Friday, April 16, 2010

Sudan's Elections and the Obama Administration's Strategy for Sudan

Sudan Elections 2010: A Poor Return on U.S. and Western Investments
(Draft Version: Updates to follow)

It is heartwarming to view the many photo essays and videos showing the people of Sudan going to the polls to elect their leaders for the first time in 24 years. I cannot help but be impressed by the hope and determination displayed by the Sudanese people who have decided to exercise their right to choose a government after so many decades of atrocities suffered during a devastating civil war and rule under a brutal and corrupt regime. It reminds me of the historic 2005 presidential and 2006 parliamentary elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo where people walked through the bush for days for the chance to cast their votes after a dictatorship lasting more than 40 years.

But at the same time I also cannot help but wonder why in the world is the government of my country (the USA) and the European Union investing more than USD$ 300 million into elections that are obviously rigged to favor the National Congress Party (NCP) and their presidential candidate Lt. General Omar al Bashir who collectively are responsible for the deaths of more than 2.5 million people (mainly the “black African” tribes of southern Sudan). They are responsible for the largest mass murder (a.k.a. genocide) of innocent civilians since Rwanda (1994), responsible for the rape, pillage, plunder, and internal displacement of more than 5 million people (primarily from southern Sudan, the Nuba mountains, and Darfur) without bothering to pick up the tab in desperately needed financial support and the massive humanitarian assistance necessary to keep Sudanese refugees alive?

Why in the world are the governments of the United States, France, the U.K., Germany, Canada, and other western countries donating taxpayer dollars (and Euros) to an election that will surely keep an indicted war criminal and his cronies in power for another 5 years? The Government of the United States has spent more than USD$ 6 billion in taxpayer dollars for “humanitarian assistance” to Sudan since 2005 making it the largest single donor country. And every time you turn around here is Omar al Bashir on international TV news and in the press threatening western aid workers, threatening western election observers, roughing-up western diplomats, arresting western journalists and throwing them into jail, defying international laws governing war crimes and crimes against humanity, defying international courts and inter-governmental bodies (the ICC at The Hague, the UN). How many times have we seen this despicable despot on the back of a camel or riding in the back of one of his “desert pickups” surrounded by a crowd of his mindless soldiers and political devotees shouting “Death to America, Down with the West!”? And we are sending money to the government of this guy so that he can be elected?

According to officials in the Obama administration the U.S. Government will spend over USD$ 2billion in aid to Sudan for the year 2010 (see USAID Sudan Monthly Update March 2010 newsletter and this October 19, 2009 U.S. State Department background briefing on Sudan). Countries such as China, Malaysia, and the Gulf States have been bankrolling this bloody regime in Khartoum for years. How much money have they donated to these “free and fair democratic elections” in Sudan and how much financial support and humanitarian personnel have they sent to assist the millions of refugees and IDP’s (internally displaced persons) living in abysmal conditions in camps, villages and cities across this vast African country?

No matter how encouraging the images of women and men lining up to cast their votes all across the Sudan, no matter the beauty and strength one sees in the faces of these diverse people who proudly identify themselves as Sudanese, the nightmare images of burned out and bombed villages, the haunting tales of women who have suffered mass rape and witnessed the wanton murder of their men and children at the hands of Omar al Bashir’s Janjaweed militias, air force and national army, keep me from holding out any hope for these sham elections, realizing that they will only bring more of the same outrageous behavior, atrocities, displacement, and conflict that we have witnessed in Sudan under the NCP regime for more than 20 years.

The fact that U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration and other key members of President Obama’s cabinet and administration may give a hint of legitimacy to these elections, reinforced by a possible nod of approval from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his team of independent election observers, is simply chilling. Before President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make any public announcements about these elections they need to carefully consider if the millions and billions of taxpayer dollars already spent on bringing peace and good governance to Sudan is yielding positive returns on America’s investment so far. And if the answer is NO, then it is time for “Plan B” of the much heralded Obama Sudan Strategy (OSS) released to the public in October 2009. It may be time to bring out “the big sticks” referred to in the White House Sudan Strategy and bring them out quickly and without mercy against this most dangerous and bloody regime in Africa’s largest country. And while you are at it, see if you can get some of our taxpayer billions $$$ back from these crooks and scoundrels.

In the meantime, my readers may enjoy reading and viewing some of the following articles and editorials on the Sudan Elections 2010. For readers with access to a broadband Internet connection, please check the excellent video podcast at CNN’s Amanpour website featuring discussions with the former U.S. Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and the South Sudan Representative to the U.S. Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth). Also have a look at the coverage of the Sudan elections by BBC World News anchor Zeinab Badawi (see her exclusive interview with the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir) on BBC News HardTalk program). Last but not least don’t miss Riz Khan’s interview with Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth and former Government of Sudan spokesman Dr. Sayed el-Khatib at Al Jazeera - English.

Amanpour on CNN International (International edition)
Amanpour Blog » Bush official raps Obama on Sudan
Amanpour full length video podcasts at iTunes (Apple iTunes Store)

BBC News Sudan Election Coverage – Zeinab Badawi and HardTalk
Hardtalk - Sudan's Vice-President Salva Kiir boycotts elections
BBC News - World News Today - Sudan election polls are 'a farce'
BBC News - World News Today - The impact of sanctions on Sudan
BBC News - World News Today - The "hungriest place on earth"

Al Jazeera English – The Riz Khan Show
Al Jazeera English - Sudan Elections 2010
Al Jazeera English - RIZ KHAN - Sudan's election crisis
YouTube - Riz Khan on Aljazeera - Sudan's election crisis

Related News Articles, Editorials, Commentary and other Resources
Note to my readers:
A complete and exhaustive list of related articles, editorials, and commentary shall follow via updates to this post over the next few days.

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Mahid said...

Mr. bell i am reading, i am reading, keep on writing, looking forward to reading more

brisante Thesen said...

The "black African v. Arab" trope is repeated over and over, and it is just not true. I'm not saying that the Sudanese regime is praiseworthy, but I just can't agree with this, "we" should "do something about Darfur."

Please read Mahmood Mamdani on Darfur:

BRE said...

Thanks for the comment "brisante". It is nice to have a visitor from the American midwest with a good knowledge of German history and literature as well as knowledge about Sudan and other African countries. I am well aware of Professor Mahmood Mamdani's points of view re: the history of the conflict(s) in Darfur and throughout the region. A good place for readers to learn more about Mahmood Mamdani is at Alex de Waal's blog on Sudan.

Since you have spent a year at Universit├Ąt Tubingen I would be interested in your views on the relationship between Sub-Saharan Africans and "Arabs" and other people from the Middle East here in Germany (and other European countries). I think that it is undeniable that there are a number of "issues" between these various ethnic groups here in Europe, oder nicht?

Again, thank you for the visit and good luck in your studies and travels.