- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2008



The crisis in Darfur is the most pressing humanitarian issue for President-elect Barack Obama. He can leverage the goodwill and pride in his recent electoral success to pressure the parties in Sudan to uphold the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 — sending a powerful signal.

At least 250,000 people — some estimates range as high as 500,000 — have died and approximately 2.2 million have been displaced since 2003. In turn, the Sudanese militia, in tandem with an Arab militia known as the janjaweed (“devils on horseback”), waged a brutal campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing against men, women and children.

An Obama administration needs to uphold the cornerstones of American policy established during the Bush administrations. Since 2003, the United States has placed Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and since 2007 has imposed economic sanctions. Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq told Agence France-Presse after Mr. Obama’s victory that Khartoum “would like to see some real change between Sudan and the United States.” “Real change” does not mean relaxing the pressure on Sudanese President, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.

Mr. Obama supported the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in October 2006. The law describes the Darfur conflict as genocide, calls for an expansion of the role of the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, and supports the ICC’s prosecution of war criminals. In May 2008, Mr. Obama co-signed a statement with Hillary Clinton and John McCain blaming the Sudanese government for the violence.

The United Nations is not good at enforcing a peace that has not been created yet, and unilateral action is not in the cards given America’s other priorities, Brett Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation, told us on Thursday. The focus should be establishing a “sustainable peace” and finding “points of pressure” on the Sudanese government, according to Mr. Schaefer. Mr. Obama’s best option is to work to tighten existing sanctions and to create a “coalition of the willing,” as suggested by “ENOUGH,” a project of the Center for American Progress. At the same time, the new president must beware that good intentions can easily and quickly lead to a quagmire.

Pressure to end the atrocities must begin anew.



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