The Bush administration State Department is giving ominous signs in Khartoum that it is about to abandon all commitment to self-determination for southern Sudan. Speaking of the “Libyan-Egyptian Initiative,” Robert Oakley—representing Special Envoy John Danforth—is quoted as saying that: “I think the Egyptian initiative is very positive.” Since the Libyan-Egyptian Initiative is transparently nothing more than an Egyptian diplomatic ploy to take southern self-determination off the negotiating table, it would appear that the US is abandoning this key feature of the Declaration of Principles, which anchors the IGAD peace process. This is a formula for continued war, not peace.
Eric Reeves [October 31, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
To date, the Bush administration has articulated no Sudan policy, has addressed publicly none of the key issues in halting Sudan’s civil war, and has given no indication that it understands how to move the peace process along. The most significant recent development has been the State Department’s continual praising of Khartoum for its “cooperation” in the war on terrorism, a “cooperation” that seems to have met with peculiarly little skepticism.
Today’s wire reports from Reuters and Agence France-Presse (attached) suggest that the Bush administration response to Sudan may finally be coming into focus, but it would seem to be an ugly picture of expediency.
A State Department delegation has just concluded a series of meetings in Khartoum and is presently in Cairo. Reuters and AFP cite a series of statements and positions that suggest a good deal about how the peace process is regarded by the Bush administration.
“I think the Egyptian initiative is very positive, but we don’t have a US initiative,” [Robert] Oakley said.” [Robert Oakley is Special Envoy John Danforth’s primary advisor on Sudan] (AFP, Oct 31, 2001)
“Members of the U.S. delegation said they backed the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative and other efforts aimed at ending the conflict.” (Reuters, Oct 31, 2001)
“[Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles] Snyder, whose country has favoured peace negotiations sponsored by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) over the Egyptian-Libyan bid, described the latter as helpful.'” (AFP, Oct 31, 2001)
“‘Unless we have a lot of cooperation from people like the government of Egypt, our ability to do good is very much more limited because we don’t
understand the subtleties,’ [Snyder] said.” (AFP, Oct 31, 2001)
It might actually be useful if the Bush administration State Department devoted the necessary resources to understanding the “subtleties” of Sudan. But more important is an understanding of the basics: unless a peace process is committed to self-determination for the people of southern Sudan, there will be no peace. Self-determination is the fundamental demand of the south, the demand that cannot be finessed away, the demand that reflects southern determination to end the savagely destructive treatment that has been meted out by Khartoum for so many years.
Presumably the State Department knew even before this most recent mission that Egypt is opposed to such self-determination. Indeed, this opposition is transparently what lies behind the “Libyan-Egyptian Initiative.” For the “initiative” is nothing more than the Egyptian effort to undermine the Declaration of Principles (the DOP) that undergirds the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority for Development) peace process. It is the perpetuation of colonial attitudes and ambitions by “diplomatic” means.
But if the US State Department, and Special Envoy Danforth, begin to engage in the Sudan peace process without the clearest understanding of this reality—if they are unwilling to confront Egypt over their intransigent opposition to southern self-determination—then peace will not be negotiated. If Robert Oakley, notorious for his expediency, is willing to declare that he finds “the Egyptian initiative is very positive,” then we should be prepared to hear the other shoe dropping: the abandonment of all but a symbolic commitment to ending southern suffering and the incalculable human destruction that proceeds from Khartoum’s determination to control southern oil reserves and to extend its Islamist “salvation revolution.”
If all that is being celebrated in the Libyan-Egyptian Initiative is its “inclusiveness”—its incorporation of the concerns of the northern opposition groups that are also resisting Khartoum’s tyranny—all well and good. But we hardly need a competing peace process, one dead-set against southern self-determination, to provide a mechanism for such inclusiveness. And the truth of the matter is that Khartoum has long resisted fiercely any participation by the National Democratic Alliance in the IGAD process.
So the question for the Bush administration and its State Department is quite clear: do you support southern self-determination or not? If not, say so. If under particular terms, lay them out. If you do support southern self-determination, what can it possibly mean to find the Libyan-Egyptian Initiation “very positive”?
News Article by AFP posted on October 31, 2001 at 09:51:03: EST (-5 GMT)
US pushing no new peace initiative for Sudan: official
CAIRO, Oct 31 (AFP) — US officials visiting Cairo to work towards ending Sudan’s 18-year civil war said Wednesday that a newly-appointed US envoy was not pushing a new peace initiative for Africa’s largest country.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Schneider [sic] told reporters it would ultimately be up to the Sudanese parties to decide how to proceed with an east African peace bid launched in 1993 and a separate Egyptian-Libyan initiative.
“We’re not going to pick among the initiatives,” he said on a visit to Egypt to prepare for peace envoy John Danforth’s upcoming visit to Sudan. “It’s for the Africans to decide among themselves.”
Danforth, expected in Sudan around November 10, was appointed special envoy on September 6 to help end the “brutal and shameful” civil war — a
move welcomed by Khartoum, which has been fingered by Washington as an alleged sponsor of terrorism.
Schneider, whose country has favoured peace negotiations sponsored by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) over the Egyptian-Libyan bid, described the latter as “helpful.”
“Unless we have a lot of cooperation from people like the government of Egypt, our ability to do good is very much more limited because we don’t understand the subtleties,” he said.
He added that the United States, whose frosty ties with Sudan have recently begun to thaw, was “willing to take a fresh look at our relationship with Sudan in order to make progress at all the things that are important to us.”
Danforth’s representative Robert Oakley meanwhile told reporters after talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher: “We are here to develop ideas for his (Danforth’s) visit to the region in two weeks.”
“I think the Egyptian initiative is very positive, but we don’t have a US initiative,” Oakley said.
Schneider added: “We’re hopeful that Egypt will find some way to work with IGAD, and that IGAD will find some way to work with Egypt,” failing to mention Libya’s role in its two-year-old joint initiative with Egypt.
Sudan has been ravaged since 1983 by a civil war between successive Khartoum governments and southern-based rebels.
CAIRO, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said on Wednesday that the unity of Sudan must be preserved in any plan for peace in the war-torn country.
“Any effort to settle the Sudanese problem must be based on the basis of Sudan’s unity,” Maher told reporters in Cairo after meeting a U.S. State Department delegation.
A Libyan-Egyptian initiative for ending the 18-year civil war calls for an interim government in a united Sudan, which would oversee implementation of peace efforts — but leaves out the key southern demand of self-determination.
Sudanese rebels have been waging a civil war since 1983, seeking greater autonomy for the mostly Christian or animist, oil-rich south from the Islamic north of the country.
Sudan’s Islamist government gave its official approval of the nine-point peace plan, first proposed in 1999, in June.
Egypt considers the unity of its southern neighbour a question of national security, since both countries share the waters of the River Nile. Most of Egypt’s 67 million population live in the narrow Nile valley.
Members of the U.S. delegation said they backed the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative and other efforts aimed at ending the conflict.
The delegation also visited Khartoum last week to pave the way for a visit by the new U.S. peace envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, which is expected on November 13. Danforth’s trip is the latest sign of a thaw in once icy relations between the United States and Sudan.
Washington has said it is looking for ways to improve ties with Sudan,
Africa’s largest country, which it still includes on a list of countries it
accuses of sponsoring terrorism.
The United States says Sudan has assisted its investigations in the
aftermath of the September 11 attacks against U.S. cities.