The New U.S Policy on Sudan: A Messenger of Peace or an Angel of Death?
In small, brightly lit room, with only one table in the centre and few chairs as its furniture, sat Neo in front of Agent Smith who was lecturing him on “the need to collaborate in bringing a known terrorist and criminal (Morpheus) to justice”, and in return, Neo’s criminal records as internet hacker will be wiped clean and he will be given a new life. This last part of the agent’s speech was accompanied by a theatrical move of brushing aside, at slow motion, the actual Neo criminal record folder that was put on the table in between Neo and, the typical Gestapo-looking character with the typical black glasses, Agent Smith. This is one of my most favourite parts of the hit trilogy movie “The Matrix”, which is considered as one of the most politically critical and philosophically intriguing movies that I have ever seen.
This scene came as vivid as vivid can be in my mind when I first came across the announcement of the long awaited U.S policy regarding Sudan and Darfur. I couldn’t prevent myself from seeing the irony of the resemblance, and I couldn’t prevent myself as well fancying the Neo of Sudan, giving Agent Smith his alternative “deal” in the background, while Ghazi Salah El-din, the new chosen link between the administration and El-Beshir, voices the more polite and diplomatically accepted welcoming, with some reservation, of the new Policy.
Apparently, the new policy did not bring any significant surprises. Both the sticks and the carrots of the proposal have been there all the time advocated by two colliding groups within the various U.S administrations, one calling for negotiations with the regime and the other goes to the extreme of working for overthrowing that regime.
The only two merits to be given to Obama are his success in putting these two groups in one basket of proposals for the first time and the linking of the issues of Darfur with the peace between the South and the North as well as with Abyei and Blue Nile all in one package.
The deal was quite obvious, for Gration’s approach to be accepted, he needed to change his view and accept the same allegation, that he strongly denied over the last 4-5 months, that there is genocide in Darfur. For the tough stance to be considered, it was necessary for Rice to accept the carrots and candies approach to be given a chance first. According to the VoA, October 19, 2009, Gration appeared with Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice at the policy briefing, and insisted there is full unity behind the new approach.
“I just wanted to make sure everybody knows that I fully support this strategy, the comments that the Secretary and Ambassador Rice has said,” Gration explained. The comments of Rice and Clinton were not other than that of the existence of Genocide in Darfur.
El-Sharq Alawsat issue of October 20, 2009 cited Rice as praising Gration in an interview on the national radio NPR that he is quite experienced about African affairs, he spend long time in Africa, and that he receives extensive support from President Obama.
In his article “The Fierce Urgency of Implementation: The New U.S. Policy In Sudan” posted on the Huffington Post issue of October 20, 2009, Prendergast welcomed the new policy although continued to criticize Gration and attacked any interpretations that this policy represents a set of incentives and carrots and tried to put more weight to the punitive side of the policy that his group was advocating for.
“Recent public statements by administration officials have created justifiable concerns among members of Congress, activists, and a range of experts that the policy might rely on providing incentives as the primary means for encouraging behavioural change on the ground in Sudan. Instead, the policy as articulated today demands accountability and verifiable progress on a wide range of issues before incentives would be deployed – although these benchmarks are not spelled out in detail.”
According to the VoA article by Dave Gollust /Joe De Capua , Prendergast replied in comparison of the new policy to the old ones “First…this moves away from where the U.S. was going with its policy of appeasement…. Secondly, I think that the new policy rebukes the previous public statements that we ought to let bygones be bygones and move forward. And clearly states that justice and accountability is central to peace,” he says.
Prendergast mentions a third aspect “that it appears to be more honest about the overwhelming likelihood that Southern Sudan will opt for independence. And that the U.S. needs to figure out how to support a soft and a peaceful landing for the new state.” I can only repeat here the old saying: be careful what you wish for.
Apparently, not only the benchmarks for the Sudan compliance and improvement are left as vague in the new policy, but also the measures that the U.S will take if Beshir government fails to show improvement. Under questioning, Clinton declined to specify possible new punitive measures against Sudan but said they have already been decided upon and included in what she said is a classified annex to the strategy announced Monday.
A lot of speculation, however, remains on these punitive measures package that Clinton describes as classified annex and whether it really exists. Obama seems determined to give Gration’s approach more chance and more time, while absorbing the frustration of the interventionist group by a mere silhouette of additional sanctions and punitive measures. Both Obama and Gration seem to be wiser about the potential of the Pandora’s Box that threats can open in Sudan. They have not yet recovered from the reaction of the Sudanese government to the ICC decision.
Darfur, the elections in the North, and the coming referendum are all seen as reasons for the U.S administration to play it safe and strike a truce with the government of Sudan so as to ensure a more proactive intervention by the U.S in these crucial and strategic processes (although the policy does not provide a clear answer or clue as to the how of this).
With the challenges also posed by being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama is not in a position anyway to hurry and compromise his already fragile image with regards to the U.S changing stands and role in the Middle East peace process, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The question, however, in my view, is not what the U.S policy looks like, rather than what it can contribute to the two crucial events for the future of Sudan, the next elections and the referendum of the South, whether these efforts will lead to a unified and peaceful Sudan, or will accelerate the disintegration of the Sudanese Nation State and lead us into a high intensity and protracted conflict on all active and dormant fronts.