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Is the new U.S. policy on Sudan the dawn of a new era of engagement with Khartoum?
On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced its new Sudan policy after months of speculation and lobbying from those opposed to any positive overtures to Khartoum and those who said further isolating Sudan would derail years of peace efforts.
U.S.-Sudanese relations have seen many ups and down in recent years. U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1997 and the United States bombed a Sudanese pharmaceuticals factory in 1998. There was praise for a 2005 north-south peace deal ending more than two decades of civil war, but it was overshadowed by outrage over atrocities in the 2003 Darfur uprising where Washington accused Khartoum of genocide.
The new policy outlined broad engagement, although no direct talks with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum was offered unspecified incentives for tangible progress towards ending the Darfur crisis and implementing the 2005 north-south peace deal. But the government was warned of penalties for any stalling tactics.
Most analysts agreed the strategy was middle of the road with something in there to please everyone. The reaction from most sides of Sudan’s multiple conflicts was one of cautious welcome indicating that, at least for now, it was a good compromise.
And after a fierce battle between anti-Khartoum lobbyists and those advocating engagement in the United States, Obama’s envoy Scott Gration seemed to come out on top, with the U.S. President expressing open support for his work, snubbing calls for him to be removed from his post.
Washington said it had learned past lessons including that the focus on Sudan could not just be on either the ongoing hostilities in Darfur or on the democratic transformation outlined in the north-south deal known as the CPA. Rather it acknowledged a more comprehensive approach to Sudan was necessary to ensure long-term peace.
Once the dust had settled it became apparent that the ball had been left in Khartoum’s court. Washington will scrutinise concrete moves towards breaking a deadlock on talks on how to hold the first multi-party elections in 24 years due in less than six months and a southern referendum on secession in 2011.
Do you think this marks a real change in U.S. policy in Sudan? Or has Obama’s administration just openly declared a policy that former President George W. Bush was already following behind the scenes?
Do you think peace in Sudan can be achieved through the “carrot and stick” approach?
Should the international community be so involved in Sudan or should it just leave the Sudanese to solve their own problems?