Former U.S. Diplomat Calls for Military Action Against Sudan Over Abyei and South Kordofan

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.

From the Sudan Tribune at allAfrica.com, “Former U.S. Envoy calls for Military Action Against Country”:

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. . . .

The full hearing line up from Thursday afternoon is here.

In “The Man for a New Sudan” in June 2008, the NY Times profiled Winter:

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.”

Update–Here is Rebecca Hamilton today in “Trouble in Khartoum” in Foreign Policy:

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. . . .

“Book Bitings”–Some Thoughts on “Fighting For Darfur; Public Action and the Stuggle to Stop Genocide” by Rebecca Hamilton

June 9 update, h/t Africa Files:  Human Rights Watch Report–“As South Split Looms, Abuses Grow in Darfur”.

I will join with many others in recommending Rebecca Hamilton’s Fighting for Darfur as well worth buying and reading for anyone interested in American policy in Africa, citizen activism in the West as a foreign policy input, genocide as a moral and political challenge and Sudan specifically.  Don’t get lost in the debate without taking time to get the book and read it–it is relatively short and quite accessible for busy non-specialists.

African Arguments features noteworthy reviews by Laura Seay of Morehouse College and Texas in Africa and Alex Thurston of Sahel Blog.

Hamilton was personally involved as a student activist and also worked for a time at the ICC after graduating from Harvard Law School before taking up this book project and journalism full-time.  Combining the roles of insider and journalist lets Hamilton provide the reader with direct access to an unusual range of the players in the activist and political community and those in the U.S. government at the time.  She also has direct experience and follow-up reporting from the camps in Darfur and Chad and sources in Darfur and access to officials in Khartoum.  She was also able to get some of the basic U.S. government documents declassified quickly enough to be used in her reporting.

Hamilton is left asking more questions than she is able to answer in the wake of the failure of the activists to deliver any clear positive change in the situation in Darfur in spite of their success in moving the domestic American political process in such a way that the United States officially engaged in a variety of diplomatic efforts.   Nonetheless, there is significant learning on offer here–and perhaps that learning can save some lives in the future.

It seems that there is some realization that the activists did not know enough about the context and specific background of the complex situation in Darfur as opposed to some other situation of mass atrocities in some other place or time.  There may be ways to address this shortfall in preparation for future conflagrations.  At the same time, I don’t think that it necessarily follows that our government would have accomplished more without the youthful energy and passion of the activists, or that things would not have gotten even worse in Darfur if the United States had not engaged to the extent that it did.

Writ large, this is a reminder that we don’t get second bites at the apple.  Darfur is not Rwanda and cannot offer redemption for our failure to act there.  Likewise, 2003 did not offer a second chance at the situation that the United States faced at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.  In fact, invading Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein ended up hamstringing the U.S. in responding to the newer crisis in Darfur.  Nonetheless, from our failures we can learn, and Hamilton’s is a real contribution.

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On the “to read” list, here is a review from the Stanford Social Innovation Review of More Than Good Intentions:  How a New Economics is Helping to Solve Global Poverty” Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel.

Watching Jon Stewart in Khartoum

“Sudan Protests spark 113 arrests and one death,”  Pambazuka covers the January 30 movement.

[Update:  Sudan Tribune story covering the protests and repression, and Human Rights Watch statement condemning excessive force.]

In many respects Khartoum was the most oppressive place I worked in or visited during my time in East Africa.  At the same time, it seemed vaguely surreal to turn on the television in my (Malaysian) hotel room and see Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in the fall of 2007.  This was definitely one of those “we are not in the Cold War any more, Toto” moments.  This is perhaps worth an essay I just don’t have time to write at the moment, but it certainly struck me that this was one reason that “public diplomacy” seemed dead–global communications had moved on.  On one hand I was cringing about what Stewart might say, and noting the difference between laughing at ourselves at home and others laughing at us; on the other, what greater symbol of America’s exceptional freedom than that you could still go on television in the midst of the war in Iraq and the “Global War on Terror” and the associated restrictions on civil liberties, and put down the government?

Around the corner on a wall was a poster from an African-American evangelist, part of the way to the Greek Orthodox church.  I was there to participate in a seminar to encourage the empowerment of Muslim women at a grassroots level, courtesy of the U.S. State Department through IRI. [Note:  “International Republican Institute”, not “Islamic Republic of Iran”]  I think it was a good program, led by my colleague who was an empowered Kenyan Muslim woman of Nubian ancestry.  We had representatives of various local groups from various places around the country (the North)–women, although perhaps a small majority of the local leaders were men who were interested in a more active role for women.

I almost got arrested once for taking an innocuous  picture of a sign on a building, and was rescued by a good Samaritan who intervened on my behalf.

I am sure that I learned a lot more than I taught, but I do think that as people in the new Sudan (the North) seek a better future, there will be some who will appreciate knowing that the American taxpayers were willing to take some note of and interest in them as citizens, as well as simply the grand geopolitical calculations.

U.S. Department of State, on FlickrSecretary Clinton Shakes Hands With Sudanese Foreign Minister Karti

“Secretary Clinton Shakes Hands With Sudanese Foreign Minister Ahmen Ali Karti”   Jan. 26, 2011


Sudan Will Be Key Immediate Challenge for U.S. Diplomacy

With the official results coming back on the Southern Sudan referendum reflecting near unanimity in the wish to succeed, at the same time that peaceful student protests have sprung up in Khartoum, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, the U.S. will face some soul searching.  It is reported that we have been preparing to move to “normalization” with Khartoum as the “carrot” for the referendum and a peaceful secession.  At the same time, al-Bashir remains under ICC indictment, repression in the North continues, violence in Darfur seems to have risen–and now, we see indigenous peaceful protest against repression in Khartoum at a time of sweeping change in the region.

Obviously it will be difficult to try to uphold all of our principles while faced with this many “moving pieces”.  Whatever we do will be inevitably imperfect and subject to criticism in our domestic adversarial political system.  Nonetheless, this is important and I hope that we don’t forget the aspirations of the people of the North as well as the South.

“Offbeat”

“Sudan’s capital sways to hip hop”

On Safari in Chanute, Kansas

Ethiopia’s Zenawi says he will authorize jamming of Voice of America Amharic broadcasts, comparing VOA to Radio Mille Collines

Dysfunctional governance in Kampala–“‘The Bastard Child of Nobody?’–Anti-Planning and the Institutional Crisis in Contemporary Kampala”