Obama to offer peace incentives to Sudan government
Must take steps to change, end human suffering
WASHINGTON - President Obama said yesterday that the United States is shifting its policy toward Sudan, offering incentives if the government proves it is taking steps to end the human suffering there and work toward internal peace.
Sanctions and pressure from the international community will increase if nothing changes.
The president said he will soon renew tough sanctions against the government of President Omar al-Bashir, whom the International Criminal Court has charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly masterminding deadly attacks throughout Sudan’s Darfur region.
“If the government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives. If it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community,’’ Obama said. “As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction.’’
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced details of the new approach at the State Department, which considers Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism.’’ She was joined by UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Scott Gration, the president’s special envoy to Sudan.
“Sitting on the sidelines is not an option,’’ Clinton said. She said decisions about whether to offer incentives would be based on “verifiable changes in conditions on the ground.’’
The United Nations says the conflict in Darfur has claimed at least 300,000 lives as a result of violence, disease and displacement since February 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum, claiming citing discrimination and neglect.
Obama has labeled the conflict in Darfur as genocide.
Asked to justify how Obama can work more closely with someone he believes is guilty of genocide, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “The president still believes that. But what we’re trying to do is seek a comprehensive solution to this problem that again addresses both the humanitarian crisis that has happened and is ongoing in Darfur, as well as a comprehensive peace between the North and South.’’
Obama said the United States and the international community must act “with a sense of urgency and purpose,’’ a sentiment that was underscored when Darfur peacekeepers reported a sizable and unusual increase in military activity by Sudanese government forces and a Darfur rebel group in northern Darfur.
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur expressed grave concern about the buildup “as it may signal the impending start of a new cycle of armed confrontations in the area.’’ Mission spokesman Kemal Saiki said peacekeepers in the area have seen a buildup of military material and personnel, as well as digging of trenches by government forces and rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid faction.