Despite the fact that the International Criminal Court has charged President Bashir with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, he remains free.
I’ve been a Sudan activist since 2003 when I met Mamer, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who was concerned about the genocide in Darfur. Together we celebrated the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and its promise of democratic transformation – a promise that was broken five years later as we witnessed rigged elections that were sanctioned by an indifferent international community and that guaranteed Southern Sudanese second class citizenship. As a result, Southern Sudanese voted for independence; Mamer began to re-build his life in his new country; and I continued to support those in Sudan who struggle and suffer to establish the country envisioned in the CPA – a country “based on the free will of its people, democratic governance, accountability, equality, respect, and justice for all citizens.”
By Esther Sprague February 13, 2014 - I’ve been a Sudan activist since 2003 when I met Mamer, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who was concerned (…)
What I liked best about Special Envoy Williamson is that he was matter-of-fact and always operated from a clear set of values. At the March 2013, Act for Sudan Emergency Action Summit, he acknowledged that while the Bush administration “over reached”, the Obama administration has “over corrected, where the Administration wants to disengage and retrench, which is another way to say, ‘we want to do as little as possible unless we feel politically compelled to act.’” He reminded us of the independence of South Sudan and “what happens when the President of the United States does get engaged, and gets his Vice President engaged, and gets the Secretary of State engaged personally…it [became] critical for Bashir to recalibrate…and allow the referendum.” Williamson asked, “is it too much to expect that type of commitment, as least every once in awhile, to move what is an ongoing humanitarian crisis?” He went on to say, “the moral test of a foreign policy for the U.S. government is how a government helps the suffering, the voiceless victims and gives hope to the hopeless, and in Sudan, we failed the test.” Williamson was the first government official to publicly debunk the value of Sudan intelligence on the war against terror, characterizing it as “not worth the spit on your shoes.” He summed up how Khartoum outsmarts the U.S. and the international community with a strategy of “deny, delay, divert and replay.” He explained, “so they deny what’s happening, violate humanitarian law by denying humanitarian access, and they create elaborate negotiations schemes, which are a diversion, and then they stretch it out in delays…then when they’ve played that string out, they start over again, and the death and the despair and the destruction continue.” Williamson recognized President Obama’s commitment to a legacy of social justice and he urged activists to get the attention of the President, especially with the regard to the concept of accountability and the rule of law, which have been American driven, in order to stop the suffering in Sudan. Williamson concluded his remarks by reminding us that “values should animate foreign policy…that’s what’s distinguishes America, that’s why [Obama] should engage - it is his responsibility, it is his opportunity, don’t let him off the hook.” Washington needs more voices like Ambassador Williamson. May he rest in peace.
By Esther Sprague In August, Ashai Arop Bagat, a good friend and a native of Abyei, asked me to help raise awareness about and support for the (…)
I’m reading a book, The Peacemakers, India and the Quest for One World by Manu Bhagavan. I thought the following section does a nice job of illustrating the complexities of Syria that unfortunately are not new.
So in 1938, [India’s] Congress passed a resolution at its meeting in Haripura adopting an anti-war stance. They specifically charged Great Britain with fighting to defend their imperial interests, rather than the cause of liberty as they claimed.
Gandhi also wrote if not favourably of Hitler, at least of him as an opponent who needed to be confronted the same as any other. He counselled negotiation and reason and saw no reason why Hitler, as the British themselves with regard to India, could not eventually be made into a friend.
But as the forties dawned, so too died the realization that Hitler was someone categorically different from almost any other person Gandi had encountered. Gandhi had trouble coming to terms with this. His entire philosophy and way of life was premised on the ideal that anyone - everyone - could feel the kinship of humanity. By resisting opponents in a certain way - one that treated them with respect and dignity while simultaneously shedding none of one’s own - a certain empathic bond would be created between the clashing parties. It was Gandhi’s universal principle, and it meant that all people, in a sense, were one. All were capable of realizing the error of their ways, and thus all were potentially good.
Hitler confounded this view. Gandhi struggled with reconciling his deeply held beliefs with Hitler’s existence. Gradually, he came to see Hitler as the exception to the rule. Hitler was the opposite of everything that Gandhi stood for, the Moriarty to Gandhi’s Holmes. He was Gandhi’s negative and had to be stopped. But for Gandhi, there was only one way to achieve this. He counselled: ‘Hitlerism will never be defeated by counter-Hitlerism…If my argument has gone home, is it not time for us to declare our changeless faith in non-violence?”
Gandhi saw Hitler as the ultimate expression of violence, and thus only non-violence could effectively combat this kind of threat. If Hitler was beyond reach, this was not so for the millions of Germans who followed him. They could be touched, and empathic bonds built, he concluded.
But few understood these details of Gandhi’s thinking. To many people, even his closest friends and admirers, Gandhi seemed erratic. Many feared that the old man was in decline. To an extent, Gandhi realized his own marginalization and therefore named Jawaharlal Nehru his successor in January 1942.
While I don’t know the right thing to do for Syria, I know I hate war and violence but if I was being attacked on the streets of San Francisco, I would expect someone to use violence if necessary to protect me. It’s not easy and the Syrians, Sudanese, etc. have suffered for far too long while the world has watched. As a human race, we can do better.
Sudanese turned to the U.S. for a better life not only for themselves but in order to support their family and friends back home, and to advocate for help in stopping genocide, mass atrocities, and human rights abuses committed by an oppressive regime
An October 2012 Vanity Fair article, “Obama’s Way”, explains how and why Obama decided to engage in Libya, the role some of our friends played in making that decision, and what they all were up against. Perhaps this can help us as we think about how to influence US engagement in Sudan.
By Michael Lewis
Vanity Fair, October 2012
Excerpts from the Article that Explain How and Why Obama Engaged in Libya
By Esther Sprague May 13, 2013 - The White House has invited Nafie Ali Nafie, the Advisor and Assistant of Sudan’s ICC indicted President, to the (…)