Why Obama administration’s soft policy towards Sudan may be misguided

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Thursday, 09 April 2009 03:02
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Akol Aguek is NSV contributor
Over the past few weeks, President Obama has been very clear on breaking from the past administration’s policies both at the international and domestic arena. It is fair to say that most of his decisions to reverse Bush’s policies have been welcomed by many Americans. Unfortunately, many Southern Sudanese I spoke with aren’t pleased at all with his Sudan envoy appointment because the individual that has been offered the job is not an expert on Sudanese issues and all the best names floated so far have been shelved by the administration. 

Last week, the world has seen the new administration’s face in Sudan speaking.  Addressing the press conference in Khartoum, Mr. Gration emphasized “It is a real honor for me to be here in Sudan and to have this privilege to have this first looking and listening tour. The objective of this trip is to look, listen, and learn. I am coming here with no illusions, with no preconceived ideas, and no solutions” (Sudan Tribune, April 3, 2009).

He reiterated: “The United States and Sudan want to be partners and so we are looking for opportunities for us to build a stronger bilateral relationship. And I come here with my hands open and it will be up to the Sudanese government to determine how they want to continue with that relationship, hopefully it will be with a hand of friendship, hand of cooperation, and one that we can move ahead.” 

Can someone help me understand why the envoy is there in Sudan in the first place? Is he there to build bilateral relationship between the US and Sudan or is he there to pressure the regime to reverse its decision of expelling the aid organizations and have them back to feed the starving Darfuris?

Isn’t he there to pressure the regime to end the genocide in Darfur and fully implement the comprehensive peace agreement?

What has been very astonishing about this press conference was the lack of reference to Darfur, CPA and/or the breakdown of Abyei Protocol. The envoy’s talks on partnership and cooperation with Bashir made him sound like he wasn’t there to give an indicted president and his isolated regime clear and unambiguous choice to end the killings and bring peace to the entire Sudan.

By stating that he was coming to Sudan with no preconceived ideas and illusions on Sudan, the US Peace Envoy Gration slapped the past regime’s critics in the face and implied that the new administration thinks those individuals aren’t helpful in bringing peace to Sudan.

The peace envoy didn’t have to go there and beg the regime for partnership, and cooperation because it (the regime) has no legitimacy among the Sudanese people. He didn’t have to go there and imply that those who expressed their ideas on Sudanese affairs in the past are somehow illusory and wrong in their judgments because they were right to speak their minds for this regime has ruined the lives of its own people. He didn’t have to go there and publicly avoid referring to CPA and other Sudanese problems for fear of angering Khartoum because doing so may have undercut [Obama’s] administration’s efforts to bring peace to Sudan.

Folks, we now know where the administration stands when it comes to Sudanese affairs. We all fought hard to have the administration appoint the new envoy and this is what we got thus far.  This is the administration’s position on Sudan being stated publicly right before our eyes. It is nothing but begging Khartoum for partnership and cooperation. It is a strategic move by the administration to avoid prior administration’s hawkish position on Khartoum which undoubtedly proved to the whole world that it worked as demonstrated by the CPA that ended the world’s longest civil war.

Mr. President Obama, it is important for you to know that anything that your administration does to imply US weakness in standing up to Bashir will embolden Bashir to avoid Hague and abrogate CPA once and for all. It will be a sellout to all Southern Sudanese who stood with you during your bid for US presidency.

As for Democrats, history tells us that President John F. Kennedy remains one of the great American presidents but given his Bay of Pigs Fiasco in Cuba, Cuban Americans have not forgiven him to this day. That is why Florida has remained battleground state today. If Cuban Americans where at the Democratic column, Al Gore would have won Florida and thus the US Presidency in 2000. Of course, John Kerry would have won Florida and therefore obviated his need for winning Ohio in 2004. He would have won the US presidency as well. A simple mistake made by President Kennedy in the 1960s made George W. Bush wins US Presidency twice in a row because Cuban Americans stuck with Republicans forever.  They firmly believe that Democrats sold them out to Castro when the US President Kennedy (who happened to be a Democrat at the time) encouraged them to rise up against Fidel Castro with US promise to back their revolution but were only allowed to be butchered by Castro with no US help in sight.

Let your (Democratic) administration allow Bashir time to blow the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; a legacy of George Walker Bush and you’d have sent us to Republican column forever.

Akol Aguek Ngong is an MBA student at the University of Vermont; Assistant Director of Admissions at the same institution; and a regular Contributor to the New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.