Obama Administration: Implement Sudan Policy of Benchmarks, Incentives, and Consequences
U.S. Sudan policy is AWOL. In October 2009, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice rolled out a new U.S. Sudan policy based on benchmarks and decisive action, including pressures and consequences on those obstructing peace and justice. Regrettably, the Obama administration has abandoned its own policy at a crucial time in Sudan's history. The Enough Project (http://enoughproject.org) has laid out a clear and precise analysis of What's Wrong With U.S. Policy Towards Sudan, And How To Fix It.
Take action for Sudan. Tell the Obama administration that now it the time to Fix U.S. Policy Towards Sudan. E-mail President Obama Enough's paper.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH U.S. POLICY TOWARD SUDAN, AND HOW TO FIX IT
July 20, 2010
Six months before the self-determination referenda for South Sudan and Abyei, U.S.
policy is not contributing in a meaningful way to peace and justice in Sudan, whether in
preventing a return to war between North and South Sudan, or in resolving the escalating
conflict in Darfur. The time has come for an urgent rethink of how the United States can
contribute to peace in Sudan now, building on the lessons of the recent past.
Complicating matters greatly, the Obama administration is not implementing the policy
of benchmarks, incentives, and consequences articulated by Secretary Clinton and
Ambassador Rice in October 2009, a policy which appears to have either been put on
hold or abandoned. The lack of follow-up to the strong words that accompanied the
rollout of that approach undermines U.S. influence further with each passing day.
The words and actions of key Obama administration officials reveal a largely hands-
off approach to critical negotiations focused on peacemaking in Darfur, implementation
of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, between the North and South,
and reaching agreement on crucial post-referendum arrangements to prevent an all-
out national war. The same words and actions reflect a self-perception of marginal
U.S. influence in peace-making in Sudan. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the Obama
administration is every day becoming less relevant to the prevention of war in Sudan, just
at a time when its leadership and hands-on involvement are needed most.
Let’s be specific. There are four areas in which the Enough Project and a significant
segment of the activist community disagree with the Obama administration’s words and actions.
1 . Darfur Peacemaking
The Obama Administration’s View: The United States pressured Chad in an attempt to
marginalize the Justice and Equality Movement, and then pushed for a peace deal with
a number of entities with little field presence. Now, the Obama administration appears
to have abandoned the idea of negotiating a sustainable peace deal with the parties to
the conflict in Darfur, and instead is backing the idea of a separate internal process of
peace-building referred to at times as the Darfur-Darfur dialogue. U.S. Special Envoy
General Scott Gration is also backing the Liberty and Justice Movement in Doha, a
newly formed rebel faction with little support on the ground and with minimal military
significance. This will in all likelihood lead to a deal that further fissures Darfur and
makes matters worse, similar to the Darfur Peace Agreement negotiated in part by the
Bush administration in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006. Although there are more American
diplomats being deployed to Juba and Khartoum, the U.S. has no permanent presence at
the peace talks in Doha or personnel assigned to move between government, rebels, and
civil society. The Special Envoy appears to be concentrating the administration’s efforts
on post-conflict development in lieu of securing a political deal, despite the enormous
security issues and lack of any effective cease-fire on the ground in Darfur today. Also,
numerous voices in the Obama administration are arguing to put Darfur on the back-
burner while they focus on the North-South issues.
Enough’s Alternative View: The United States needs to ramp up its support of peace in
Darfur by deploying a small team of negotiators and experts to revitalize the moribund
peace effort. Their efforts should focus on contributing to a draft single text proposal with
the full involvement of both armed and unarmed Darfuris that addresses the fundamental
roots of the conflict and the issues that most concern the average citizen. Leaving the
most powerful armed groups, and potential spoilers, out of the peace equation, and failing
to garner the support of local communities throughout Darfur to back it up, will render
any peace agreement impossible to implement. All Darfuri factions should be engaged in
a revitalized process involving multiple tracks and securing the maximum buy-in from
community leaders and civil society at-large. Furthermore, the Obama administration
should not deemphasize the Darfur issue in favor of the North-South challenges. The
ruling National Congress Party, or NCP, has succeeded in playing these two regions off
against each other within the broader international community. It is imperative that the
U.S. and other countries focus on both equally and work toward a comprehensive all-
2 . Post-Referendum Negotiations and CPA Implementation
The Obama Administration’s View: At a recent U.S. Committee for International
Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, event, General Gration reported his satisfaction with the
ruling NCP and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, hammering out an
approach to North-South negotiations without the United States, and with the African
Union High Level Implementation Panel, or AUHIP, and the United Nations taking the
lead role as mediators. According to General Gration, the United States has been working
hard on the key issues in the CPA, but that it was time for other international actors to
take up the helm. He said he envisioned being called upon to assist occasionally, but that
because the A.U./U.N. team has assumed leadership of the post-referendum negotiations,
the United States would be allowed to concentrate on other issues of concern largely
unrelated to these negotiations, such as food security and other functional support
systems that would help “keep the place together.” The United States has not deployed
full-time, on-site personnel to become embedded in the A.U./U.N.-led process to deal
with post-referendum issues, a process that is critical to ensuring a peaceful referendum
and smooth implementation of the referendum’s results. Vice President Biden’s recent
involvement is a promising development, hopefully presaging more senior administration
Enough’s Alternative View: The United States has a sizeable responsibility in helping
to ensure the implementation of the CPA after having been a major negotiator of
that agreement. Given America’s special relationship with the South, the Obama
administration needs to be deeply involved in pressing for full implementation, bird-
dogging the parties, and shining a spotlight on any efforts to obstruct the peace. In
addition to the new U.S. personnel in Juba and Khartoum, the United States should
deploy additional diplomatic capacity whose sole focus is CPA implementation, so that
hot issues like border demarcation and Abyei do not lead to a return to war. The United
States also needs to be deeply involved in supporting the post-referendum A.U./U.N.-led
negotiations by deploying a team of diplomats and experts in support of the mediation.
As AUHIP has been named the lead international facilitator and mediator of these talks,
the United States should actively and aggressively offer its resources and its technical
capacity to this body. The model to replicate is the successful negotiation structure that
produced the CPA. Africa led the talks, with the U.S. and a few other countries providing
close diplomatic support, requisite leverage when necessary in the form of sticks and
carrots, and high level diplomatic interventions by key Cabinet officials to help move the
3 . Leverage
The Obama Administration’s View: General Gration and other U.S. officials are
increasingly voicing a mantra that the United States has no influence in Sudan. Many in
the administration, including the special envoy, operate on the premise that confidence-
building measures and incentives are the best way to impact Khartoum’s behavior, but
there has been no agreement on which incentives to offer. Given that other powerful
voices in the administration are arguing for a pressures-based approach, this has created a
stalemate, which also allows those who support an incentive-led approach to contend that
their approach has not yet been tried.
Enough’s Alternative View: U.S. efforts to build unilateral and multilateral leverage
points may be the greatest potential contribution to peace in Sudan the United States
can make. Leverage can be built through intensive and high-level diplomacy and the
building of a package of multilateral carrots and sticks that are robust enough to get the
attention of the parties. Enough is outlining what some of these pressures and incentives
could be in a forthcoming publication from the Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars. As soon as the United States begins to build that package, and signals to the
parties its commitment to seeing real change in Sudan, it will gain greater influence on
the outcome of the efforts to support peace in both Darfur and the South.
4 . Accountability
The Obama Administration’s View: The mixed messages emerging from the
administration make it unclear what the U.S. wants vís-a-vís accountability in Sudan.
While President Obama was expressing his view that negotiations in Darfur are supported
by an emphasis on accountability, General Gration was sounding a more negative tone
at the USCIRF event, saying that the genocide charges issued against President Bashir
by the International Criminal Court, or ICC, will make his job harder. The bottom line is
that the United States has not pressed the Security Council for specific targeted sanctions
against any individuals subject to an arrest warrant, or even pushed for a Council
statement in support of their apprehension, for fear that this will undermine efforts for a
peaceful referendum in the South.
Enough’s Alternative View: The stronger the United States supports the ICC arrest
warrants, the more influence it will have in the long-run in support of peace. Justice
is a central component of sustainable peace. The United States should be pressing
other Security Council members to publicly support the arrest warrants, call for the
apprehension of the suspects, and introduce targeted sanctions against them, as well as
rallying international opposition to any retaliation against humanitarian operations by the
Sudanese regime, such as the expulsion of two International Organization for Migration
aid workers on July 22, 2010.
Regrettably, U.S. policy appears to have abandoned the benchmark-based consequences
promised by cabinet members nine months ago, and now is marked by support for
General Gration’s shuttle trips to the region, consideration of some small confidence-
building incentives, debates over whether to deemphasize Darfur in favor of North-
South issues, and the deployment of a team of additional diplomats to Juba to support
transitional issues in the South.
This represents a fundamental misanalysis of what is needed now. What is urgently
required is a full-scale commitment to the kind of negotiations framework that produced
the CPA, in which U.S. diplomats and experts were deeply embedded on-site in
support of African-led negotiations that utilized international comparative advantages,
particularly in the creation and utilization of leverage. Utilizing that lesson in the current
context would take two forms: experienced teams deployed to the region to provide close
diplomatic support to the A.U./U.N.-led peace processes in Darfur and the South, and
U.S. leadership in developing a package of multilateral carrots and sticks to influence the
parties’ calculations in support of peace. Having senior officials such as Vice President
Biden, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Rice, and President Obama himself make
telephone calls, raise Sudan in meetings, make clear statements of U.S. policy, speak out
against human rights abuses, and push the peace process forward will be essential for the
success of peace-making in Darfur and the South.
The U.S. made a major contribution to peace-making in Sudan in the past decade during
the CPA negotiations. Sadly, the Obama administration is not building on the lessons of
past success and thus is not positioning itself to play the role that is needed in averting
all-out war in 2011.
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