Time Running Is Out to Salvage a Peace Agreement in Sudan, U.S. Envoy Says

 
By Mary Beth Sheridan
     May 13 (Washington Post) -- Time is running out to salvage a
peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running war, a key U.S.
official said Wednesday, but he rejected suggestions that the
Obama administration is not paying enough attention to the
political turmoil in Sudan.
     Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, the special
envoy to Sudan, acknowledged to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee that preparations for a critical element of the peace
accord -- a referendum on independence for southern Sudan -- are
behind schedule. Many analysts fear that southern Sudan's
secession could result in renewed fighting.
     "We have to redouble our efforts," Gration said, adding, "I
think it's possible to get done everything we need to get done,
but we can't waste another minute."
     Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked the envoy whether it would
make his job easier if Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
and U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice "took a more visible role in
this, so as to heighten the level of importance that our American
government places on this issue."
     Wicker also read a letter from Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.)
calling on Obama to put those two senior officials more directly
in charge of Sudan policy.
     Gration responded that Rice is already "working the issue
very hard" and that Clinton "has been superb." He added: "She
continues to help in every way she can."
     Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) echoed Wicker's
concerns. Kerry told Gration: "I think you ought to get a little
more leverage on this effort, because I don't think it's going to
happen at the current pace."
     Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the national intelligence director,
has said that of all the countries at risk of experiencing a
widespread massacre in the next five years, "a new mass killing
or genocide is most likely to occur in southern Sudan."
     The referendum, expected to be held in January, will be
about allowing southern Sudan, which is mostly Christian and
animist, to secede from the Arabic-speaking Muslim north. Many
analysts have expressed concern that tensions over the vote, and
the fate of oil reserves along the potential new border, could
trigger a resumption of a two-decade war that led to the deaths
of 2 million people.
     Gration said important issues such as defining the new
borders and the division of oil revenues must be resolved. In
addition, he said, he is worried about voter registration for
southern Sudanese living elsewhere.
     "They have to register people outside, in 14 different
nations, and they don't have a system achieved to do that," he
said.
     He noted that a recent national Sudanese election was marred
by violations of civil liberties and harassment of opposition
groups. "We have to take lessons from the election," he said.
     The 2005 peace agreement provided for religious and
political autonomy in southern Sudan until the referendum, set
for 2011.
     John Norris, executive director of the anti-genocide Enough
Project, criticized Gration after the hearing. Norris said in a
statement:
     "There still seems to be a real reluctance to take concrete
measures and impose tangible costs for Sudanese President [Omar
Hassan] al-Bashir's continued abuses. . . . In order to prevent a
return to full-scale, national war, the U.S. must marshal more
resources, exert more pressure, and hold all parties
accountable."
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