by John Prendergast, John Norris, Jerry Fowler
The message of Sudan activists all over The United States is clear:
* Don’t try to contain the damage from the war in Darfur—end the war.
* Don’t just declare that genocide is taking place—end the genocide.
* Don’t just manage the consequences of crisis after crisis in Sudan—end these crises.
In short, President-Elect Obama must lead a concerted international peace surge for Sudan, and diplomacy must be backed by well-conceived and consistently escalating pressure on Khartoum and other combatants to create the proper conditions for a lasting peace. More effective protection of civilians and continued steps toward accountability for crimes against humanity, which are vital in their own right, will help advance this peace surge.
Five-and-a-half years into Darfur’s crisis, and three-and-a-half years after the signing of a peace deal for southern Sudan (the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA), there is no prospect of a peace deal for Darfur and no coherent effort to ensure that the CPA gets implemented. This is a damning indictment of U.S. and international efforts in Sudan to date. Despite an abundance of rhetoric, it is clear to all parties, including the Sudanese government, that the United States government and its international partners are content simply to manage the consequences of the crisis in Sudan, rather than resolve the situation.
The costs of this approach have already been immensely painful for the Darfuris, who continue to be killed and driven from their homes in large numbers by government and rebel attacks as a U.N. force is incapable of protecting them. Equally important, without a substantial investment in peacemaking in Darfur and peace implementation for all Sudan, the facts on the ground have the potential to become much worse: Darfur’s war likely will continue to escalate, the CPA may collapse and reopen a direct north-south conflict, many more people may die, rebel groups will become larger and even more lawless, and Sudan will potentially disintegrate as a state. In addition, a wider war could also open up fronts in eastern and northern Sudan; continued war in Darfur will further fuel proxy war in Chad and the Central African Republic; and north-south tensions in Sudan could lead to the Lord’s Resistance Army becoming more active in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. Sudan’s potential fracturing in particular has a range of serious international security implications ranging from disruptions in oil supplies to the increased ability of terrorist groups to operate within such chaotic settings.
Certainly, protecting civilians is an important goal that will require significant energy and resources for the foreseeable future. But it is not sufficient. Protection efforts must be buttressed by a broader approach to end Sudan’s multiple conflicts. Pursuing the goal of civilian protection during the conflict should not obscure or divert energy from the larger and ultimate objective: bringing peace to Sudan by securing a credible deal for Darfur and implementing the terms of the CPA. As the two most influential countries with Sudan and two countries with the most to lose if the CPA collapses, the United States and China have compelling reasons to work jointly for lasting peace.
The CPA itself—the agreement to end the 22-year war in southern Sudan and establish a framework for democratic transformation of the country—was reached in 2005 after a sustained investment in diplomacy, led in part by the United States and backed by significant incentives and pressures. That hard-won agreement would not now be in jeopardy if the investment in diplomacy had been maintained and the international community had continued its pressure to ensure that the agreement was implemented.