President Obama's special envoy to Sudan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that US sanctions on the country as a state sponsor of terror is hurting efforts to bring peace and ease suffering in the war-torn nation.
Scott Gration called the sanctions a "political decision" and said that the United States was going to have to "unwind" them.
Advocacy groups for the people of Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have been made refugees or killed, were cautious in their reaction.
"We were encouraged to hear unequivocally from Gen. Gration that he and the Obama administration are pursuing a balanced approach which includes both carrots and sticks as levers to change Khartoum's behavior," Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, said in a statement. "We are, however, seriously doubtful of Khartoum's true intention and ability to make good on their promises, and urge Senators to follow up swiftly with Gen. Gration on the classified details of this plan to ensure that it's sufficiently robust to get the job done."
Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the committee's chairman, also called for a comprehensive approach.
"Many discussions of US-Sudan policy here in Washington continue to center on the question of whether we should use carrots versus sticks -- i.e. rewards or punishments -- to influence Sudan’s leaders in Khartoum.
When I visited Sudan in April of this year, I came away convinced that we need to build a strategic framework that moves beyond simple oppositions like carrots versus sticks or the South versus Darfur. Instead, we need a nuanced, comprehensive strategy for Sudan as a whole," Kerry said in remarks opening the hearing.
His full prepared remarks are below:
KERRY'S OPENING STATEMENT
Today’s hearing explores America’s need to craft a comprehensive strategy for Sudan. For years, the urgency of either the situation in Darfur or the long war between North and South Sudan drove U.S. policy strongly in one direction or the other.
Over time, the result has been a bifurcated policy. However, today most understand that we cannot and should not pursue either of these challenges as if it existed in a vacuum. As the Save Darfur Coalition affirmed in a statement for the record, “policymakers have too often focused on the South to the detriment of Darfur, or Darfur to the detriment of the South.”
At the same time, many discussions of U.S.-Sudan policy here in Washington continue to center on the question of whether we should use carrots versus sticks—i.e. rewards or punishments—to influence Sudan’s leaders in Khartoum.
When I visited Sudan in April of this year, I came away convinced that we need to build a strategic framework that moves beyond simple oppositions like carrots versus sticks or the South versus Darfur. Instead, we need a nuanced, comprehensive strategy for Sudan as a whole.
We should begin by identifying our objectives. Our primary goals in Sudan are: helping to achieve peace and security in Darfur and the surrounding region; maintaining and strengthening peace between North and South Sudan; expanding cooperation on counter-terrorism; and promoting democracy and conflict prevention throughout the country.
Those are our objectives. The question is how best to achieve them. I believe that the ongoing consequences of the genocide in Darfur and the onrushing potential tragedy of a renewed north-south war together create a dynamic that demands high-level and sustained engagement.
As the President’s special envoy, Scott Gration has already traveled to the region multiple times. Last week, General Gration was in Abyei, Sudan, at the center of North-South tensions. His presence on the ground when The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration announced a decision on Abyei’s borders symbolized America’s recommitment to the peace process.
We must make the same commitment to finding peace in Darfur. Almost five years ago, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before this Committee that the United States had found a “consistent and widespread pattern of atrocities’ that constituted genocide. He recommended that America “increase the number of African Union monitors.” Today, the African Union monitoring mission has been merged into the United Nations peacekeeping mission, UNAMID. It is making a difference, but it has yet to be fully deployed or to acquire full tactical mobility.
Millions of people remain in camps—under conditions made even worse when Khartoum expelled 13 humanitarian organizations, placing over a million people in potential jeopardy. General Gration was right to make his first priority as special envoy the restoration of life-saving assistance. But we must go further: When I was in Khartoum, I emphasized to the Sudanese that restoring lost aid was imperative, but also insufficient: our goal should not be to re-create the conditions that existed before the NGO expulsion, but to move beyond them.
Maintenance of a miserable status quo is not the answer. I strongly support the efforts of the African Union, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and others to bring the voices of civil society into the discussion, and particularly to ensure that women are heard.
At the same time, we must recognize that even as we work toward peace in western Sudan and eastern Chad, the clock is relentlessly ticking down the hours between now and 2011. That is when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement allows Southern Sudanese to vote on the question of unity or separation from the North. If the people of Sudan are to transform a ceasefire and an uneasy power-sharing agreement into lasting peace, we need to think of the CPA as an ongoing process stretching into the future, not an event in the past.
Today, crucial elements remain unresolved, including borders; citizenship; and revenue sharing. A central focus of my visit to Sudan was to convince both sides to embark on a series of tripartite discussions with the United States to tackle these remaining challenges. Rising violence in the South is also a matter of growing concern and underscores the need for a tangible peace dividend. But even as we move forward, we must not fix our gaze on the 2011 referendum alone. We also need to consider what Sudan could look like in 2012 and 2015.
All of these issues and more, including complex regional forces, must be balanced within a comprehensive United States strategy for Sudan.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.