Historic Opening for Peace Exists in Sudan, U.S. Official Says

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
December 15, 2004
By Jim Fisher-Thompson

Ranneberger says North-South peace, Darfur problem must be solved in tandem

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Michael Ranneberger sees a "historic" opportunity for a peace settlement that will end Sudan's 21-year-long civil war, which has killed 2 million people and displaced millions more, and will have far-reaching effects on the region and the war on terror.

In a speech he delivered to the Providence, Rhode Island, Committee on Foreign Relations December 9, later made available to the Washington File, Ranneberger addressed the prospects for peace in Sudan and U.S. policy toward the embattled nation.

He cautioned: "We must be realistic about the difficulties ahead, but also see the potential for historic change. As so often is the case, hope and despair hang in the balance. The long-suffering people of Sudan deserve our utmost commitment and our prayers. There is reason to be hopeful."

Noting that "nowhere has President Bush's strong interest in Africa been more in evidence than on Sudan," Ranneberger said the administration's policy includes:

-- A comprehensive, just peace settlement for the entire country. "Ending the conflict in Sudan will contribute to regional stability in the strategic Horn of Africa and will send a positive message to the people of the Middle East that even the most intractable conflicts can be resolved," he said.

-- A peace settlement with a revised constitution and bill of rights that would protect the fundamental freedoms of all Sudanese. This will result in democratic change and a more moderate Sudanese government, and will complement efforts to enhance cooperation against terrorism. Sudan is on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and, Ranneberger said, "We have made clear to the Sudanese government that we expect it to cooperate fully against terrorism."

-- Continued delivery of humanitarian assistance "to all needy populations in the country. Achieving peace will help end massive human suffering and promote human rights," he said.

Ranneberger stressed that "these elements apply to the crisis in Darfur as much as they do to efforts to achieve a North-South peace agreement. The two situations are inextricably related, and must be resolved in tandem. There are two tracks, but they must lead to the same place: peace and change in Sudan."

Even though America has facilitated the Sudan peace process, he emphasized that such "conflict intervention ... can only work if the parties themselves are committed to achieving peace, and if the countries of their region are willing to work for peace. That is why we have, from the outset, supported the African-based and African-led negotiations under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). At the same time, we are providing strong support for the African Union efforts in Darfur."

Of Darfur, Ranneberger said: "The U.S. has made it one of its highest foreign policy priorities. As soon as the dimensions of what was happening in Darfur became clear, the U.S. acted," insisting on action through the U.N. Security Council, dramatically increasing humanitarian assistance and brokering a cease-fire agreement between the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels."

As for the larger North-South peace talks taking place in Kenya, Ranneberger said, "Indications are that the two sides expect to sign the peace accord by December 31," but he added, "Sudanese leaders themselves bear principal responsibility for making the process work.

"They will take ownership in part through the establishment of their own Assessment and Evaluation Commission to monitor implementation, as called for in the Machakos [Kenya] Protocol. Their leadership coupled with strong international assistance holds out hope that the unity of the country can be maintained -- a goal that they say they share and that the international community supports."

"The signing of a North-South accord and the ending of violence and atrocities in Darfur would meet our conditions to begin the process of normalizing bilateral relations" between the United States and Sudan, Ranneberger said.

He further explained, "Removal of the various sets of sanctions on Sudan will be tied both to specific legal conditions (for example, with respect to Trafficking in Persons and the State Sponsors of Terrorism List) and to the parties' good faith implementation of their accord (especially governance provisions)."

Finally, he noted that "a Sudan that is peaceful and no longer isolated by the international community will also play an important role in promoting stability in the strategic Horn of Africa and will continue to cooperate in the global war on terrorism."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)