TCS Daily

Progess in Sudan

By Richard S. Williamson - January 21, 2009 12:00 AM

Sudan has long been a land of troubles, turmoil, trauma and tragedy. Deep racial, ethnic and religious divides have contributed to decades of acute marginalization for millions of non-Arab Sudanese. This cauldron of division and marginalization has been exploited by the powerful to retain their power; resulting in brutal, bloody conflicts.

Sudan's North/South civil war was the longest in Africa's history. Over 2 million died and over 4 million were displaced. And Darfur's "genocide in slow motion" grinds on claiming more innocent victims every day.

When George W. Bush was sworn into office, he gave early and sustained attention to Sudan. He appointed Senator Jack Danforth as his first Special Envoy to Sudan. President Bush and Senator Danforth worked tirelessly with international partners Kenya, Norway, Britain, Italy and others in the Naivasha process to mediate between the warring parties. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement finally ended the North/South civil war. It was due to the good work of many, but unquestionably the leadership of the United States under President Bush was indispensable. After decades of mayhem, murder and misery, this major diplomatic breakthrough has provided an opportunity for renewal.

As stipulated in the deal, full CPA implementation will not be complete until 2011. Many key steps remain incomplete such as full demobilization and integration of Arab militias and final border demarcation. Census results have not been finalized. And the election scheduled for 2009 may be pushed back. All these benchmarks must be achieved to reach the 2011 referendum that will provide the right of self-determination for Southern Sudan.

The Bush administration has been deeply involved in helping Southern Sudan. We have continued to provide humanitarian assistance to people recovering from the ravages of war. America has provided technical and financial support for the South's economic development, good governance reform, building political infrastructure and military transformation. Progress has been considerable. More is needed. The United States must remain vigilant and engaged to ensure the fragile peace holds and self-determination takes place through the 2011 referendum.

As negotiations for the CPA took place, fresh violence broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur. President Bush was the first world leader to condemn the ethnic cleansing in Darfur and call for it to end. He authorized a muscular US resolution condemning the Darfur atrocities at the 2004 UN Human Rights Commission. Sadly, at the time the carnage of a conflict far away and little understood had not yet been fully recognized. The US resolution failed.

Darfur's destruction, death and despair spread. Later that year, President Bush was the first world leader to have the courage to call this carnage by its proper name: genocide.

In Darfur's "genocide in slow motion" over 300,000 have died and 2.7 million have been displaced. According to the United Nations, 300,000 more were displaced in 2008.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, under President Bush's leadership, the United States has been the world's most generous country providing billions of dollars of assistance. Visiting many Darfur camps for the internally displaced, I've seen Darfuris young and old living in desperate conditions. Many are alive today only due to American generosity.

President Bush led the effort to get a United Nations/African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). While it does not have the size nor capacity to impose peace, UNAMID has increased security to many parts of Darfur. In addition to the United States being the largest financial contributor to UNAMID, President Bush committed and we have spent a further $100 million to train, equip and deploy more African peacekeepers for UNAMID.

As the President's Special Envoy to Sudan, I am disappointed the North/South peace remains fragile. And I am deeply distressed that the Darfur conflict continues. More must be done.

Soon President-elect Barak Obama will have the grave responsibility and opportunity to advance peace in Sudan. I wish him and his team well. I am sorry I haven't been able to achieve more. But I realize, and the American people should know, progress has been made and is largely a direct result of the concern, compassion and commitment of President George W. Bush.


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