Simon Deng called me earlier today and expressed alarm at the lack of leadership by the Obama administration concerning the dire situation in Sudan. Hillary Clinton called it a "ticking time bomb." Catastrophe is imminent. The Bush administration put the conflict on hold through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and a vote for independence for the South, which has suffered unspeakable genocide at the hands of Muslims.
Sudan is weeks away from the scheduled start of a referendum that would lead to independence for the largely Christian south, and liberate it from the brutal violence and genocide exacted by the Muslim North.
But the Islamic government of Bashir in Khartoum wants the vote to fail, and has already violated the terms of the agreement. Southern Sudan appealed to the Obama adminstration, which passed the buck to the UN. Its response was hardly unexpected, considering the fact that the UN is driven largely by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Simon Deng has said this is Obama's Rwanda moment:
"… whether they’re going to remain under the islamization and arabization, under enslavement, or they’re going to choose freedom for the first time. I, for one, don’t want to go back to being a slave again. I’ve tasted freedom. I’m proud today to stand in this country, as a free man, speaking to free people.
Of course they’re going to chose freedom. Because freedom is a God given right to all human beings. That being said, we, the people of South Sudan, for sixty years we went through a lot at the hands of the sitting governments in Khartoum. They slaughtered three and a half million South Sudanese. They enslaved thousands. They turned their arms and guns on the people in the Nuba Mountains. They turned their arms and guns on the people in the Blue Nile. And the world came to their senses by saying what happened in western Sudan in Darfur region is genocide."
Simon Deng will be traveling to Washington, DC this week and next week to "walk barefoot" through the Senate and talk to every Senator on Capitol Hill, so that they can't feign ignorance or pretend they were unaware of the coming massacre.
"The Secretary of State, a month ago, Hillary Clinton, said that the problem in South Sudan is a “ticking time bomb”. We don’t want to go back. We don’t want to go back to Islam. We don’t want to go back to enslavement. We don’t want to go back to arabization. We are proud as Africans in that continent. Sudan is the land of the blacks.
And that is why we don’t want to turn our backs to our brothers in Darfur. … after southern Sudan becomes independent next year we’re still going to be their voice because they’re being victimized the way we’re being victimized in that country. We’re going to Washington to ask our (United States) government that CPA that we talk about it is the legacy of the American government and, I’m speaking directly to President Obama, he was there with me when we talked about the issue in the South Sudan as a senator, shoulder to shoulder, when we talked about the Southern Sudan. I’m asking you, why are you distancing yourself from me, why are you distancing yourself from the issue of Sudan? Why are you putting heavyweights to be envoys here and envoys there, and you’re sending someone who has to learn on the job to be the envoy, knowing the magnitude of the problem in the Sudan? (more here.)"
Sudan's oil-producing south is 66 days away from the scheduled start of a politically sensitive referendum on whether to secede or stay part of Sudan, a vote promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.
Sudan's Muslim north and its south have still not agreed on the position of their shared border and analysts fear conflict could re-erupt in contested zones, some of which contain oil.
"There will not be UN peacekeepers on the buffer zone, it's unrealistic," Alain le Roy, UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told journalists shortly after concluding a meeting with representatives from the African Union and several other countries in the Ethiopian capital.
"The common borderline is too wide and (it) is not realistic to deploy troops," he added.
Diplomats from the UN and the AU have announced that there will be months of "intensive" talks starting with a five-day meeting in Khartoum that begins Sunday aimed at reaching a consensus over the contested oil region of Abyei.
The U.N. has 10,000 peacekeepers stationed in Sudan, not counting its joint mission with the African Union in the western province of Darfur.
Most of the 10,000 are in the south and in three former civil war battle ground areas along the border. More than 2 million people died during the two-decade long war between Sudan's Islamic north and the south, where most are Christians or follow traditional religions.
Southern officials have accused Khartoum of arming militias to provoke conflict and demonstrate the south cannot govern itself ahead of the 2011 secession poll, scheduled for January 9.
Ambassador John Bolton explained it this way:
Although the conflict between Khartoum and Darfur has dominated the news in recent years, the proximate cause for dissolving the country now is the postponed but still simmering conflict between Mr. Bashir's Islamicist central government and the Christian and animist South. For decades, the South resisted Khartoum's efforts to impose its religious law on the entire country. Then, in 2005, the George W. Bush administration put this conflict on hold through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). While the CPA halted the ongoing genocide against the South, it was only a truce, not a lasting peace. Critical to gaining the South's agreement was the commitment to a referendum in January 2011, when the South could vote whether to remain part of Sudan or become independent.
That referendum is now the main focus. Neutral observers almost unanimously think a free and fair referendum would produce an overwhelming pro-independence vote. Those same observers think Mr. Bashir's government will do almost anything, including resorting to military force, to prevent losing the South and its huge oil and other natural resources.
Wrenching disagreements within the Obama administration are reinforcing the impression that our president is not willing to confront the Khartoum government. Mr. Obama's "open hand" policy toward rogue states, which has failed so notably with Iran and North Korea, is similarly failing in Sudan. Mr. Obama's special Sudan envoy, retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, has essentially cuddled up to Mr. Bashir, hoping he can thereby persuade Khartoum not to use military force. Mr. Obama's meetings with Southern Sudan leaders and others at the United Nations General Assembly's opening have not produced major breakthroughs.