Perhaps nothing better indicates post-election Obama’s having gone “soft on genocide” and his failed policy to end the violence than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Khartoum last Wednesday to start an 11-day African tour. With the continuing slaughter of black African peoples in Sudan, one would think an African-American president would have his top foreign affairs official breathing fire in talks with the Sudanese. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred.
According to a Sudan Tribune report of her meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Katri, it appears Clinton’s main focus was getting talks back on track between Khartoum and the government of South Sudan over the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South civil war and resulted in South Sudan becoming an independent country in 2011. Darfur was not even mentioned in the story, indicating its importance in the discussions, while the war in South Kordofan was brought up in the context of Clinton asking Katri to allow humanitarian aid, which Khartoum had cut off on July 25, to flow back into the devastated region.
But such lack of firmness on the part of the Obama administration towards the Bashir government’s genocidal behaviour is not surprising. Retired Air Force General Scott Gration, Obama’s special envoy to Sudan between 2009 and 2011, once said there were only “remnants of genocide” in Darfur and followed Obama’s naïve policy of offering incentives to get the criminal regime in Khartoum to change its barbaric ways. Gration once famously stated: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”
One critic, Eric Reeves, author of the book A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moment’s in the Darfur Genocide, said Gration had “…no significant diplomatic experience or knowledge of Sudan…” and followed a “notorious policy of appeasement” with the ICC-wanted criminal Bashir.
But this soft approach would just have been a reflection of what Gration’s political superiors in Washington wanted.
“Gration’s record in Darfur has been one of complete failure,” Reeves stated in 2011.
To show what a low priority the Dafur crisis appears to have become for Obama, in 2010 at a State Department background briefing an official said the Department “would…be decoupling the state sponsor of terrorism from Darfur and the Darfur issue” in order to get Khartoum’s co-operation on the upcoming independence referendum in southern Sudan. Sudan was on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
“The ‘Darfur issue’: what fantastically euphemistic language for what had previously been ‘genocide’, Reeves wrote scathingly. “…But the message here has not been lost on the brutally calculating men in Khartoum: in extremis, the USwill choose the southern CPA over ending genocidal violence and attrition inDarfur.”
Hilary Clinton’s visit to Khartoum this week appears to confirm Reeves’s analysis.
So having gone the full circle from roaring lion in 2004 to quiet lamb in 2012 about Darfur, the question remains as to why the dramatic change? Of all the reasons proffered, Winter probably stated the most likely one before the congressional committee when commenting on the “eccentricities” of Gration’s approach to the Khartoum regime, saying they “are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world.” In other words, don’t treat an Arab regime, even a genocidal one, harshly or the other Arab countries won’t be your friend.
But this weak, naïve and less than insightful approach by Obama to Sudan will not produce the desired peace but only encourage Khartoum to continue its hard-line stance and murderous aggression. And this, in turn, will only produce more of the same for Sudan’s long-suffering, black African people in South Kordofanand Darfur, for whom Obama once used to express such great concern: war, death and enslavement.
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