TCS Daily


Darfur Dangers

By Richard S. Williamson - June 18, 2008 12:00 AM

The death, destruction, devastation and deep despair that we have witnessed for years in Darfur tragically draws on. As the President's Special Envoy to Sudan I am working to end this "genocide in slow motion." But even as so much world attention focuses on Darfur's mayhem and misery, we must be attentive to the fragile peace between North and South Sudan. If war reignites there, any chance for progress in Darfur will be endangered.

Last week, I visited the central town of Abyei, which suffered a terrible flash of violence a few weeks ago. The exact casualties from the small arms and mortar fire are unknown, but they are estimated at several dozen. Up to 50,000 people fled their homes.

Where just weeks ago thousands of families lived, laughed, and loved, today there are only remnants of lives lost. Moving down the dirt roads, except for three teenage soldiers carrying Kalashnikovs, there is no one. As far as I could see were burnt out huts, here and there blackened metal bed frames and chairs, scattered fragments of clothes, burnt out 55 gallon water drums, the occasional charred skeleton of a truck, the contorted remnants of a child's bicycle, smoke rising from smoldering remnants. The apocalypse? Tens of thousands added to the casualty list of Sudan's endless violence, a society that has suffered more trauma and tragedy than any society could possibly digest.

Unfortunately, this violence is an all too familiar conflict for the people of Sudan. From 1955 to 2005, except for one decade of fragile peace, civil war raged between the North and South. Deep ethnic, racial, tribal and religious differences, decades of marginalization, and the quest for political domination fed the longest civil war in Africa. It claimed over 2 million lives and displaced over 6 million people.

My predecessor as the President's Special Envoy, Senator Jack Danforth, along with others, facilitated diplomatic progress to end that war. In 2005 the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed and large-scale fighting ended.

As usually happens, the peace deal to end a long, complex and messy conflict is not simple nor neat. Full implementation of the CPA extends to 2011, when a referendum will determine whether the South stays part of Sudan or gains independence. Leading up to 2011, there are provisions that include political power sharing, border demarcation, sharing oil revenue, a census, and elections.

Given the six-year implementation period of the CPA, there is ample time for mischief: gaming the agreement, seeking advantage by changing facts on the ground to the detriment of the Sudanese people, reinterpretation, and intramural political jockeying for position, power and prerogatives.

Text Box: CHI:2094105.1The recent violence in Abyei demonstrates the high stakes of standing on the sidelines. The international community must provide the political support, technical assistance and development aid to strengthen the possibility and promise of peace in Southern Sudan. Humanitarian assistance to the still large displaced population also is needed.

As the South grows stronger, the probability of peace grows. Today the South, an area about the size of Texas, almost completely lacks any appropriate road infrastructure. Despite vast, rich agricultural land, food aid must still be provided in a region that should be able to produce enough to feed itself, and even others beyond its borders. Notwithstanding great mineral resources, except for oil along the border, these riches remain untapped. There is no real manufacturing. Government capacity remains thin and limited. The South's Army and North/South Joint Integrated Units, stationed in places like Abyei, need further development. And political institutions are fragile.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has an enormous and sophisticated assistance program in Southern Sudan. It is making a major difference in the lives and potential of the region. Other countries also are vested in helping. In May, I was in Oslo at the Sudan Consortium Meeting where more than 30 countries and organizations gathered to coordinate their work in Southern Sudan.

Despite these efforts, the need remains great. Collectively, the donor community must become even smarter, more effective and more consequential in Southern Sudan. US AID is leading such efforts and deserves strong support.

But there also is need for more robust international political backing for the CPA. We cannot let it unravel. We cannot allow mischief from the North or South, stress from political positioning or posturing, flashes of violence or benign neglect to fragment or fracture the fragile CPA.

A collapse of the CPA would catapult conflict between the North and South, be a spreading contagion and keep open the Gates of Hell in Darfur. Successful implementation of the CPA, on the other hand, not only will maintain peace between North and South, but also will address issues of marginalization and historic economic, social and political inequities that are at the root of both the conflict between North and South and the conflict in Darfur.

The events of the past years in Sudan raise troubling questions about our commitment and capacity to help protect innocents from mass atrocities and even genocide. We cannot add to our disappointments by allowing the CPA roadmap to fail. It is an obligation to which the United States is committed and, with our friends and allies, we must meet.


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5 Comments

Darfur dangers
Ok, so people are suffering and dying in Darfur. Why is that the business of the U.S.? Is U.S. policy or U.S. imperialism or colonialism the direct and immediate cause of this violence?

Williamson says "The events of the past years in Sudan raise troubling questions about our commitment and capacity to help protect innocents from mass atrocities and even genocide."

OK, let me then say "The events of the past years in Iraq raise troubling questions about the world's (including Iraq's) willingness or wish to have us protect innocents from mass atrocities and even genocide."

And let us be honest for a moment, America lacks the backbone to effectively carry out such an adventure. Every prospective opponent knows that, even if we don't, and all it has to do is inflict a few casualties and wait us out until we tire of the adventure and then it wins and whichever side America assisted will suffer even more for it. In fact, the US would have no local ally because they also know that America lacks the staying power and that anyone who was seen as siding with America is going to be exterminated as soon as America departs.

Worse than that, since this is black on black violence, whichever side we oppose will quickly gain the support of the Congressional Black Caucus who will criticize the Administration for its actions. They will call it neocolonialism or imperialism, they will say we are trading "blood for oil". It doesn't matter which side we support, the CBC doesn't care, criticising the Administration and tearing down the US just makes good press and appeals to their constituents.

I believe it was Claire Booth Luce who said "No good deed ever goes unpunished." When are we going to learn from that aphorism and stop trying to solve all of the world's problems? Every time we do we just become the target of every America-hater, both domestic and foreign, and sacrifice to no discernable end the treasury and blood of our nation.

It is none of our business, let's just stay out.

John McCain Is The Man Who Can Handle The Job
I think the article describes more reasons why John McCain should become the next U.S. President. Senator McCain will do what should be done. He won't disavow his committment to do what is right, regardless of popular opinion.

On the other hand, Obama will say whatever the confused liberal voters want to hear. He'll express what he thinks the public opinion polls indicate.

The people in Sudan need John McCain in the White House. Americans need John McCain in the White House too.

Living in LaLa land must be pleasant
The globe has become so intertwined that, anymore, every conflict sends ripples through our markets and society. While we do need to pick and choose the where and when of our involvement in foreign affairs (and we haven't been known to pick those well or wisely), the U.S. doen't really have much choice but to get involved. This has been true to some extent for a century or more, and to a growing extent since the end of WWII.

To a degree we are luckier than most. The U.S. is probably more capable than most of withdrawing and maintaining some strong standard of living. However, to do so quickly, would be very painful. It would mean closing our borders tight to immigration and trade, withdrawing everything but diplomatic personnel and, basically, becoming North Korea.

The other choice is to be involved and have choices in when and where we act.

Re: Darfur Dangers
"The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

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