About the Author: Major General (Ret) Scott Grationcurrently serves as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan. (August 10, 2009)
In the 1950s, journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a radio show titled “This I Believe” that invited Americans to record essays that shared their core beliefs with listeners across the country. The essayists, ranging from heads of state to cab drivers, used the opportunity to tackle difficult topics and to offer “the guiding principles by which they lived.”
As the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan, I have been charged with the awesome responsibility of working to improve the political, humanitarian, and economic challenges confronting the people of Sudan. For the past six months, I have been working incredibly hard and logging a lot of miles to understand this dire and desperate situation better and to chart a course for moving forward. I understand that for the community of people who care deeply about this issue time is of the essence and much is at stake. I want to give you the clearest sense of where I am coming from and what my core beliefs are on the best approach to untangle the complex, varied, and nuanced set of issues facing Sudan.
I learned to walk and talk in Africa; my first words were in Swahili, not English. A passion for Africa and African people runs through my veins. I also know firsthand the personal toll of war and what it means to be displaced. Growing up, my family was evacuated three times from our home in the Congo, and we became refugees. I embrace those experiences and they inform my current efforts.
I believe that the road to peace in Sudan runs through Darfur. The atrocities that have taken place in Darfur are a crime against the world that must be resolved. We are working aggressively to reverse the ongoing consequences of genocide in Darfur. Though the incidence of violent deaths has improved dramatically since 2005, the situation remains dangerous and dire. Civilians remain vulnerable, living conditions are unacceptable, and the displaced remain unable to return home in security.
For those who are concerned that we are seeking the untimely return of IDPs, I assure you that that is not the case. I share the same concerns about the idea of having the more than 2.5 million people living in IDP camps attempt returns in an insecure and uncoordinated fashion. We will never abandon or seek to endanger IDPs. Our task for now is to begin the work to create conditions that are conducive for their eventual safe return, including access to food and safe water, addressing land rights, protection of human rights, and freedom from gender-based violence. We are working closely with the African Union/United Nations joint chief mediator, Djibril Bassolé to unify the disparate rebel groups in Darfur so that they can speak with one voice to participate in the peace process. I also believe that IDPs must have a clear voice as their perspectives and solutions become part of this process.
As important as it is to address the issue of Darfur, I believe that we equally dedicate all available resources to achieving full implementation of the CPA. In the next two years, Sudan will face both national elections and two referenda. An unsuccessful and marred election could contribute to significant unrest and instability in a state bordering nine other countries and even incite renewed conflict. In the last few months, we have initiated trilateral talks with the parties to the CPA and have developed an implementation strategy. These talks are ongoing and we are holding all parties accountable for their commitments. We are determined to create the conditions for a peaceful process and post-referendum period whether the result is a single, stable, and unified Sudan or a Sudan that divides into two separate states.
Our work on implementing the CPA is complemented by our efforts to address the pressing needs of Southern Sudan. The South needs urgent attention and assistance in building its infrastructure and promoting development before the referendum in 2011. While the current U.S. sanctions against the government in Khartoum explicitly exclude Southern Sudan, in practical terms they do not.
Large equipment needed for infrastructure or economic development in the South must go through Port Sudan and/or Khartoum in the North, which makes these necessary investments for the South subject to our sanctions. “Smart,” targeted sanctions are absolutely necessary and desirable against key components of the government in Khartoum. I want to be clear. These sanctions should not be lifted.
However, I believe that we must consider specific exceptions or selective rollbacks to facilitate development in the South and fully implement the CPA. We need more flexibility to achieve our desired results, which are: pressuring the North, developing the South, and incentivizing good behavior on all sides.
I believe that we cannot hope to achieve these results and a lasting peace if we only engage with those we already agree with. We must work to mediate and work with all stakeholders—Khartoum, Juba, rebel groups, Chad, civil society, and the international community. It is important to recognize the stated position of the U.S. government on President Al-Bashir. We hold him responsible for the actions of his government and recognize that the justice process is moving forward. I have not met and have no plans to meet with President Al-Bashir.
As we continue moving forward, I will need the support and engagement of the entire community that is dedicated to addressing the challenges facing Sudan. We all have to work together and to be on the same team. Let us continue to exchange our best ideas in support of our important mission.
Thank you for your continued interest and dedication, Scott.
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