Sudan sees 'positive points' in new US strategy that offers 'incentives' for Omar al-Bashir's regime to cooperate fully with international peace efforts.
Johannesburg, South Africa
After seven months of quiet shuttle diplomacy, the Obama administration announced today a significant change in the way that it deals with Sudan, shifting from hard-edged sanctions to "engagement" with the regime of President Omar al-Bashir.
Calling its new policy a "comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan," President Obama on Monday told reporters in Washington that he will reenact tough sanctions with the government in Khartoum – which the US in the past has accused of genocide in Darfur – but will hold out "incentives" for Khartoum if it improves its record on human rights and the advancement of peace.
"Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose," Mr. Obama said, adding that it is necessary to ensure that Sudan remains stable to prevent it from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Obama's move comes at a time when Sudan's top issues – the conflict in Darfur, the fragile peace agreement between the North and South, and the African criticism of International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir on war crimes – all appear to be going in the wrong direction.
While human rights groups warn against any softening in the international community's pressure on Sudan, some Africa observers welcome the new carrot-and-stick approach to a set of issues that weren't improved by using sticks alone.
The key difference between Obama's policy and that of his predecessor, says Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at the Social Science Research Council in New York, is that Obama realizes the US cannot achieve its goals by mere tough talk, and going it alone.