Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Obama Administration "Decouples" Darfur

Eric Reeves

The relationship between Darfur and Southern Sudan has never been well understood by the Obama administration, largely because of the incompetence of the president's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration. Gration came to the position in early 2009 without any significant diplomatic experience or familiarity with the extraordinary complexities of Sudan—Africa's largest and most diverse country; he touted as background only his birth in Africa to missionary parents and an apparent facility in Swahili (of no use anywhere in Sudan). But he has enjoyed until recently the full support of President Obama, and this has made informed, tough-minded engagement with the Khartoum regime impossible.

The consequences of this failure are increasingly evident in proliferating news coverage of the critical and unresolved issues between the regime in Khartoum and the southern leadership in Juba. Unsurprisingly, as the scheduled referenda for southern Sudan and Abyei draw nearer, there has been a corresponding proliferation of commentary, nearly all of it from sources as belated as the Obama administration itself in recognizing the dangers looming in Sudan. What these commentaries most conspicuously lack is any sense of the relationship between events in Darfur and Khartoum’s stalling on the southern electoral process.

THE COST of US belatedness in responding to the electoral calendar leading to the two southern referenda has been extraordinarily high ( ). With less than two months until the January 9, 2011 date on which the votes are to occur, Khartoum has successfully run out the clock and is in a position to extract significant concessions from the US—sweeteners to persuade the regime to allow the referenda to occur as guaranteed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which in January 2005 ended more than twenty years of unfathomably destructive civil war. Desperate to avoid the diplomatic catastrophe of a CPA collapse, the Obama team has been significantly expanded in recent weeks and months; however, it is far from clear that there is enough time to prevent war from re-igniting, the same war ended by the CPA almost six years ago. Warnings unheeded for well over a year have only now set off all the alarm bells; in turn, the most significant part of the US response has been to offer Khartoum more and more in the way of incentives. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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