Cautious Optimism on Obama's New Sudan Policy

By Elizabeth Palmberg 10-23-2009

Activists greeted the Obama administration's new Sudan policy with cautious optimism this week. If -- and only if -- it is fleshed out and put into vigorous action, the new policy could be the first step in course of putting concerted economic and other pressure on Khartoum. That would be a desperately needed change from the disastrously wrong-headed course of appeasement which Special Envoy Scott Gration has unfortunately adopted since his appointment -- when a government is guilty of genocide and other war crimes, you just can't operate on the theory that, as Gration has put it, "Kids, countries -- they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement." Nor should the regime in Sudan be allowed to hire U.S. lobbyists to plead its murderous cause; the only place Khartoum officials should be allowed to plead is in the International Criminal Court.

There is no time to waste, especially given the likelihood that the NCP, the ruling party in Khartoum, is behind the current rash of village burnings in Sudan's south -- and as the clock is ticking for the all-Sudan national elections that are supposed to be held next year, and the south's referendum on secession in 2011.

In a couple of weeks, look for John Predergast and Maggie Fick's commentary, laying out non-military ways to pressure Khartoum, in the forthcoming issue of Sojourners. But don't wait that long to get involved in the issue. The people of Darfur and southern Sudan need your advocacy help now.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor of Sojourners.

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