- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

One country has had the power to be potently divisive among policy-makers on the Hill since the Bush administration has come to power, pushing political parties, religious groups and African interest groups to take sides in a war half a world away. It is a country with little to offer the United States by way of trade or political power, and it can only be reached after several days grueling journey. It is the Sudan. For 18 years, the Muslim government of Sudan in the north has been attacking the Christian and animist population in the south in a conflict involving clashing cultures and a struggle for the souths oil. Now Secretary of State Colin Powell is considering appointing Chester Crocker, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Reagan administration, to be special envoy to the Sudan. The potential appointment highlights a schism within the administration which must be addressed before the next diplomatic initiative to Africas largest country is launched.
Mr. Crocker has asked for reassurances that he will be isolated from conservative views at the White House, according to reports in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. The report also says the track that Mr. Powell and Mr. Crocker would take would be based on the position that "tilting too heavily toward the Christians would only aggravate" the conflict. When asked about his reported views on the involvement of Christians and conservatives with Sudan, Mr. Crocker told this page that "I have no comment" on the stories. Yesterday at the State Department, a high level meeting took place to address concerns from religious groups that they would be left out of the policy-making process. Thus far, President Bush has been supportive of conservative Christian groups and of the Congressional Black Caucus, which backs sanctions and opposition against the northern government and assistance to the south. Mr. Powells policy, on the other hand, focuses on diplomatic initiatives with the north.
Witnesses before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus reported that the human rights violations in the Sudan have gotten worse in the last year, and include the widespread bombing of civilian targets and abduction and enslavement of women and children by government-sponsored militias. Adding to the problem has been the substantial increase since last year in foreign companies working with the Sudanese government to obtain oil from Sudan. These oil revenues have allowed the government to buy more military hardware, according to the State Department.
Rather than cracking down on the northern government, Mr. Powell has followed a policy of engagement with the north, and refused to meet with the leader of a southern rebel group, John Garang, while in Nairobi. Back home, however, the Bush administration has been sending an opposing message. Two aid packages to opposition groups authorized under the Clinton administration have received special attention. The Bush administration has ensured that a $3 million package allocated through the State Department has found a contractor Reston-based DynCorp to disburse the funds in a way that would most help the National Democratic Alliance, a Sudanese opposition alliance of forces from the north and south, according to a congressional aid. Another $10 million package, passed as an amendment to the Foreign Appropriation bill last year, gave the president the authority to help that opposition alliance in more specific ways. In April, the administration gave the green light for that money to be spent on communication equipment, non-military vehicles and water drilling equipment, among other things.
Before a special envoy is appointed to the Sudan, the administration should get its policy straight. The right thing to do is to appoint an envoy who will ensure the northern military regime is not treated as a peace partner as long as it continues the cycle of violence.

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