PEACE IN SUDAN?
SecState Colin Powell has an op-ed in today’s LA Times talking about his recent mission to Sudan. He sounds hopeful:
Today we stand on the brink of an agreement to end Sudan’s cruel civil war and bring one of the greatest and longest-running humanitarian tragedies in the world to an end.
Almost since gaining independence from Britain in 1956, Sudan has been engulfed in conflict between its central government, dominated by northern Arabs, and the Christian and animist population of its south.
The ongoing strife has made Sudan synonymous with tragedy–the tragedy of 2 million lives lost and of millions more disrupted by war.
The ongoing suffering has made Sudan synonymous with despair–the despair of more than 4 million people driven from their homes, most to seek refuge in squalid camps elsewhere in Sudan and in neighboring countries.
To help them take these steps and conclude a peace agreement by the end of this year, President Bush asked me to travel to Kenya last week and meet the leaders of the two sides, Sudanese Vice President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha and SPLM Chairman John Garang.
At these meetings, both leaders committed themselves to reaching the goal of peace by the end of the year. Each said the two sides were close to agreement on the remaining issues.
Once a peace accord is signed, we will begin normalizing our bilateral relations with the Sudanese government. Together with our international partners, we will promote reconstruction and development. Indeed, we are already planning for coordinated donor assistance to get peace off to a good start.
Peace in Sudan will bolster regional stability in Africa and reinforce our efforts against terrorism. What’s more, President Bush believes that the dawn of peace in Sudan will send a powerful message throughout the world that even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved through negotiation.
To demonstrate his support and commitment to a peaceful Sudan, President Bush has invited Sudan’s President Bashir and Chairman Garang to the White House once they have signed the final agreement.
With the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr and the Christian celebration of Christmas drawing near, the Sudanese have the opportunity to send a welcome message of hope to Africa and the world.
They can provide a powerful example of a democratic Sudan, in which human rights are respected, and in which Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths are free to worship in a spirit of tolerance and respect.
The evidence on regional ripple effects is certainly mixed, but solving this conflict would indeed be extraordinary. And almost certainly under-reported, since it’s hard to get good television footage of peace.