Editor's Note: This piece first appeared as part of New York Times "Room for Debate." Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast and other debaters—including Oxfam’s Sudan Country Director El Fateh Osman, Former Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew S. Natsios, Girifna member Dalia Haj-Omar, Chair of Islamic Studies at American University Akbar Ahmed, National Director of STAND Daniel Soloman, and Heritage Foundation Research Associate Morgan Roach—address the question: How can world leaders prevent another humanitarian disaster from taking place in Sudan?
The separation of South Sudan from Sudan has brought into sharp focus the core problem that continues to produce conflict, famine and human rights crimes in that subregion: An overcentralized, autocratic military regime in Khartoum which maintains power by any means necessary.
The Obama administration and other concerned governments face three interlocking challenges to prevent further conflagration in the two Sudans. First, to stave off famine in the border areas, diplomatic pressure must increase on the Khartoum regime to end its use of starvation as a weapon of war and to allow humanitarian access. While diplomacy unfolds, parallel emergency aid should be delivered into the most affected regions through channels not requiring Khartoum’s consent.
Second, the existing peace effort between Sudan and South Sudan lacks leverage to compel the parties to consider reasonable proposals to deal with oil revenue and disputed border territories. To create leverage, a new core group (including China, Ethiopia, Turkey, the U.S. and a few other influential states) should be formed to provide high-level support to the current African Union/United Nations peace initiative. President Obama should quietly send a high-ranking official to Beijing to work out the terms of Sino-American cooperation.
Third, the pro-democracy struggles of people throughout Sudan are less known than but just as compelling as those of their neighbors in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria. Sudan’s Arab Spring takes the form of small demonstrations, which are brutally repressed, and large insurgencies that are subject to scorched-earth ethnic cleansing operations. It is time for the Obama administration to work with the Arab League and African Union to press for a democratic transition in Sudan. Similarly, strong advocacy for inclusiveness in South Sudan would undercut further local level conflict in that new country, before it ends up like so many other dictatorships littering Africa’s most conflict-ridden region.
Read the opinions of other debaters on how to prevent another Darfur.
Photo: President of Sudan Omer Al-Bashir visits Juba, South Sudan’s capital, less than a week before the South's referendum in January 2011. He is accompanied by President of South Sudan Salva Kiir. (UN Photo / Tim McKulka)