- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama said Monday on the eve of an envoy’s trip to Darfur that the humanitarian crisis there has worsened but global outrage could pressure Sudanese leaders to let aid workers return.

Obama said the conflict in Sudan will not be easy to solve, but the United States and the world cannot sit idly by.

“This is going to be a very difficult task. It will be a time-consuming task,” Obama said. “We don’t expect any solutions overnight to the long-standing problems there.”

Obama and his special envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, met on Monday, the day before Gration was to head to Africa to discuss several issues with leaders, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s decision to expel 13 aid groups.

Obama said Gration’s immediate emphasis would be bringing rival groups together to end the conflict.

Al-Bashir’s order against the aid groups _ most of them operating in Darfur _ accused them of spying for an international court that issued an arrest warrant against him in March for war crimes. He also shut down three local aid groups, including one of the largest operating in Darfur.

The decisions threatened more than 3 million people with the loss of food, health care and safe drinking water, the United Nations estimates.

“Fortunately, what’s happened in Darfur has touched so many people around the world, and we have seen such an extraordinary mobilization of advocates, many of who are sitting at this table,” Obama said. “I actually think that America can speak effectively with one voice and bring the moral and other elements of our stature to bear in trying to deal with this situation.”

Sudan’s Arab-led government has been battling ethnic African rebels in Darfur since 2003. Up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes.

Gration, a former combat pilot, advised Obama during his presidential campaign on military and national security issues. He accompanied then-Sen. Obama to Africa in 2006, a visit that included a stop in Chad to see refugees from Darfur. The two formed a close friendship on that trip that has deepened since; Obama on Monday called Gration one of his top national security advisers.

Human-rights advocates who met with Obama ahead of the trip said they were optimistic. Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, said he was reassured by Obama’s recent statements, such as calling the expulsion unacceptable.

“The coalition is also hopeful that Gration will soon travel to key capitals to directly engage with leadership and garner support for multilateral efforts to convince _ and if necessary compel _ the Bashir regime to reopen humanitarian access and make real progress towards achieving a true peace in Darfur,” Fowler said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide