Friday, July 22, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Rice tells Sudan to act on Darfur

Get the story here. Could this represent a change in U.S. foreign policy towards Sudan? Perhaps. According to New Republic guest blogger Eric Reeves, The U.S. had long sought to end Sudan's devestating civil war between the Islamic North and the mainly Christian/Animist South:
The Bush administration invested heavily in negotiating an end to the north-south war; and the signing earlier this year of a formal peace agreement--however limited and flawed--must be recognized as a major foreign policy achievement. But precisely because of the administration's investment in a north-south agreement, including the appointment of former Senator John Danforth as special envoy to Sudan, there was widespread reluctance within the State Department to hold Khartoum accountable for the genocide that was clearly unfolding in early 2004, when north-south peace negotiations had entered their final phase.

The thinking by U.S. officials involved in the negotiations, and their British and Norwegian counterparts, was that pressing the National Islamic Front regime too hard on Darfur would undermine the chances of consummating the north-south agreement. But this diplomatic strategy was of course transparent to Khartoum and thus perversely provided an incentive for the regime to extend negotiations as long as possible--always promising a light at the end of the diplomatic tunnel.
This treaty has been signed by both the government and the insurgent SLA in January of 2005. The new reconciliation government came into effect this July. With the treaty now successfully implemented, the U.S. may have a stronger hand to play . US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's blunt dialogue with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and John Garang, the new vice-president and former rebel leader, may reflect this freer hand:
In her meeting with Mr Bashir, Ms Rice stressed that the US would hold him to account if he failed to act, particularly in stopping violence to women.

Ms Rice told reporters: "I said to the Sudanese government that they had a credibility problem with the international community... I have said, 'actions not words'."

She said speaking to abused women and humanitarian workers at the Abu Shouk camp, which houses some 55,000 displaced people, had made plain the crisis facing Darfur.

The secretary of state suggested the US might consider lifting some sanctions against Sudan on humanitarian grounds.
Refugees face certain death if immediate action does not happen soon. The assault on villages has stopped because too few villages remain that present viable targets for the campaigne. In other words, the damage has been done. However, the aftermath of the violence--lack of harvest, sickness in crowded camps and a hostile security situation for humanitarian relief efforts--may kill many more victims. Some believe that the death toll in Darfur could rise above that in the Rawanda Genocide by December of this year.

This must not happen. Europe and the African Union must join the U.S. in demanding "action, not talk". The U.N. must designate Darfur as a region that has suffered genocide. NATO troops must be brought in to reinforce the security tenuously maintained by an overstretched AU force. Khartoum must be held accountable for what has happened, and the Sudan government must make every effort to rectify the situation.

This is what should happen. To the everlasting shame of Western Civilization, this may not be what happens. May God have mercy on us all if more die because the International community lacks the will to act.