Solutions to Violent Conflict

The U.S. Role in Building Peace in Sudan

In Peace, Sudan on April 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm

First day of voting in the South Sudan referendum. Photo: United Nations (Flickr)

Peter Quaranto

The United States has been actively engaged in seeking to prevent a return of North-South war in Sudan. The U.S. worked with international partners to assure that the Southern Sudan referendum in January was on time and peaceful and that the results were respected by all parties.

President Obama was personally involved, participating in an event at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010 that mobilized world leaders to focus on the referendum. The President’s entire national security team joined the effort, making phone calls, traveling to the region, and engaging with Sudanese leaders.

The State Department and USAID provided technical support for the referendum process, procuring materials, training staff, and deploying observers. This was one of the most observed electoral processes in modern history, which helped ensure its credibility so that leaders in Khartoum or anywhere else would not be able to question the legitimacy of the outcome.

The referendum was one of the most observed electoral processes in modern history, which ensured its credibility and the legitimacy of the outcome.

The State Department also appointed former Ambassador Princeton Lyman to facilitate negotiations between the North and the South. I work with Ambassador Lyman on a team that provides support for the negotiations. In the run-up to the referendum, our work focused on removing roadblocks and resolving disagreements about the vote. Now we’re working with former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel to encourage the parties to reach agreements on outstanding issues, with a particular focus on the Abyei area, which is heavily contested by the North and the South.

STABILIZATION TEAMS

In the last two years, the U.S. government has tripled its official presence in Southern Sudan. Our consulate in Juba has grown substantially. We are deploying “stabilization teams” — interagency groups working in regional capitals and towns throughout Southern Sudan to engage local officials on conflict mitigation and prevention. The deployment of these stabilization teams is a new development and is managed through the State Department’s office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. The teams’ mission is to help people in the South deal with the many differences and challenges they face in moving toward political independence.

USAID also continues to be very engaged in the South. The United States is the largest donor to Sudan and is funding a range of programs designed to mitigate conflict in the border areas and across the South.

The Obama administration has developed a roadmap for the government of Sudan to move towards normalizing relations with the U.S. The administration is offering economic support to the Khartoum government if it follows through on its commitments to respect the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the South and if it helps to end the armed violence in Darfur. The first steps in implementing the roadmap are underway.

If the Khartoum government follows through, the U.S. will remove Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list as early as July.

In response to Khartoum recognizing and respecting the outcome of the January referendum, the U.S. has initiated a process of withdrawing Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. That process will take some time under U.S. law. We’ve told Khartoum that during the interim it must not support terrorism and must comply with its commitments under the CPA. If in fact the Khartoum government follows through, the U.S will remove Sudan from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list as early as July.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The administration has indicated a willingness to take further steps if Sudan fulfills its commitments under the peace agreement and takes action to stem the violence in Darfur. The U.S. is prepared to move toward exchanging ambassadors, licensing U.S. investments in non-oil sectors of the economy, expanding opportunities for U.S. international companies to do business in Sudan, and beginning a dialogue on easing the government’s huge international debt burden. The steps will depend on progress in both South Sudan and Darfur.

The U.S. remains deeply concerned about the situation in Darfur. While violence has diminished in some parts of the region, it has intensified elsewhere. In recent weeks the administration has appointed a senior advisor to support the Darfur peace process and work with the parties to end atrocities and armed violence. That work is ongoing and will continue to be a part of our dialogue with the Khartoum government well beyond July.

There is still a long way to go and much work to be done to secure lasting peace in Sudan and South Sudan. But the success of the referendum demonstrated that the Sudanese parties are capable of working together to overcome their differences and move toward a more hopeful future for their people.

Peter Quaranto ND ’06 is a member of the North/South Team in the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, U.S. Department of State. This post was drawn from remarks delivered at “Sudan after the Referendum: What Happens Next?,” a panel at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, March 23, 2011.