An unnamed American official is non-too-pleased with the Bush administration’s moves to normalize relations with Sudan, and so leaks to Helen Cooper documents detailing the entente. The United States, reports Cooper, is offering to take Sudan off the list of state sponsors of terror and take steps to normalize relations if Sudan agrees to cooperate more fully on the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Why would this official think this is such a bad idea? Roger Winter, a former USAID and State Department official with twenty-years experience in Sudan explains: “Given the fact that Khartoum has been involved in negotiations repeatedly over the years regarding Darfur and the comprehensive peace agreements and has signed documents and consistently failed to implement what they’ve signed, why are we discussing normalization with them?”
I think this is exactly the point. Khartoum has yet to live up to most of the agreements it has signed. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (which ended a 20 year civil war between the Islamist government in the Khartoum and southern rebels) is on the verge of collapse because the government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from some of its key passages, including on the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region. The Darfur Peace Agreement was basically dead on arrival–and the government (to this day) routinely violates its obligations contained therein. The President of Sudan, Omar el Bashir has also backed down from personal commitments he has made to the Secretary General to desist from the government’s campaign to retard the deployment of UNAMID.
This “is a fool me twice, shame on me” sort of situation. And we’ve been fooled time and time again. As John Prendergast of the Enough Campaign (and formerly of the NSC) likes to point out, Khartoum tends to respond only under pressure or the threat of pressure. For real progress to take hold in Darfur, the United States should work with the international community to press the government of Sudan to comply with the agreements it has already made–not reward a regime that has consistently failed to live up to its past agreements.