PILPG Update: Ambassador Morton Abramowitz and Paul Williams’ “Deals with the Devil: Thorny Diplomacy in Sudan” Published in The National Interest

July 8, 2011

PILPG Advisory Board Member Ambassador Morton Abramowitz and PILPG Executive Director Dr. Paul R. Williams’ commentary regarding Sudan appeared in the National Interest.  The article provides an insightful look at conflict in Sudan and U.S. policy.  Ambassador Abramowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation.  Dr. Paul R. Williams is the Executive Director of the Public International Law & Policy Group.

The full article is included below and is available here.

Deals with the Devil: Thorny Diplomacy in Sudan
By Paul R. Williams and Morton Abramowitz
July 1, 2011

Violence permeates Sudan—in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and on the border between North and South Sudan.  At the same time, diplomatic efforts have intensified in an attempt to ensure that the division of North and South Sudan is peaceful.  Just recently, an agreement, yet to be implemented, was reached to have a UN force inserted to separate the warring parties in the contested area (Abyei) between North and South.  While both sides have a real interest—oil revenues—in an accommodation, shared interests do not necessarily produce peace—and certainly not in Darfur.  A lengthy, difficult American diplomatic effort in Sudan is at a critical decision point.  Because force has been ruled out despite continuing large-scale war crimes, it’s time for the United States to take its diplomatic approach of engagement, but this time by the secretary of state, to Sudan’s highest level—an approach the U.S. has resisted because of the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against President Bashir.  Navigating between the moral and legal obligations of accountability and the need to fully utilize American diplomatic capabilities to end massive human suffering is very difficult, but it is a course President Obama must now pursue.

More specifically: the decade-long Darfur crisis has grown even uglier, but media attention has mostly evaporated.  The camps of millions of displaced persons are increasingly endangered, and humanitarian organizations find it harder to carry out their mission.  Reduced Western attention is largely a result of the effort this past year to achieve a peaceful North-South separation, as provided for in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) worked out by American negotiators.  The government in Khartoum is now wreaking major havoc on its own citizens in the Nuba Mountains, which is not a contested area but does have a large non-Arab population oriented to the South.  Meanwhile, along the North-South divide, Khartoum keeps trying to create new facts on the ground in its pursuit of oil-rich territory.

The response of Washington and its allies has been to continue a carefully crafted approach of threats, inducements and accommodation.  One cannot presume that this approach will ultimately produce a reasonably stable settlement between North and South or a return to normalcy in Darfur.  So far, evidence of that is at best uncertain.  The ability of the United States to normalize its relations with Sudan has been precluded by the North’s massive violence to achieve political objectives in its own fractured country.  Nor is the time frame for realizing the agreed division of the country open-ended; indeed, if success is not achieved soon, a cycle of violence could ensue, possibly leading to the destabilization of the frail South.

At this difficult stage the diplomatic playbook for all of Sudan calls for the deployment of America’s most senior diplomat—Secretary Clinton—to speak with the voice of the President.  She needs to make clear to Bashir and his top associates that future positive engagement with the United States is seriously on the table, and that a failure to abandon massive force as a political tool will result in a return to a U.S. policy of coercion, characterized by a renewed, intensive regime of sanctions and international isolation.  These changes must apply not only to an accommodation with the South but also to treatment of its own citizens.  No other U.S. diplomat can effectively or credibly make this case.

President Obama needs to make the politically difficult decision of whether to take the risk of launching what is sure to be a highly controversial diplomatic initiative or return to a policy of whatever coercion and sanctions we can execute.  Clearly, the muddled middle approach is no longer tenable.  The violence throughout Sudan is escalating even as hostilities in Darfur show no signs of ending after almost a decade.

Deploying the secretary of state does not guarantee that negotiations with Bashir will be successful.  The United States has not had much success dealing with an increasingly fractious Northern leadership.  On the other hand, President Bush was heavily involved in the successful negotiations to end the original North-South conflict: he called Bashir numerous times before settlement was achieved.  Washington does not possess the leverage or the power of persuasion it once did (absent a credible threat of force), but given the extent and duration of the human tragedy, a new intense American diplomatic effort is essential.

On the face of it, it appears as if the ICC—to which the US is not a signatory—effectively limits the ability of President Obama to engage at the highest levels with President Bashir.  The truth is that the inducements laid out before Bashir already run counter to the moral directive of a tribunal that has indicted him for genocide.  Moreover, the ICC operates in reality and understands that its role is to bring perpetrators to justice in order to end violent conflict and not inadvertently to prolong the violence.  Nevertheless, many will be aghast at this effort, and if it fails there will be a huge political cost.  Negotiating with even worst monsters, however, is not outside the experience of American leaders.

American policy is now conducted in the shadow of the ICC, but the people of Sudan—who have long relied on American political intervention to safeguard peace—merit an effort by President Obama to cut through the complexities to make progress on their terrible crisis.  If this effort fails, as it may well do, Obama has an obligation to fully embrace the reality described in the ICC indictment of Bashir, and to vigorously pursue negative inducements to contain his use of violence and to protect Sudan’s people.


Op-Ed: Genocide in Darfur: A Coward’s Way Out

Genocide in Darfur
A Coward’s Way Out

By Jamal Jafari and Paul R. Williams, The National Law Journal, October 22, 2007

As if Darfur hasn’t suffered enough, some Western diplomats want to punish victims of the genocide for dying in smaller numbers. The United Nations recently confirmed a decline in the death rate, which a diplomatic official, quoted anonymously in the Los Angeles Times, and echoing the sentiments of others, argues is evidence that the genocide is over. But according to international law, genocide ends only when murders, torture and destruction of food, water and shelter ends. Declaring a premature end to the genocide ignores the international community’s moral and legal obligations, rewards the Sudanese government and hinders efforts to stop this 4 1/2-year-long tragedy.

The genocide is alive and well in Darfur. According to the United Nations, 55,000 people have been displaced since June. Reports of large-scale attacks on civilians continued as recently as late August, and Amnesty International reports that the Sudanese government continues to transport military equipment into the region. The government and the Janjaweed militia continue to kill and maim civilians, while destroying their food and water stores. Women collecting firewood are still abducted and raped. Homes are still burned. In essence, it is still impossible for civilians to live in Darfur without international protection.

The government may have changed its tactics, but ethnic annihilation is still its goal. Instead of shooting, bombing and burning civilians to death en masse, the government and the Janjaweed prefer to ride into a town, kill a few civilians as a warning and let the rest flee into the unforgiving Sahara while their access to food and water is prevented — a death sentence simply by other means. Some civilians make it to international aid stations, but many do not. This represents the same intent pattern to empty Darfur of its indigenous African population.

These acts still constitute genocide. According to the Genocide Convention of 1948, genocide can encompass murder, serious assault or imposing conditions on a group “calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” The U.S. government found the convention to apply in Darfur when it categorized the atrocities as genocide in 2004. Today, the appropriate question is this: Will Sudan allow civilians in Darfur to live in peace with the basic necessities of life? The answer is no, as long as Sudan continues to murder, torture and rape civilians while blocking their access to food, water and shelter. Until these actions are halted, genocide will thrive. The convention poses no minimum requirement for suffering. Its language, supported by decisions of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, provides that genocide occurs when acts are committed with the intention “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” No mention is made of how many people have to die or how quickly. After it created 2.5 million refugees and killed 400,000 people, Sudan should not be rewarded for reducing the number of potential victims with a declaration that the genocide is over.

Genocide can end only when civilians in Darfur are able to live in peace. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and its sister tribunal for Yugoslavia, having prosecuted the most recent cases of genocide, looked to the presence, not the number, of genocidal acts to determine genocide. That means the atrocities against civilians must fully cease for diplomats to declare the genocide over. A good benchmark is whether many of the 2.5 million refugees can return to their homes in Darfur and live free from persecution. Unfortunately, refugees still choose to live in poorly equipped relief camps in the Chadian desert rather than risk living — or dying — under the government of Sudan.

Prematurely arguing for the end of genocide weakens international pressure. The Genocide Convention requires ratifying states to “prevent and punish” genocide, in part by calling on the United Nations to act. This language should be stronger, but it is the only means by which states can be compelled to act. When diplomats argue that the genocide is over based on no legal analysis, they undermine efforts to apply international pressure and risk reversing the few gains achieved. These gains, such as a consensus for an African Union force in Darfur and eroding international support

for the Sudanese government, could be undone by declaring the genocide over.

Just as key member states of the international community have weakened the Genocide Convention with their inaction, some diplomats now seek to use new facts as an excuse to ignore Darfur altogether. Genocide is not a crime of severity; it is a crime of intent. As long as Sudan and its agents act with the intention to eliminate civilians in Darfur, every weapon in the arsenal of the international community should be used to stop them. That means admitting that trying to wipe a group of people off the face of the earth still shocks our basic concept of humanity, whatever the latest death statistics report.

Jamal Jafari is senior peace fellow at the Public International Law & Policy Group. Paul. R. Williams is co-founder and executive director of PILPG and the Rebecca Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations at American University Washington College of Law.


PILPG Update: Morton Abramowitz’s “In Darfur, the worst may be yet to come,” published in The Washington Post

November 20, 2010

PILPG Advisory Board Member Morton Abramowitz’s commentary regarding Darfur was published in The Washington Post.  The article provides an insightful look at the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Darfur amid preparation for the North-South referendum.  Ambassador Abramowitz, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research from 1985–1989.

The full article is included below and is also available here.

In Darfur, the worst may be yet to come

By Morton Abramowitz
Friday, November 19, 2010; A23

Reports are trickling in of increasing government-supported violence against Darfuris, deteriorating humanitarian conditions and widespread attacks on war-torn Darfur’s beleaguered civil society.  But the world has done little to acknowledge, much less address, this rapidly declining situation.  Preparations for the North-South political referendum, which has potential for huge bloodletting, are sucking up all the oxygen.  Even if Sudan peacefully splits, Darfur is headed for humanitarian and political purgatory.

Among some of the more dismaying events:

  • In recent weeks Sudanese armed forces and elements of the Janjaweed armed militias have renewed attacks on villages throughout Darfur.  Radio reports tell of targeted attacks on civilians in areas where Darfuri rebels claim they have no forces.  Thousands of displaced people from razed villages are flooding westward into camps in Darfur, deepening problems for the displaced already there.
  • Khartoum is likely to close a major camp for more than 80,000 displaced persons in South Darfur soon, reportedly to ensure better security for a nearby airport.  Kalma is one of the oldest camps, and among its inhabitants are some of the most radicalized Darfuri rebels; in recent years, Kalma has been the site of intense clashes between rebel and government forces.  There are not sufficient places to send the displaced or humanitarian aid to help them, so their future is uncertain.  Efforts to move the displaced from Kalma could provoke still greater violence.
  • Most ominous of all, the government of Sudan is reported to be concertedly reaching out to additional Janjaweed forces that have long operated in Darfur for participation in a “final conclusion.”  Information remains sparse, but according to Darfuri sources, the operation is to begin this month and conclude just before the January referendum.  Armed supporters of the Sudanese government are being flown into the regional airport; at least one was heard declaring that he and fellow fighters had come to “clean” Darfur.  Efforts to silence journalists include the closing of Radio Dabanga’s offices in Khartoum.  Humanitarian workers are afraid to say much publicly for fear of being ejected by Khartoum and having their lifesaving work ended.

While the international community has expressed deep concerns about Darfur, little has been done to resolve the situation.  And failure to act makes things worse.  After U.N. Security Council officials visited the area last month, people who spoke with the officials were soon arrested.  Although the African Union/United Nations hybrid forces, known as UNAMID, have been monitoring the area, and Security Council resolutions have repeatedly called on Khartoum to change its policies, nothing has changed.

Since the genocide began in Darfur in 2003, the international community has provided massive humanitarian assistance.  But the early carnage was largely stopped only after many deaths – then as now, many countries have focused on working out a peace between North and South Sudan.

Meanwhile, internationally sponsored negotiations between Darfur rebels and Khartoum have gone nowhere.  Western rhetoric and threats against Khartoum over the past seven years have remained mere words.  The International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity may have an important long-term effect, but it has contributed little in the short term – and arguably has made resolving the situation in Darfur more difficult.  The biggest international achievement has been to keep several million displaced people alive in camps for years, no small feat, but that has not addressed the problems at their root.

The international focus on potential bloodshed as Sudan moves toward its January referendum is understandable.  But while we worry about the impact Sudan’s division may have on the rest of the world, Darfur gets the short end of the stick.  Two weeks ago, Washington informed Sudanese leaders of its willingness to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism without mention of the genocide in Darfur.  This decoupling of the Darfur issue may prove the most dangerous decision yet for Darfur.  This offer may not be enough to secure peace for the referendum, and the timing of this carrot could not be worse, coming just as Khartoum seeks to solidify its hold on Darfur through violence.  By using this option, the Obama administration has lost an important tool in preventing an almost certain intensification of the genocide in Darfur.

Indeed, if the North-South split proceeds peacefully from the referendum, the worst for Darfur is likely still to come.  With the loss of the South, Khartoum will certainly seek to cement its remaining domination of the rest of Sudan, which means more vigorous indiscriminate killings, more “cleansing” and more attacks by the government-backed Janjaweed.  If the international community does not pay attention now, this will not be the end of conflict in Sudan but just the beginning of another equally horrible chapter.  Unfortunately, it is hard to be optimistic that nations will find the means to prevent it.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research institution.