About the Author: Major General (Ret) Scott Gration serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan.
Just six months to go until the referenda on Southern Sudan's independence and the status of Abyei. As the international community turns its attention to planning for January 9, 2011, I believe continued engagement on Darfur is as important and relevant as it ever was. The President's Strategy calls for a holistic approach to resolving conflict in Sudan, and peace in Darfur remains a critical pillar of that strategy. At the same time, there is no single government, institution, or organization alone responsible for ending the Darfur conflict. Partnership and collaboration are essential to our efforts in the region, and I'm working closely with the African Union, United Nations, Arab League members, and my fellow Envoys from the UK, EU, France, Russia, and China to ensure success. The Government of Sudan and rebel groups, of course, have special responsibility to refrain from further violence and to create conditions on the ground conducive to international peace-building efforts. This charge remains a significant part of my ongoing discussions with these groups.
The peace process in Doha is still a priority. We continue to support the work of the AU/UN Joint Chief Mediator and the Government of Qatar to facilitate peace talks between the Government of Sudan and Darfur movements. I was encouraged earlier this year when Chad-Sudan relations improved and several Darfur factions united under the umbrella of the Liberation and Justice Movement catalyzed progress in negotiations. I'm disappointed, however, that Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim has chosen to abandon the negotiations. Last month I traveled to Tripoli to urge him to send his delegation back to Doha. Later this month will make my sixth trip to Qatar where I hope to meet with representatives of Abdul Wahid's Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).
As talks in Doha proceed with the long-term aim of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement, we are taking all steps possible in the near-term to improve the security and living conditions of Darfuris. The recent spike in casualties caused by increased fighting between the Government of Sudan and JEM is deeply troubling. I'm also gravely concerned about reports of continued banditry, assaults, and gender-based violence targeting civilians, as well as recent kidnappings of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. I believe we must improve the operating environment and safety for those who are working in Darfur. To that end, we are working closely with the Government of Sudan, with the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, and with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel to increase security and stability.
While planning for the referenda is of the utmost urgency, we must not and will not lose sight of Darfur. The United States has allocated more than $1.1 billion in FY 2009 funds to support humanitarian, early recovery, security, and peacekeeping activities in Darfur and Eastern Chad, and this assistance will continue. We're also directly supporting organizations that will build the capacity of Darfuri development NGOs, identify opportunities for reconciliation activities, and conduct outreach to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and Arab and nomadic tribes to ensure their voices are heard in the peace process. I will travel to El Fasher later this month for consultations on these initiatives, as well as agriculture and education projects. I'm committed to bringing sustainable peace to Darfur and the region.