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Making Sense of Darfur

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    In an exclusive interview with IOL, Fernandez outlines Washington s mutli-faceted policy on Sudan. America s Sudan Policy (Interview) By Ismail Kamal
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2008
      In an exclusive interview with IOL, Fernandez outlines Washington's
      mutli-faceted policy on Sudan.

      America's Sudan Policy (Interview)
      By Ismail Kamal Kushkush, IOL Correspondent
      Islam Online

      KHARTOUM — America's relations with Khartoum are shaped by the
      implementation of the peace agreement in the south and ending the
      conflict in troubled Darfur, Washington's envoy is telling
      IslamOnline.net in an exclusive interview.
      Alberto Fernandez, the American charge de'affaires in Sudan, says his
      country will support any outcome of the 2011 referendum in southern
      Sudan, whether that leads to a separate state or a continued

      He admits that the issue of Darfur has become an important element of
      concern in US-Chinese relations and to a degree an electoral factor
      in the upcoming US elections.

      Fernandez, one of the few who speak fluent Arabic at the State
      Department, rejects criticism that America's interest in Sudan goes
      beyond concerns for improvements in the humanitarian situation,
      political progress and reconciliation.

      He believes Sudan can become Africa's richest country if it "adopted
      the right policies."

      Following is the full interview conducted by IOL correspondent in
      Sudan, Isma'il Kushkush, at the US embassy in Khartoum.

      IOL: What are the major outlines of US policy toward Sudan?

      Fernandez: Well, I think US foreign policy in Sudan is multi-faceted,
      it's interested in a lot of things, but to sum it up in a very small
      package the things of greatest interest to the United States are
      first, the full implementation both in word and spirit of the
      Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 which ended the longest
      running civil war in Africa, and two, finding a solution to the
      problem of Darfur. That is basically it; everything else is somehow
      connected to those two things.

      IOL: In relation to those two topics, from a US standpoint, what does
      Sudan need to do to improve relations with the US?

      "The CPA has proven a durable document in spite of many pressures."
      Fernandez: To improve relations with the US you do have to see them
      through the rubric of those two issues. On the CPA there has been
      progress, it's been slow, [and] it's been uneven. Until very recently
      we've had one part of the CPA that was not implemented at all which
      is the Abyei Protocol. Up until June 2008 there had been zero
      progress on that. Unfortunately we had terrible violence in May 2008
      in Abyei. Abyei town was largely destroyed. There was this June
      agreement, this has been implemented which is a good thing but very
      slowly so we are trying to make up for lost time on that. Obviously
      there are other parts of the CPA to be implemented, the whole
      question of borders, the whole question of the electoral process;
      these are things that we are watching very closely. But there is
      progress on the CPA. The CPA has proven a durable document in spite
      of many pressures and that is I think a testimony to both parties,
      both the SPLM [Sudanese People's Liberation Movement] and the NCP
      [National Congress Party]; the Government of National Unity (GoNU).

      On Darfur the situation is much more negative and much more urgent.
      The situation continuous to deteriorate, it has not improved. We see
      agreements, we see announcements, we see initiatives but we don't see
      tangible improvement on the ground in Darfur. To give you an example,
      [in August] we've seen almost forty innocent people killed by the
      government, innocent women and children and civilians killed by the
      government without any clarity, without any accountability to this
      day, with impunity to this day. We saw a government offensive against
      signatory and non-signatory rebels which makes no sense. We see
      continuing government harassment of NGOs which again is crazy, and
      maybe its insync with the government's actions in the past, but a
      government that is talking about improving its relations with the
      world and the with the West and showing that it is a good partner
      with the world, these are strange steps by a government that seeks to
      prove that it is changing, that it has changed its ways.

      IOL: Many Sudanese would ask the question does the US support a
      united Sudan or an independent southern Sudan?

      Fernandez: I would turn that around and ask does Sudan support a
      united Sudan or an independent southern Sudan? Because the CPA is
      about both; either one of them. Often people, especially in the
      north, they ask me this question, as if we must say that we are for a
      united Sudan. That's not the right question. The question basically
      is the CPA gives two outcomes. The CPA guarantees two outcomes. The
      two parties, the NCP and the SPLM agreed to two possible outcomes. So
      we support two possible outcomes and whatever the 2011 referendum in
      southern Sudan decides, we will support that. If that is an
      independent southern Sudan, we will support that and if it is
      something else we will support that, that's the way we see it.

      IOL: Some cite that talks about possibly exempting southern Sudan
      from sanctions while keeping the sanctions on the north is a sign of
      US favoritism towards the south, how would you respond to that?

      Fernandez: First, I would say that's a mischaracterization of US
      policy. First of all, US policy exempts many marginalized areas of
      Sudan, not just the south. It exempts Darfur [and] it exempts
      marginalized areas in parts of the north. Our sanctions are a
      response. They're a response to what we see as atrocious behavior by
      the Sudanese government against its people. And we're a sovereign
      country just like Sudan and we have right to do with our policy as we
      see fit. So our sanctions are a response to polices we reject and
      don't want to see happen.

      IOL: Some Sudanese officials that I've met complain that promises of
      normalizing relations between the US and Sudan including the removal
      of Sudan from the list of states sponsors of terrorism and sanctions
      were promises that were not fulfilled by the US government,
      especially after the signing of the CPA. How would you respond to

      Fernandez: I wasn't here when those promises were made if they were
      made, so you may need to ask the people who made those promises in
      the past. But I would turn that around and say that this is a
      government, the Sudanese government, that promises many things and
      doesn't do them. The promises it doesn't fulfill are not promises to
      the West but to its own people. For example as you know, I attended
      an agreement that was signed between Vice-President [Ali Osman] Taha
      and Senior Presidential Assistant Minni Minnawi who is a former rebel
      who signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and this was about,[in]
      September 2008, implementing the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement. So
      who is the one who is keeping their promises and keeping their
      promises? So they have an agreement, and then they have to have an
      agreement to agree to implement the agreement. I'm sorry but we want
      to see the Sudanese government keep its promises to its own people.

      IOL: On Darfur and the usage of the term "genocide". Some academics
      and politicians have criticized the use of the term including [US]
      Senator John Danforth who said in a BBC interview that the term was
      used "for internal consumption to please the Christian Right in the
      US in an election year [2004]". Do you agree with the term and do you
      think it helped efforts to bring a settlement in Darfur?

      Fernandez: The term is US policy and I agree with US policy. That's
      the term that President Bush uses, so I am not going to differentiate
      my position from that of the President and the administration. To me,
      it seems that people who want to nick-pick on the use of a word to
      minimize the horror and the tragedy of Darfur are very mistaken.
      Whether you call it genocide, wither you call mass-murder, whether
      you call it war-crimes, a terrible wrong was done to the people of
      Darfur mostly by their government, and that has not been set right to
      this day. These are the Muslim people of Darfur, these are not
      Zionists, these are not Americans, these are not Christians, this is
      the Sudanese government and the Sudanese people, Sudanese citizens in
      Darfur. Sometimes I hear the rhetoric from Khartoum and sounds like
      they're talking about enemies and not their own people, so whatever
      word you want to use, a terrible wrong is committed against the
      people of Darfur and it has not been set right to this day.

      IOL: What engagement efforts, if any, are there between the US
      government and the Darfur rebel groups, particularly the Sudanese
      People's Movement (SLM)/ Nur-faction and the Justice and Equality
      Movement (JEM)/Khalil-faction?

      "We believe that the only way to solve the problem in Darfur is
      through a political process."

      Fernandez: We are in contact with the rebel groups as a matter of
      course at different levels. We've also frequently criticized the
      rebel groups. We criticized the JEM attack on Omdurman. We've
      criticized rebel attacks on civilian targets. We've criticized the
      wave of banditry and criminality in Darfur, much which is traced back
      to rebel movements. For example it is not well-known in the West that
      one of the rebel movements for example robbed a very large and
      expensive piece of water-drilling equipment last July used to provide
      water for the suffering people of Darfur. This was done by a rebel
      group and we condemned it; it didn't get any attention in the Western
      media but we condemned it here, we issued a statement condemning it.
      The United States is the only country in the world to have sanctioned
      a rebel leader that I am aware of. We sanctioned Dr. Khalil Ibrahim
      last year because of his efforts to obstruct peace in Darfur. So we
      see that we've done a lot to pressure the rebels. We've done a lot to
      criticize them. At the same time we believe that the only way to
      solve the problem in Darfur is through a political process. So in the
      political process you are going to need all sides. You are going to
      need rebels, you are going to need government, you are going to need
      civil society, the all-important voice of IDPs [ Internally Displaced
      Persons] and refuges in Darfur, the Arab tribes of Darfur; they're
      all going to have a role to play in a political process and
      reconciliation. We talk to the rebels and we also criticize the

      IOL: Some cite that after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement
      (DPA) in Abuja in 2006 that sanctions were supposed to have been
      implemented against the non-signatories including the rebels, from
      the international community, but that never happened.

      Fernandez: One could also say that the 2006 Abuja agreement, the DPA,
      was never implemented by the [Sudanese] government. In fact the
      person who signed it, Minni Minnawi, said a few months ago, that 90%
      of it had never been implemented.

      IOL: How effective are activist groups like the Save Darfur Coalition
      in shaping US policy on Sudan? Some have criticized the Save Darfur
      Coalition for presenting and oversimplified picture of the conflict
      in Darfur.

      Fernandez: I will give you this that the conflict in Darfur is
      extremely complex so it is difficult to understand for a lay person
      at times. But I think that the advocacy groups like Save Darfur have
      to be lauded and respected for raising an issue which moved the
      conscience of the world raising its profile and I think they deserve
      respect for that. Are they perfect in everything that they've said
      and how they presented it? Probably not, who is perfect? But I think
      they deserve respect for raising an issue which maybe would have been
      under people's radar-screen and would've been ignored. I know when I
      go to the IDP camps in Darfur, I frequently go there, I was just
      there, in Kalma camp, I know that there is great respect and
      admiration for the United States in the IDP camps in Darfur and that
      is because of US foreign policy and that is because of the activism
      of the American people, the solidarity of the American people with
      the people of Darfur.

      IOL: Do you think Darfur will play a role in the US elections?

      Fernandez: I don't know. My own gut feeling is, and this is not based
      on this election [2008] per se, I am in Sudan and not in the United
      States, most elections are decided because of domestic issues. That
      is usually what I've heard, that people vote with their pocket books,
      people vote on domestic concerns, about crime, economics, or social
      issues. I expect that foreign policy issues are not going to be huge
      but obviously they're significant and Darfur is one of them.
      Obviously, I think the most important foreign policy issue is Iraq.
      But there is Iraq, there is Afghanistan, there are US-Russian
      relations, there are many foreign policy issues. Darfur would be
      among the most important ones, certainly in Africa, but I don't know
      how big of a role it will play [in the elections].

      IOL: Do you think US policy will change after the elections,
      especially if a Democratic administration takes over the White House?
      We know that [the Democratic vice-president nominee] Joe Biden has
      called for the use of American force in Darfur. [Foreign policy
      advisor] Susan Rice has called for the blockage of Port Sudan. Some
      predict that relations might become tenser if the Democrats come to
      the White House.

      "The key thing is not worrying about where American policy is going
      to be in three months or six months, but where is Sudanese policy
      going to be in the next months"
      Fernandez: I have no way of knowing. I am more interested in seeing a
      change in Sudanese policy towards the Sudanese people. [Regarding US
      policy], I am a Foreign Service officer and I will do what I am told,
      but for me the important thing is can Sudan change its ways? Can it
      through its actions in the next few months create a much better
      condition on the ground in Darfur or not? That's the important thing.
      The key thing is not worrying about where American policy is going to
      be in three months or six months, but where is Sudanese policy going
      to be in the next months. Is it going to be like the things we've
      seen in the last weeks? Like the Kalma attack? Like the attack on Zam
      Zam IDP camp? Like the military offensive we saw in north Darfur and
      east Jebal Marra? Are we going to see more of that in the next few
      weeks? More of the same bad behavior or different polices? That's the
      big question for the United States.

      IOL: But don't you think that Sudanese policy might reflect or react
      to a certain change or development in US policy toward Sudan?

      Fernandez: I suppose that is true, but what were are saying again is
      that we are asking Sudan to improve its policies and behavior towards
      its own people and that is something it should do regardless of its
      bi-lateral relationship with a third party, the United Sates or
      anyone else. You should not abuse your own people; that seems to me
      should be a basic element of anyone's domestic policy. So the
      Sudanese government should not treat the people of Darfur who are
      Sudanese citizens as enemies.

      IOL: What is the US position on the International Criminal Court's
      (ICC) indictment of president al-Bashir, and do you think that the
      indictment will help or hinder efforts to bring peace in Darfur?

      Fernandez: We have nothing to do with the ICC, we are not members of
      the ICC, and the US has abstained on ICC issues in the past. Is just
      something that we are not party to. Our position is more focused on
      Darfur per se rather than the ICC process, since we don't have a role
      to play there. What we are focused on is, are things going to improve
      on the ground in Darfur or not. The current situation of violence, of
      gradualism, and what I mean by gradualism I'm saying is that the
      government does one good thing, does two bad things. Does one nice
      thing and then does another thing. The government wants to be
      rewarded at times for doing things it should've already have done. So
      that is the important thing for us; improvement on the ground in
      Darfur. I think that will go a long way towards determining US policy
      toward Sudan on a variety of issues.

      IOL: Do you think the US would reject an attempt to postpone the
      indictment in the Security Council, the usage of article sixteen?

      Fernandez: We have made no promises to the Sudanese except to say
      that we want to see major changes on the ground in Darfur. We are not
      happy with the situation in Darfur, we think that instead of
      improving its deteriorated, and a major reason for that is the
      government. It is true that the government is not %100 responsible
      for the situation in Darfur, but the things that the government is
      responsible for; it hasn't done the right thing. In fact we've seen
      since the 14th of July, when the ICC announcement was made by [ICC
      prosecutor] Ocampo, we have seen in the context of Sudan's
      relationship with the people of Darfur and with the NGO community,
      we've seen a lack of progress and deterioration in the situation
      rather than an improvement in the situation.

      IOL: To what degree does Sudan feature in US-Chinese relations? Some
      believe that there is a new competition, a new cold war if you will,
      between the US and China in Africa, especially over resources, namely
      over oil concessions.

      "Certainly Sudan is an issue in US-Chinese relations and you've seen
      that come up many times."

      Fernandez: Certainly Sudan is an issue in US-Chinese relations and
      you've seen that come up many times but there may very well be
      competition between China and the United States on oil issues on the
      African continent, but that is not true in Sudan. Sudan's oil was
      discovered by the Americans and the Americans walked away from that
      oil twenty years ago because of our concern about human rights issue.
      So if we cared about Sudan's oil all what we would have needed to
      have done is to shut up and the oil we have been trough American
      companies. But we walked away from that because of the things that we
      cared about, human rights in Sudan. So I don't buy that argument
      about US-Chinese competition in Sudan about oil, it may be true in
      other countries but it is not true in Sudan. The issues that we care
      about in Sudan primarily are humanitarian and those having to do with
      political progress with reconciliation and not with economic benefit.
      Our economic interest is not a major element of US policy in Sudan. I
      spend zero amount of my time on economic issues in Sudan. I spend a
      huge amount of my time in Sudan on issues related to human rights,
      related to humanitarian work, related to the treatment of NGOs and
      IDPs and all of that stuff, so that is what we spend our time,
      effort, money and attention on.

      IOL: If I recall correctly, Chevron was the [American] oil company
      that discovered oil in Sudan and it withdrew in 1983 because of the
      [start] of the civil war [in Sudan]. Sudan is China's second largest
      provider of oil in Africa. So didn't Chevron withdraw because concern
      over security matters [and not over human rights issues]?

      Fernandez: If you look back, the information I've heard was that
      there was strong unhappiness by the US government at the time because
      of human rights issues. Chevron is a company, but there was pressure
      to withdraw [from Sudan] because of human rights concerns related to
      the war.

      IOL: Sudan is important to China, definitely as a provider of oil,
      and Sudanese oil reserves are perceived to be quite large in the
      African continent. So the US has no interest in competing with China
      over that?

      Fernandez: No. You're reaching for something that isn't there, that
      there is some kind of economic motivation to what we are doing in
      Sudan and there is zero economic motivation; in fact the opposite.
      The Unites States is spending huge amounts of money in Sudan; it is
      not taking money from Sudan. We're not dependent on Sudan's oil; we
      get our oil from other countries. But what we are doing is spending a
      lot of American resources and funds for the Sudanese people. The US's
      assistance in Sudan is a billion dollars a year. This is the third
      largest US assistance program in the world. The US development
      program in Sudan is the largest in Africa. We are the largest feeder,
      donor of humanitarian assistance for the people of Darfur through the
      United Nations World Food Program (UN WFP). We are spending; we are
      not making money in Sudan.

      IOL: What role has public diplomacy played in attempts to normalize
      relations between the US and Sudan?

      Fernandez: That is a better question I think for the Sudanese rather
      than for me. I think we are very active in public diplomacy in Sudan.
      We are being very aggressive about speaking with the press in Arabic
      and we make ourselves available. I certainly make myself available,
      sometimes I think more than I would like to the Sudanese press so
      they certainly have opportunities to ask me all kind of questions,
      negative questions and hostile questions, whatever they want, and we
      try to answer them as seriously and respectfully as possible. We also
      try to do as much outreach as we can in the public diplomacy field
      with the Sudanese people, for example, we are renovating the Ali
      Dinar museum in El-Fisher in Darfur which was the palace of the last
      sultan of Darfur and is a very lovely little museum there. We are
      doing other things as well. I am still frustrated that we haven't re-
      established education exchange programs with Sudan. That is something
      that I am a big believer in and I would like to see the return of the
      Fulbright Program to Sudan after a decade of it being out. I haven't
      been able to that yet. I don't know exactly why, but that's something
      certainly we need to do. We need to have greater links with the
      Sudanese people; all of the Sudanese people, north, south, east,
      west. We need to more about them and they need to know more about us.

      IOL: Finally, a non-political question. You're impressions of Sudan
      and the Sudanese people?

      "Sudan is a big country with tremendous potential. There is no reason
      why Sudan should not be the richest country in Africa."
      Fernandez: Well, I love Sudan. This is my second time working on
      Sudan. In the early nineties, 1990-1992 I was a desk-officer in
      Washington working on Sudan on culture and media issues especially,
      and that's when I first came to Sudan in 1990, 1991 and 1992. Those
      were very bad years, very tough years. So if you compare Sudan today
      to those tough years, you do see some progress, you do see some good
      things. I've said this publicly in Sudan. So I have great admiration
      and respect for the Sudanese people. I think that they are a lot like
      the American people. They are an open people, a friendly people. They
      are a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population. Sudan is a
      big country with tremendous potential. There is no reason why Sudan
      should not be the richest country in Africa. [But] it's not. There is
      terrible poverty in Sudan and terrible problems of underdevelopment.
      But I think of Sudan adopted the right policies and had some luck and
      moved in the right direction, I think there is no limit to how far
      the Sudanese people can go. They are a talented, smart gifted people.


      Sudan rejects war crimes allegations
      Thu, 04 Dec 2008

      Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun has dismissed
      allegations of war crimes and condemned the efforts as a colonialist

      "My conscience is clear. I have no regrets," Haroun said in an
      interview published by Britain's The Guardian newspaper. He said what
      he did was legal, and his responsibility, "It was my duty. I am
      content. I am at peace with myself."

      The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Haroun's
      arrest in April 2007 on charges of alleged war crimes and crimes
      against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region in 2003 and 2004.

      According to the ICC, Haroun "intentionally contributed to the
      commission" of crimes against the civilian populations in Darfur
      while serving as Sudanese interior minister between April 2003 and
      September 2005.

      The Sudanese minister, however, accused the court - also seeking to
      issue a warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir - of
      digressing from its main objective and conducting a political
      conflict against Sudan irrespective of justice.

      The minister condemned the warrant as 'another phase of international
      colonization' aimed at African nations, recalling the 19th century's
      domination of white people in Africa.

      Conflicts in the Darfur region broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority
      rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime, leaving some
      300,000 people killed and 2.7 million displaced, according to UN

      But Khartoum criticizes the West for exaggerating the severity of the
      conditions, putting the death toll at around 10,000.


      The Sudan People's Initiative–A Flicker of Optimism

      Making Sense of Darfur
      by Alex de Waal

      When a solution comes to the Darfur crisis–as with Sudan's national
      crisis–it will be a domestic solution, created and led by Sudanese,
      with the internationals in a supporting role. There is a flicker of a
      chance that the Sudan People's Initiative marks the beginning of
      Sudanese taking ownership of the Darfur crisis and finding a way
      towards a solution.

      On 11 November, the rapporteur for the Kenana meeting, Prof. al Haj
      Attiya, presented the report. It was a week late and very long (seven
      volumes plus a summary, which hadn't been circulated in advance). But
      fears that the summary and recommendations would pull back from the
      substance of the meeting did not prove founded. It was, participants
      readily acceded, a broadly fair representation of what was discussed,
      though some complained that it would have been better to discuss the
      draft report before its publication. Yesterday's question was, what
      next? What would President Omar al Bashir do with the report, and
      would he announce next steps that reflected the consensus of the
      meeting, include leaders of other parties as he took the initiative
      forward, and make sure that any progress is guaranteed and
      verifiable? Today, Pres. Bashir met half of those hopes–whether he
      meets the other half remains to be seen.

      Pres. Bashir's speech at Friendship Hall today, 12 November, was a
      fair reflection of Prof. Attiya's summary. Where consensus had been
      achieved–for example on the need for individual compensation for
      victims of the violence–his proposals were in line. Where the meeting
      fell short of consensus–for example on a single region for Darfur or
      a vice president's position for Darfur–he said the issue was still up
      for discussion, and didn't rule out any option. He said that a
      committee would be formed to follow up with the armed movements,
      preparatory to any peace negotiations. Bashir also went further and
      announced a series of unilateral steps, beginning with a cessation of
      hostilities and continuing to include the immediate disarmament of
      militia, the setting up of the promised community police services in
      IDP camps, and an end to hostile radio broadcasts.

      The Darfur armed movements were not enthusiastic and most Darfurians
      remain profoundly sceptical. Several things need to happen if these
      promises are to become realities.

      Concerning the unilateral security gestures, there is much that can
      happen. Over the last year, the great majority of ceasefire
      violations have been by the Sudan armed forces and airforce and pro-
      government militia. Stopping these offensive military actions will
      certainly have an impact on the ground. Disarming the militia will
      also have an impact, if it can in fact be done. But these activities
      need to be monitored and verified. Bashir has promised verification.
      The responsibility for doing this falls upon UNAMID, which needs to
      scale up its monitoring and verification capacity, and also re-
      establish the defunct Ceasefire Commission and Joint Commission. The
      first test of Bashir's good faith is whether he agrees to a truly
      intrusive monitoring role by UNAMID, and a Ceasefire Commission that
      includes representatives of the non-signatory armed groups.

      Concerning the political process, there can only be modest progress
      without a reciprocal effort from the armed movements–and Bashir needs
      to build a lot of confidence before he can expect the movements to
      respond positively. As always in Sudan, there is no quick route to a
      settlement. Bashir has fulfilled his promise to be honest to the
      deliberations in Kenana. He needs now to clarify some important
      ambiguities. The first is to underline that the outcome of the Sudan
      People's Initiative thus far is a consensus position of the
      establishment political parties only, and as such an opening position
      for any future peace talks. It is not a definitive position of the
      government or the final blueprint of a settlement. Second, the
      committee to talk with the armed movements should include
      representatives of all the political parties present in Kenana (and,
      should they join, the Popular Congress Party and Sudan Communist
      Party). And third, the delegation of the Government of National Unity
      to any future peace talks should similarly be inclusive.

      The Sudan People's Initiative has given the UN-AU Chief Mediator,
      Djibril Bassole, some material to work with. The government has made
      a significant gesture. It doesn't matter that one big motivation for
      the Initiative was the NCP's wish to head off the ICC. The Kenana
      process took on a life of its own, and while it hasn't confounded its
      critics yet, it hasn't let down its supporters either. It doesn't
      matter that the concessions were offered to domestic political
      constituents and not to the Mediator himself or foreign envoys. In
      fact, the concessions are more robust precisely because they are
      anchored in a national political forum. Since the failure of the DPA,
      it has been increasingly clear that Darfur needs to be settled in a
      national political context, and the Sudan People's Initiative is
      making that context accessible.

      The tough issues are yet to come. The Sudan Government has yet to be
      tested on its security promises. The two big issues still unresolved
      within the establishment parties–the single Darfur region and the
      vice presidency–are critical for Darfurians because they provide
      those cast-iron guarantees that Darfur's wishes cannot be overridden
      by a national political system in which they are a numerical
      minority. And whether the initiative will remain on track when the
      ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber issues its arrest warrant for Pres. Bashir is
      the biggest unknown of them all.

      But the most important reality today is that the denial and self-
      imposed political paralysis that have marked the Sudanese political
      establishment's approach to Darfur have been decisively overcome.
      Sudanese leaders are back at doing what they do best–talking through
      their issues. There's a glimmer of hope.

      This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 5:34 pm
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      6 Responses to "The Sudan People's Initiative–A Flicker of Optimism"

      Khalid Yousif:
      November 13th, 2008 at 7:12 am Pres. Bashir vowed to disarm "the
      militia", and no one knows which one. He used a general term that
      could be applied to the armed groups themselves. While Darfuris were
      waiting for him to announce formation of an integrated region in
      Darfur the audience were baffled when he said they agreed to increase
      the number of regions and the final report quoted that some members
      of the forum suggested the creation of two more states. Generally
      speaking, NCP is implementing the French conditions for the deferral
      of the ICC indictment. NCP will do its best to reach a solution to
      Darfur crisis or at least to show its seriouness and its keeness in
      that respect before the end of the year to evade Pres. indictment.
      With the recent newspapers' protests against governmental censorship
      one can easily conclude SPI is a maneuver to gain some time. NCP is
      not willing to make any concessions.

      Dr. El-tahir El-faki:
      November 18th, 2008 at 7:18 am While Bashir was annaouncing an
      unconditional ceasefire he followed it with conditions. He wanted the
      disclosure of locations of the warring parties. This condition will
      never be accepted by the movements. A ceasefire without an agreed
      framework of agreement is an empty call. Sudan Government is a master
      of breaching its own ceasefires. The last violation of its unilateral
      ceasefire in Sirte was on the same day when the Sudan Air Forces
      bombed areas belonging to JEM in Jebel Moon. When JEM suspects the
      honesty of Al-Bashir's call for peace it is based on so many
      dishonoured commitments. Al-Bashir was soft on his speech to gain
      sympathy for his case with ICC.

      The All Sudan Initiative has unleached a question about the DPA which
      the NCP still believes is a model. The DPA was considered by non-
      signatories as dead and burried at birth and that will pose a threat
      to future negotiations since the GOS will go to Doha with the package
      already formulated by the Forum in Kennana.

      One more crucial point was the failure of the Forum to discuss the
      national dimentions of the Darfur crisis- mainly marginalisation of
      other regions and concentration of power and wealth among certain
      Riverain minorities. Concentrating discussions on Darfur alone and
      deffering a holisitic approach will not diffuse future eruption of
      the problem somewhere else and Kordofan is already in waiting.

      Aymen Elsheikh:
      November 20th, 2008 at 7:53 pm I write this response from the
      position of an academic that is critical of the West and its
      ideologies. Many scholars, especially western, celebrate the notion
      that the ICC will indict Al-Bashir. This feeds into the hegemonic
      relation of the West over the rest. While we can't ignore the
      existence of the Other, we need not be dominated by him. That being
      said, I agree with what came in the beginning of De Waal's post that
      a solution needs to come from within, and that the Peoples'
      Initiative gives us an unyielding hope to solve the crisis. Thus, I
      believe we should all support this Initiative to make it translate
      into a tangible reality of peace on the ground. Whether Al-Bashir is
      buying time or not, or whether he "wishes to head off the ICC", needs
      not be a reason nor a promulgation for rejecting the Initiative.
      I hope that all Sudanese support this Initiative because it is a
      product of the people of Sudan represented by over 30 active
      political parties, including different Darfuri rebel groups. More
      importantly, and in line with what I argue for, the participants of
      the Peoples' Initiative rejected the politically motivated
      interference of foreign forces. These kinds of unjust and colonizing
      interferences usually instill a great sense of nationalism and unity.
      The Sudanese history (modern and ancient) is replete with such

      I conclude this entry by reminding myself and everybody that many
      postcolonial scholars contend that one of the root causes of the
      problems in Africa (and other ex-colonies) is colonialism. Thus, I
      would like to draw our attention to this pernicious notion that
      existed and continues to exist in different forms in our countries.
      At the same time, I do not exclude ourselves from causing our own

      Dr.Khalid Yousif:
      November 25th, 2008 at 9:44 am Well said Mr. Aymen but do you think
      the aerial bomardment in Darfur and displacing Darfuri is one of (the
      problems in Africa (and other ex-colonies) that is made by
      (colonialism). When you stop blaming others for your own faults then
      you will find solutions to them.

      Aymen Elsheikh:
      November 25th, 2008 at 10:07 pm Thank you Dr. Yousif for your reply
      to my entry. My quick answer to your question is that colonialism in
      the literature has been attributed to these bombardments and
      displacement issues you referred to. The long answer is to read
      postcolonial literature (e.g. Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Albert
      Memmi, Homi Bhabha, etc). However, I do not attribute everything to
      colonialism. In fact, my last sentence is a testimony to that.

      Khalid AlMubarak:
      November 27th, 2008 at 9:42 am I was in Khartoum for the last part of
      the Peoples'Forum for peace in Darfur. It was more than a glimmer of
      hope .Alex de Waal is usually well informed.:but his claim that the
      government was responsible for the majority of ceasefire violations
      is simply not true.After all, the government signed the DPA when the
      rebels refused and vowed to fight on. They continued to fight until
      JEM made its suicidal attack on 10 May 08 .Remember too that the
      rebels started the crisis in the first place. What was the government
      expected to do? Compare the reaction of the WEST when its states were
      targeted by terror.Even the bedrocks of democratic liberties were
      compromised in order to fight terror .

      The real danger is the fact that the rebels have been emboldened by
      the ICC.The most adventurous among them expect the ICC to hand them
      over the whole of Sudan.They are that naive .They and others would
      like to abort the road map which will lead to elections; because they
      know that they have no constituences to win an election. They also
      seem unaware of the real motives of some of those who sponsor them
      and finance them(directly and indirectly).There is no free
      lunch.Those who think that they can use the High and Mighty in their
      internal Sudanese strategies will soon discover that the tail never
      directs the head and body.

      The moderates and wise ( and there are some among the rebels) will
      hopefully agree to negotiate ;and see a reasonable window of
      opportunity in the Qatari Initiative which is supported by all the
      main players and (at least openly)by some western democracies.
      The result of refusing the DPA in 06 was catastrophic for the people
      of Darfur(if not for the armchair rebels living in peace abroad).
      There is now a second chance . Let us hope they will not waste it.


      Sudan-Chad restore diplomatic ties http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?
      Mon, 10 Nov 2008 09:22:58 GMT

      Sudan and Chad had cut ties over alleged support for rebels
      Sudan and Chad have restored full diplomatic ties and exchanged
      ambassadors, ending a bitter six-month-old row between the two

      The new ambassadors gave a joint press conference in Khartoum on
      Sunday and described the move as the first step in solving the
      persistent Darfur crisis - a western region in Sudan bordering Chad -
      which has complicated the relations between the two countries.

      ''This is a historical day and we hope it will be the end of the
      terrible diplomatic tension that went on between the two countries
      for six months,'' Abdullah al-Sheikh, Sudan's new ambassador to Chad

      Chad's ambassador to Sudan, Baharadine Haroune Ibrahim, who flew to
      Khartoum on Sunday on a Libyan jet, which left to take his Sudanese
      counterpart to N'Djamena later on the day, also told reporters that
      he was "very happy to be back in my post".

      "We came round to the idea of strengthening our relations in all
      sincerity and to live in harmony as two brotherly neighbors who share
      many things in common," Ibrahim added.

      Sudan cut off diplomatic relations with Chad in May after an assault
      on Khartoum by Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement,
      that the Sudanese government said was supported by Chadian President
      Idriss Deby.

      Chad denied any involvement and in turn accused Sudan of backing a
      rebel push on its own capital N'Djamena in February that reached the
      gates of the presidential palace before being repulsed.

      The reconciliation process involved mediation by Libya, the African
      Union, the Organization of Islamic Conference as well as Saudi


      Illiquid, Toxic and Not an Asset: End the ICC's involvement in Sudan
      by Dr Hassan Haj-Ali & Ibrahim Adam

      It has been unfazed by the turmoil in US financial markets; but Sudan
      faces a bigger exogenous toxic threat to its stability if the demand
      by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to arrest Omar al-
      Bashir, Sudan's president, succeeds. Supporters of the move, like
      Save Darfur Coalition, Amnesty International and other activist
      groups, argue charging President al-Bashir will not scuttle much in
      Darfur since, they say, there is no peace to keep there anyhow.
      Tossing oil on a fire is always feeble logic, and it will push even
      further away an end to the suffering in Darfur; the region's
      fractious, estimated twenty-five, warlords will have no incentive
      whatsoever to commit to peace talks unreservedly.

      Emboldened by an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, more assaults
      on the capital, Khartoum, and spreading the war to Kordofan and other
      regions close to Darfur will be the predictable response by the
      militarily strongest rebel group, Khalil Ibrahim's Justice and
      Equality Movement (which forcibly recruited, and pumped with
      amphetamines, 92 child soldiers, during its coup attempt in Khartoum
      four months ago).

      It is equally wrong for activists and some Western diplomats and
      politicians to claim President al-Bashir will simply do nothing to
      settle the Darfur conflict peacefully, should the UN Security Council
      invoke "Article 16" to freeze the court's involvement in Darfur for a
      year - or permanently, as demanded by the feverish lobbying by the
      Sudanese authorities at the UN (and backed by the African Union, the
      Arab League amongst others). Surely, the Sudanese government has the
      most to gain from not sitting on its hands and settling Darfur, not
      least acceptance into the international mainstream and, in turn,
      relief on its crushing $30 billion foreign debt? That's the real
      breathing space President al-Bashir and his National Congress party

      In fact, one of the most damaging distortions of the narrative about
      Darfur - and there are many - by the court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno
      Ocampo, and activist groups has been casting doubt on the earnestness
      of the Sudanese president to bring a fair and lasting peace to
      Darfur, rather than on the 3000 or so remaining rebels who have done
      everything so far to avoid sorting out their differences - let alone
      sit at the negotiating table with coherent and realistic Darfur-
      specific demands. This prism exists in spite of the Sudanese
      authorities signing an internationally-brokered peace agreement for
      Darfur in May 2006, providing armed escorts to international
      humanitarian aid groups in Darfur whose convoys have been repeatedly
      hijacked largely by rebels or their offshoots, and accelerating
      cooperation with the UN `peacekeeping' force in Darfur, as publicly
      noted by its military leader, General Martin Agwai, last week.

      It has also been obscured by the focus on a possible ICC arrest
      warrant against Sudan's president that the reason why the pointless
      war continues in Darfur is that those same rebels were allowed to
      walk away from the May 2006 peace agreement in full view of the
      international community, return to the bush, and resume war.

      So, if the UN Security Council votes to permanently unbolt the court
      from Darfur, as it should, or, more likely, invoke Article 16 for the
      sake of re-invigorating the moribund political process - peace talks –
      long overdue emphasis and demands must be placed not on Omar al-
      Bashir. Instead, the international community must focus on making the
      rebels demonstrate their sincerity to working for political
      accommodation with Khartoum.

      A good start here would be France ordering Abdul-Wahid al-Nour, who
      has most support amongst Darfuris in the internally displaced camps,
      to end his two-year self-imposed exile in Paris and return to Sudan
      (if need be with bodyguards from the French and/or US intelligence
      services), and start talking seriously with Khartoum to end the

      Mandating the ICC's involvement in Darfur has, in any case, always
      been a clear breach by the Security Council of long cherished
      principles of national sovereignty. Sudan never ratified the Rome
      Statute for joining the court. The ICC's pursuit of cases in Darfur,
      however, now also runs contrary to its own charter – intervene only
      where there is a clear unwillingness or inability for the national
      judiciary to perform its role.

      The Sudanese state – with support from all main political parties –
      has recently established special courts, which will involve lawyers
      appointed by the African Union and the Arab League, to re-visit cases
      of abuses in Darfur. These courts must be given adequate time and
      space by the international community to prove their worth; the ICC
      should not be misused by activists as an instrument for forcing
      regime change in Sudan. Nor should the willingness of the special
      courts to prosecute Omar al-Bashir or Ahmed Haroun, the infamous
      state humanitarian affairs minister, become a litmus test for their
      credibility. Due process must be followed to the letter. Prosecutions
      against Sudan's president or other National Congress figures cannot
      take place on the basis of hearsay, insinuations and politically-
      manipulated testimonies that insiders say forms the bedrock
      of `evidence' assembled by Mr Ocampo. The charge sheet facing Sudan's
      president already looks exceptionally flimsy.

      The Security Council rejected claims of genocide back in 2003, and no
      mass graves have ever been found to support Mr Ocampo's assertion of
      35,000 killed in the conflict. Even the renowned Havard academic
      and `Sudan expert' Alex de Waal, certainly no chum of the Sudanese
      government, has noted that the charges against Sudan's president make
      Mr Ocampo "look like any other polemicist speaking about Sudan
      without understanding the nature of the Sudanese state and society."

      Allegations of `crimes against humanity' and `war crimes', levelled
      by the court prosecutor against Omar al-Bashir, underline the degree
      of polemics that the Darfur conflict has evidently descended to.
      These politicised slogans can be credibly applied to all conflicts;
      Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, and
      Afghanistan, to name a few.

      Siren voices calling for the ICC to issue the arrest warrant because
      it will act as a powerful deterrent to other current and future heads
      of states also miss one key point. The ICC would have closed shop
      after its first case if that were true. Proceeding with a warrant
      will, moreover, be especially meaningless: there is no way for

      Omar al-Bashir will never go to The Hague, and neither of the two UN
      missions in Sudan (one in Darfur, the other in the south) will
      jeopardise their critical humanitarian and peacekeeping operations by
      trying to arrest Sudan's president. Nor will his colleagues in the
      National Congress, as has been suggested by some external
      commentators, hand him over. Mr Ocampo's adoption of a `joint
      criminal enterprise' theory as the underlying driver of his charges
      levelled at the president has seen to that; the charge sheet would
      logically cascade downwards through the ranks of the National
      Congress. In other words, going ahead with an arrest warrant against
      Omar al-Bashir will advance neither peace nor justice for Darfur.

      The stark choice facing Sudan and the international community is not,
      in any case, peace versus justice or vice versa, as has been framed
      by Mr Ocampo and activists. For one, justice for Darfur can take many

      The lowest – and most enriching and sustainable - hanging fruit would
      be a comprehensive peace settlement and utilising traditional
      financial compensation mechanisms, allowing displaced Darfuris, whose
      status should take precedence over the dead, to return to their
      homesteads in security and steadily re-incorporate themselves back
      into the civic mainstream of Sudanese life. For that to happen,
      though, the US government (outgoing and incoming) must finally face
      down Save Darfur Coalition and other activist groups that it has
      given succour, courage, and ceded excessive policy ground on Darfur
      to, and create the necessary wiggle room to make the right policy
      choice for Darfuris and other Sudanese – and not the US electoral

      Indeed, the US government (and to a similar degree the UK and France)
      ending its – public - support for the ICC process of issuing an
      arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir is now the final missing piece
      of the jigsaw for the future of Darfur and Sudan as a whole. If these
      three permanent members of the Security Council do not wield their
      devastating veto against suspending the ICC's involvement in Sudan
      and, concurrently, go full-throttle towards finding a comprehensive
      political settlement to the Darfur conflict, then an end to the
      misery in Darfur would surely be in sight. Focusing mainly on
      humanitarian and external peacekeeping interventions, while easier
      and more alluring to domestic audiences in the West, can only ever be
      a transitory response.

      In contrast, wielding their vetoes in the Council against suspending
      the court's work in Sudan will trap Washington, London, and Paris
      (and implicitly the rest of the Western world) into a cul-de-sac in
      dealing with the dominant party of the Sudanese state – the National
      Congress – from which they would not be able to emerge. Failure to
      halt the ICC's likely criminalisation of Sudan's head of state (the
      panel of judges have thus far never turned down warrant requests by
      the court's prosecutor) would make it morally impossible or
      hypocritical for any Western nation to help with implementation of
      the anchor of Western re-engagement with Sudan – the Comprehensive
      Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan. The CPA ended Africa's
      longest and bloodiest conflict, which marked the structural fault
      line running through the Sudanese state since even before
      independence in 1956.

      As the president of the National Congress, the signatory party to the
      CPA and Sudan's other peace agreements in the east and west of the
      country, an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir would make
      continuing `business as usual' morally impossible for Western nations
      and their agencies. How could they even justify sitting down with a
      member of the National Congress if its leader has been issued with an
      ICC arrest warrant, not to mention the `Joint Criminal Enterprise'
      premise? American and other Western technical assistance to the joint
      integrated units, the nucleus of Sudan's post-CPA national army,
      already highly constrained by existing sanctions, would have to grind
      to halt because Omar al-Bashir is the commander-in-chief. The same
      goes for technical assistance to advance political and economic
      federal capacity building across Sudan.

      The timing of forced disengagement from Sudan would also be highly
      unfortunate for the American and other Western governments - and not
      only because it would dim chances of peace for Darfur. Sudan is
      nearing two critical milestones, which the US and UK governments in
      particular have invested a lot of capital to achieve. Democratic
      national elections, which Omar al-Bashir has already said he will
      contest, are around the corner (due by July 2009), and a referendum
      is slated in 2011 for southern Sudanese to determine if they want to
      stay within a unified country.

      Put simply, failure by the US, UK, and France to lend their support
      to freezing the ICC's process against Omar al-Bashir will not only
      undermine the search for peace and justice for Darfur in practical
      terms. It will also qualitatively undermine delivery of a greater and
      far more valuable and durable justice to all Sudanese – the CPA.

      Sacrificing the CPA, which Sudan still needs much time and support to
      help grow into (reconfiguring a state is never easy – just ask
      Germany), and supporting an ICC arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir to
      placate noisy, yet under-informed, Darfuri activist groups, would be
      like investing in US mortgage-backed securities; good on paper and
      giving a feeling of worth, but with an underlying asset of zero
      value. Unlike the current mess in the US financial system, however,
      cleaning up the debris in Sudan created by the ICC if it proceeds
      with issuing an arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir will even be
      beyond America's wisest men.

      Dr. Hassan Haj-Ali is a lecturer at the University of Khartoum,
      Department of Political Science. Ibrahim Adam is an independent
      country risk consultant from and based in El Fasher, North Darfur,



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