Beyond 'Engagement'

For months, Sudan activists around the United States, deeply concerned about the apparent direction of U.S. engagement with the Sudanese government, have anxiously awaited the release of the Obama administration’s official policy toward Sudan. A coalition of anti-genocide organizations launched the Sudan Now campaign with the goal of telling President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton to uphold the numerous promises they have made for strong, immediate U.S. action in Sudan. In October, the administration announced its new Sudan policy. Now the hard part—implementation of this policy—can begin. We are optimistic about some elements of this new policy, and we continue to call for the Obama administration to follow through on its promises on Sudan.

The stakes are enormous. The Sudanese regime in Khartoum, which cannot sustain a military offensive on two fronts simultaneously, is shifting its war tactics from Darfur to southern Sudan. This poses an immediate threat to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended—for a time—more than two decades of war in southern Sudan between Sudan’s north and south. With the so-called lull in Darfur today, there is an upsurge of violence in the south. But the war is not “over” in either place.

Against the backdrop of this gathering storm, the Obama administration must take resolute, practical action to back up the policy outlined on paper and in speeches. Sudan activists are in favor of the attention that the administration is devoting to Sudan, but for the new policy to be a success, the administration must make good on its intentions to balance its use of carrots and sticks for Khartoum based on “verifiable changes on the ground.”

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Sojourners Magazine December 2009
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