Farewell tour

"Farewell tour" Continued...

Issue: "Schock factor," Jan. 31, 2009

Support for Bashir, however, is pragmatic. Many fear, simply, that his arrest could set off a return to war. And the last thing Sudan needs is more war. Fighting and deprivation continue in Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have died and perhaps 3 million or more have fled their homes since February 2003.

In the South disputes remain in spite of a peace agreement. A credible census of the South has not been completed-necessary to ensure oil and other revenue-sharing with the North and to prepare the way for elections. Border disputes also remain, and led to armed conflict this past year in Abyei between Khartoum-backed militias and Kiir's southern forces. Abyei is a strategic region abutting Darfur as well as the North and South where oil revenues in 2007 were estimated at $529 million. Other outstanding disputes include the return of refugees, land reform, and reconciliation.

Observers don't expect these issues to be resolved in time for nationwide elections set for later this year, but they must see progress before a referendum on self-determination for the South set for 2011. During his U.S. trip, Kiir said he was concerned whether an Obama administration would take an active interest in the landmark vote. A diplomatic misstep at this juncture, Kiir believes, could lead to war.

Yet with Sudan on the verge of better peace or more war, the incoming president has not yet signaled that it's a priority. Susan Rice, an expert on South Sudan in the Clinton administration, was named ambassador to the UN, where she may be separated from Sudan policy formation in the new White House. Samantha Power, the Harvard professor who documented genocide in Sudan in her book, The Problem from Hell, had high marks as an Obama campaign adviser-until her remark that Hillary Clinton was "a monster" cost her her campaign post, and probably any position in a Clinton-led State Department. Some Sudan experts worry that Clinton's interest in Sudan will begin and end with Darfur, with its many Hollywood advocates. But as one official said, "There is no real solution for Darfur without successfully implementing CPA. Everything short of that just means more war."

Impetus on Sudan, noted Graham, may have to come from Obama himself: "If Obama were to make some strong overture to Sudan, say by inviting President Omar Bashir and Salva Kiir to Washington together, it could be a great encouragement for peace."


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