The situation in Sudan seems to continue to worsen. Aside from the tragic consequences in Sudan, another round of war there does not bode well for reform in Kenya and Uganda, especially in regard to the upcoming Kenyan election.
A former US envoy to Sudan has called for taking military action against the Khartoum government in order to prevent further escalation of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan regions.
The sense of relief that prevailed after the January referendum on South Sudan independence was conducted smoothly and in a largely peaceful environment has dissipated last month when north Sudan army seized control of the fertile, oil-producing region of Abyei, the ownership of which is also claimed by South Sudan whose vote for independence in the referendum will see it become the world’s newest nation on July 9.
Concurrently, violence erupted in the country’s north-south border state of South Kordofan after the northern army attempted to disarm local fighters aligned with South Sudan. Over 60,000 people have been displaced, according to UN figures, and hundreds have been killed, according to local NGOs as the northern army carried out aerial bombardment and heavy artillery in the area.
Roger Winter, the former U.S special envoy to Sudan, on Wednesday addressed a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, about the recent upsurge of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan.
Winter called for an immediate military action against Khartoum in order to strengthen South Sudan army and halt attacks on civilians.
“Take a military action against a Khartoum military target now,” Winter said, adding that the goal would be “to strengthen the SPLA in meaningful ways as a deterrent against Khartoum aggression, provocation and attacks against civilians”
Winter blamed the current situation on the approach adopted by the former US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, chiding his “seemingly intimate relationship” with the leadership of north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
“Perhaps the eccentricities of General Gration’s approach to being Special Envoy for Sudan are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world,” Winter said.
“His seemingly intimate relationship with the NCP leadership led to his many public references to that leadership as ‘my friends’,” he stressed.
Winter said that any commitments made by the Khartoum government are unreliable and that the government’s actions had led to the death of three million people. . . .
For the past quarter century — as head of a nongovernmental organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees, as an official at the federal Agency for International Development and, most recently, as a special representative to the State Department for Sudan, a post created for him — Winter has fought in the back rooms of Washington and in the African bush to bring peace to Sudan. It’s not evenhandedness that makes him effective; it’s his total commitment to the people of south Sudan and a conviction, which has only grown with the years, that the government in Khartoum is, in essence, a brutal cabal. After two decades of fighting for their rights at negotiating tables, he has gained the southerners’ complete trust. “He’s simple and clear,” Edward Lino, the southern government’s chairman in Abyei, told me. “He doesn’t mince words. He’s a great man” who also “has great, great push.”
Northern Sudan will be a different country in geographic, ethnic, religious, political, cultural, and economic terms once the south separates. And the viability of the new northern nation is also in question, as is the survival of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party.
“The NCP are being weakened day by day. They know they don’t have acceptance in the north,” says International Crisis Group analyst Fouad Hikmat.
Northern opposition parties blame NCP policies for the loss of the south, which is where most of Sudan’s oil lies. Moreover, well-connected Sudanese say there is dissatisfaction within the army, in addition to the armed insurgencies and political discontent in peripheral areas across northern Sudan.
Much of the current fighting may be strategic posturing as final deals are being hashed out over the division of wealth and territory between north and south in advance of July 9. But the ominous developments over the past three weeks are perhaps best understood as being driven by the NCP playing to its fiercely nationalistic domestic audience inside northern Sudan. . . .