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How the U.S. Can Break the Deadlock on Darfur
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Jul 25, 2006 - 1:02:00 PM

How the U.S. Can Break the Deadlock on Darfur

Africa Action (Washington, DC)
July 25, 2006
Posted to the web July 25, 2006

More than three years into the genocide in Darfur, there is a belated international consensus on the need for a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force to provide protection to civilians and humanitarian operations in western Sudan. As Africa Action has previously noted, the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur has now received the support of the U.S., the UN Secretary-General, most members of the UN Security Council, the African Union (AU), the leadership of the Arab League, and dozens of organizations and millions of public citizens.

Yet the government of Sudan, the author of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, adamantly refuses to allow a UN mission into Darfur and continues to hold hostage the international response to this crisis. For weeks and months, the international community has been paralyzed in the face of Khartoum's opposition. Countless Darfuri lives have been lost as mounting violence has overwhelmed the small AU operation in Darfur, and the partial peace deal signed in Abuja on May 5th remains fragile at best. Despite the desperate need of the people of Darfur for protection, the international community has failed to overcome Khartoum's opposition and take the necessary action to achieve a UN peacekeeping force.

The U.S. can and must be the one to break the deadlock on Darfur. The U.S. has unique power and leverage with the government of Sudan that can end the stalemate and advance the goal of a UN peacekeeping mission for Darfur. The U.S. also remains the only government to have publicly acknowledged that what is happening in Darfur constitutes genocide, though it has failed to articulate or pursue a strategy to improve the security situation on the ground. If the U.S. is committed to ending this genocide, it must use its power to protect the people of Darfur and secure the necessary UN peacekeeping force now.


In the past, U.S. pressure on Sudan has yielded results. In the 1990s, the Clinton Administration focused on the isolation and containment of Khartoum, particularly in reaction to Khartoum's hosting of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996. In the early 1990s, U.S. sanctions ended bilateral aid to Sudan, and in 1993, Sudan was added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The U.S. also supported a 1996 UN Security Council resolution censuring Khartoum for failing to extradite suspects in an assassination attempt on the Egyptian president. Finally, also in 1996, the U.S. removed any American diplomatic presence from Sudan. These ostracizing tactics had an impact on Khartoum, and in 1996, the Sudanese government responded by expelling Osama bin Laden and subsequently distancing itself from such terrorist networks.

Under the Bush Administration, strong U.S. diplomatic engagement in efforts to end the decades long civil war in Sudan ultimately helped to secure the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The U.S. made clear that any future "normalization" of relations, including the lifting of economic sanctions, was contingent on a successful conclusion to the North-South peace process, and this was a key factor in pushing the Sudanese government to the negotiating table. Though the subsequent implementation of the CPA has had serious challenges, and though the U.S. commitment in this area has been insufficient, it is generally agreed that U.S. diplomatic investment in the peace process influenced the Sudanese government's position, including its consent to a UN peacekeeping mission for southern Sudan.

Current Pressure Points

Africa Action has previously pointed out that the current relationship between the U.S. and Sudan features "strategic priorities", such as intelligence-sharing, that have undermined a stronger U.S. response on Darfur. As the world seeks Khartoum's acquiescence to a UN mission, and as the U.S. claims a commitment to ending this crisis, this relationship gives the U.S. special leverage to pressure Khartoum to accept a robust Chapter VII UN peacekeeping force for Darfur. The Sudanese government wishes to strengthen its ties with Washington, and ultimately "normalize" relations, and the Bush Administration must use all available pressure points to force the necessary action from Khartoum and to pave the way for a UN mission to protect civilians and humanitarian operations, and to support the goal of peace in Darfur:

  • The U.S. should make clear to Khartoum that the future of U.S. relations with Sudan depends on Khartoum's cooperation with the international community in allowing a UN peacekeeping mission into Darfur. The Sudanese government had previously stated that it would welcome a UN mission after the signing of a peace deal in Abuja, and it must now adhere to this commitment. President Bush has repeatedly stated that a UN mission is needed in Darfur and he should call President Bashir directly to convey this position and the expectation of Sudanese cooperation in this regard.

  • The U.S. should push for new sanctions against senior Sudanese government officials responsible for the continuing violence in Darfur, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1591. Thus far, only four individuals have faced sanctions, and no sitting Sudanese official has been targeted. The U.S. should seek further targeted sanctions through the Security Council, including asset freezes and travel bans.

  • The U.S. should offer its cooperation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its proceedings against those charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The relationship between the U.S. and Sudan, particularly with regard to counter-terrorism efforts, has provided the U.S. with unique insights and information that should be made available to the ICC.

  • The U.S. should encourage other countries to enact comprehensive bilateral sanctions against Sudan, as the U.S. has had in place since 1997, precluding investment in Sudan's growing industry and other such economic relations. Such sanctions would register international outrage at the ongoing crisis in Darfur, for which the Khartoum government must be held responsible.

  • The U.S. should use its relationships with governments around the world to "internationalize" pressure on Khartoum and create a united front for new and urgent action on Darfur. Just as the U.S. has leverage with the Sudanese government, it also has bilateral leverage with Sudan's allies on the Security Council (particularly Russia and China), and it must use this leverage now to enlist their support to pressure Khartoum to admit a UN peacekeeping operation into Darfur.

  • While Khartoum's advance consent for a UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur is desirable, the urgency of the crisis requires the Security Council to take new action regardless. Even as it takes steps to increase pressure on Khartoum, the U.S. must simultaneously seek the UN Security Council's authorization of a robust UN peacekeeping operation with a Chapter VII mandate and an expedited timeline.

Africa Action emphasizes that the U.S. is uniquely positioned to bring effective pressure to bear on Khartoum to accept the international community's demand for a UN mission in Darfur. By taking the steps described above, the U.S. will show that it is committed to protecting the people of Darfur, and that this is the priority in U.S. policy toward Sudan. New U.S. action is needed now to break the international deadlock and achieve a rapid and robust UN peacekeeping force for Darfur.

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