SUDAN WATCH: Mia Farrow and other Darfur activists accuse U.S. envoy Gration of prolonging Sudan crisis

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mia Farrow and other Darfur activists accuse U.S. envoy Gration of prolonging Sudan crisis

You couldn't make this stuff up. In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration, actress Mia Farrow and other activists said that Gration's strategy with Sudan was prolonging the crisis. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
(In Arabic speak: "The camel cannot see the crookedness of its own neck")

Analysis by Louis Charbonneau (Reuters) Sunday, 16 August 2009:
Frustrated Darfur activists slam U.S. envoy Gration
UNITED NATIONS - Frustrated by the world's failure to end the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region, some advocacy groups have turned on the new U.S. envoy, accusing him of helping Khartoum thwart peace.

The unusual public censure highlights a growing divide on Darfur. One side are those who feel more engagement with -- and less criticism of -- Khartoum is needed to end the suffering in Darfur. On the other are those who support more pressure, more sanctions and possibly military action if Sudan blocks efforts to secure peace in the region.

The Darfur conflict has been going on for more than six years. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have died since 2003, compared to Khartoum's official death toll of 10,000. The world body also says some 4.7 million people in Darfur rely on aid to survive.

In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration, actress Mia Farrow and other activists said that Gration's strategy with Sudan was prolonging the crisis.

"We believe that your conciliatory stance and reluctance to criticize (Khartoum) both excuses and emboldens (it), thereby facilitating its ongoing reign of terror and well-known strategy of 'divide and rule,'" the letter said.

Gration has advocated loosening some U.S. sanctions against Sudan to enable Washington to deliver development aid to southern Sudan ahead of a 2011 referendum, after which it is expected to split from the north. He also has said there was nothing to justify keeping Sudan on the U.S. terror blacklist.

Gration says he needs to engage the governments of north and south Sudan, rebel groups and other key parties to revive the stalled Darfur peace talks and to ensure the north-south civil war does not erupt again. But he also supports keeping up the pressure -- including most sanctions -- on Khartoum.

John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group, also was critical of Gration. He described his deep disappointment at what he felt has been the Obama administration's failure -- through Gration -- to take the tough line on Sudan that Obama supported as a U.S. senator.

"It is shocking to all of us (activists) to see what has transpired over the last couple of months publicly," he told Reuters in an interview. "And frankly it is shocking to the people of Darfur and southern Sudan."

U.S. POLICY REVIEW

Not all activists focused their criticism on Gration.

Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, an umbrella organization for more than 180 groups, said the real problem was how long it was taking the Obama administration to decide what to do about Sudan.

"General Gration is not the issue so much as the administration's failure to finish the policy review and make clear what their strategy for Sudan is," he told Reuters.

The results of a sweeping U.S. government policy review on Sudan are expected to be released soon, possibly this month. U.N. diplomats and analysts say the United States is the key player on Sudan and can offer as an incentive something the Sudanese really want -- normal relations with Washington.

The United Nations participates in a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur that has been slow to deploy because of bureaucratic obstacles created by Khartoum and lack of military hardware. But Washington, and not the U.N., may hold the key to peace in Sudan, the diplomats say.

Prendergast said that in the "vacuum" created by the delay of the policy review Gration has adopted a strategy of "constructive engagement" with Khartoum, similar to the U.S. approach to apartheid South Africa when Ronald Reagan was president. But he said Gration had done so without a mandate.

He also criticized Gration for not publicly describing Darfur as "genocide" as Obama himself has.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Gration said he has been reaching out to the Darfur activist community, speaking regularly with its key members. He said he generally agreed with the activists on what they hope to achieve in Sudan.

He cited a July 29 letter to Obama from the Save Darfur Coalition. It said Sudan must be ordered to bring peace to Darfur, implement the 2005 peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war between the north and south and replace President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

If Khartoum does that, the letter says "a clear process toward normalization of relations with the U.S. will be mapped out." If not, then more sanctions and possibly "targeted military action" should be used to save civilian lives.

"Everything in that letter is what I'm trying to do," Gration said, adding that it was important that the advocacy groups and U.S. government work together on Sudan.

"This is a situation where everybody's got to be on the same team working forward," he said.

Fabienne Hara of the International Crisis Group, an independent think-tank that focuses on wars and conflicts, said some of the activists were "out of touch with reality" and that Gration's decision to step up engagement with Khartoum was a welcome and much-needed change in the U.S. approach to Sudan.  
(Editing by Bill Trott)
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Further reading
Setting the Record Straight on Sudan Sanctions: Part II
Enough, Aug 16, 2009 by Nina McMurry, STAND, GI-NET

Sudan Activists Fault Special Envoy's 'Conciliatory Stance' Toward Khartoum
Enough, Aug 16, 2009 by Laura Heaton.  Here is a copy:
"Increasingly frustrated with the direction of US policy toward Sudan, as expressed by Special Envoy Scott Gration in testimony earlier this summer, Sudan activists from around the United States sent a letter to Gration this week outlining how they think the approach is problematic. “We fear that your approach to Sudan is at odds with the President’s promise and will quash the hopes of all Sudanese for justice, peace, and the end of the culture of impunity that has afflicted Sudan,” the letter said. Organizations representing the Darfuri diaspora and southern Sudanese signed on and were joined by prominent Sudan activist Mia Farrow. Among the criticisms articulated in the letter, the signatories criticize Special Envoy Gration’s approach for “neglecting to adequately engage with or incorporate the priorities expressed by Darfuri civil society and the Darfuri Diaspora." The activists logged their complaints with the top Obama administration officials and Congress as well, sending copies of the letter to the White House and to senators and representatives engaged on Sudan. An Arabic version of the letter was distributed to international media.

The original letter and the Arabic translation are available here and here."
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The activists' open letter to Scott Gration 13 August 2009 - an excerpt:
"We implore you to consider the following aspects of your performance as Special Envoy which we consider problematic:

1. Failing to both acknowledge ongoing human rights violations by the GoS and consider these violations as another component of its genocidal campaign
2. Failing to acknowledge behavior by the GoS that demonstrates its lack of commitment to peace and justice
3. Failing to hold the GoS accountable for such aforesaid behavior
4. Failing to define and promote a strong sanctions policy
5. Downplaying Sudan as a “State Sponsor of Terror” and suggesting normalization of relations with the U.S.
6. Neglecting to adequately engage with or incorporate the priorities expressed by Darfuri civil society and the Darfuri Diaspora.

These problems are elaborated below."
Click here to read Scott Gration's statement 'This I Believe' 10 August 2009.

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