Darfur peace talks, public pressure is mounting for the Obama administration to truly implement the U.S. policy. Last week, Enough and partners published a report card cataloguing the areas where the peace processes in Sudan have either stagnated or digressed since the roll-out of the new U.S. policy last fall. In a strongly worded letter to President Obama, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) called for “renewed, principled leadership at the highest levels,” and his words were commended by grassroots anti-genocide and Sudanese diaspora groups (and tweeted by the NY Times’ Nick Kristof to his nearly one million followers). Editorial boards in New York and Los Angeles recently warned of the potentially dire consequences if the Obama administration doesn’t dedicate high-level attention to Sudan’s challenges:
“[U.S. diplomats heading to southern Sudan] have a lot of work to do — and not a lot of time — to help the leaders there improve their ability to govern and promote the rule of law. Otherwise, the desperately impoverished region runs the risk of becoming a failed state the day it is born.” – The New York Times, May 2
“A multination diplomatic drive focused on Sudan should be at or near the top of the priority list for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. […] The administration has only a few months to try to head off a war that would inflame not just Africa’s largest country but the surrounding region.” – Los Angeles Times, May 6
With so many urgent issues to address with the special envoy, who just returned to Washington from a week-long trip that included multiple stops in Sudan and Ethiopia, we can expect a newsworthy hearing on Wednesday. Enough will be there to bring you updates in real-time starting at 11 a.m.
What questions do you hope the senators will ask?