The panel discussion "Making Peace in Sudan" took place at the 60th annual conference in November, 2006.
Making Peace in Sudan
November 14, 2006
Tim Carney, John Prendergast, Adam Shapiro, Peter Bechtold
Each of the panel's three main presenters offered different introductions to Sudan, revealing their specific interests in the country. Moderator Peter Bechtold gave an overview of Sudan's diversity and complexity, as well as the infrastructural and political problems that these differences have created. Adam Shapiro focused on Darfur, highlighting the importance of listening to people's stories and working with their traditions to find peaceful solutions to the conflict in Darfur. Ambassador Carney, formerly the US ambassador to Sudan, brought the focus back to the state of Sudan, concentrating on both the conflicts which culminated in signed treaties, and policy prescriptions to handle those conflicts which remain unresolved. Lastly, John Prendergast contextualized the resurgence of violence in Darfur, and proceeded to recommend five ways in which the United States could attain compliance from Khartoum to halt the conflict in Darfur.
Peter Bechtold spoke first, introducing many complexities which make a comprehensive understanding of Sudan challenging. The size of Sudan and its sprawling geography has made cultivation of a system of roads or of an embedded political structure impossible. The diversity unique to Sudan, with 597 tribes, 400 different dialects, and 92 cultural identities, is inherently challenging. While the current crisis in Darfur has been categorized as a conflict between Arabs and Africans, the internal conflict is best described as one in which the heterogeneity of the region is exploited based upon tribal roles to further the interests of the government.
Adam Shapiro stressed the importance of listening to the stories of Darfurians themselves. His trip to Darfur in October and November of 2004 was spurred by his impression that something far more horrific was underway than was visible in the public eye. Due to a lack of firsthand stories and knowledge of popular sentiments, it is harder to find a workable solution when forging peace agreements. The stipulations of the Darfur Peace Agreement enraged many Darfurians, because the peace deal called for the integration of the Janjaweed into the police force without handing over their arms, yet did not accommodate any of the rebel groups’ objectives. While stopping the violence has been the immediate focus, what is an equally important consideration for sustainable peace is the integration of traditional methods of problem solving to provide reconciliation rather than reward for the ongoing conflict.
Ambassador Carney argued that the Sudanese government is responsive to international concern at a certain level, but also attempts to diffuse the insurgency which it fears. The government has been actively attempting to diffuse insurgencies through dividing rebel movements, as in Darfur, or signing treaties, as in Eastern Sudan. While the prospect of a hybrid United Nations and African Union force is often advocated, Carney discussed the necessity of bolstering US assistance to the African Union forces already deployed in Darfur. When looking at the necessary policy prescriptions, whatever the means, the desired aims are stability, security, prosperity and an emphasis on human rights.
John Prendergast began by referencing how the Darfur Peace Agreement has worsened the situation in Darfur: the weaponry of the Janjaweed has been improved and they have been changing their strategy to target IDPs, who have been forced to flee. Violence has been brought back up to 2003-2004 levels, only possible through recycling the targets through a divide and destroy strategy Prendergast called for the application of leverage to force action by the Sudanese government, since no past efforts have achieved compliance. His suggestions for attaining such leverage were five-pronged. Imposing sanctions on companies who do direct business with the ruling party in Sudan would shine a light on both the culpable senior leadership and on the corruption. If the sanctions regime was successful, the share price would decline, asking both the companies and the government to reconsider their policies. He advocated conducting an International Criminal Court investigation, forcing accountability and international cooperation.
The Question and Answer period was dominated by a discussion on which sort of policy to pursue, and whether that policy should be similar to constructive engagement, as the current administration has pursued, or a policy with far more sticks than carrots, where sanctions are the chief method by which compliance is attained. Carney advocated a treaty in which dia, or integration of traditional ideas as Shapiro had mentioned in his panel presentation, is used to make the treaty stronger, since cultural histories cannot be changed. Much of the United States’ counterterrorism information has been garnered from an official presently in the Sudanese government, the chief architect of the conflict in Darfur and ally of Osama bin Laden; maintaining this liaison, Prendergast argued, was a major objective of US dealings with Khartoum. Without the use of sticks in the policy the US pursues toward Sudan, a tacit consent is given to Sudan’s government, much like the policy of constructive engagement, and Sudan is never dissuaded from the manipulative and destructive policies that it pursues.
About this Event
This panel took place at the National Press Club during the Middle East Institute's 60th Annual Conference on November 14, 2006.
Hailey Flynn prepared this event summary. She is a junior at Georgetown University majoring in Culture and Politics, with a concentration in Development in the Middle East and Africa, and is an intern for the Development Department at the Middle East Institute. She has been a member of STAND: An Anti-Genocide Coalition since August of 2005, and has lead both Political Action and Divestment Initiatives in 2006. Henry Bowles, a Publications Department intern and a recent Northwestern University graduate, peer-edited this summary.