US policy in Sudan must apply firm hand to Khartoum

October 30, 2009

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THE OBAMA administration’s long-overdue new Sudan policy looks good on paper, and I hope it will be successful in practice (“In Sudan, dialogue has limits,’’ Editorial, Oct. 24). When some of my House Sudan Caucus colleagues and I met recently with the special US envoy for Sudan, we made it clear that implementation of the policy - with its emphasis on treating Darfur, southern Sudan, and counterterrorism in a comprehensive manner - will be key.

The violence and chaos in Darfur have gone on for far too long, while efforts to create a stable and functioning government in southern Sudan have been deliberately frustrated. I recognize that engagement with the government of Khartoum may be necessary to achieve those ends. I am not, however, ready to embrace President Omar al-Bashir’s government as a changed entity. There are still fundamental baseline commitments, such as implementation of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement, that it must fulfill. At the same time, it is critical to take concerted action, with other nations and with all parties to the conflict, to halt the violence and promote peace.

Those of us in Congress who have long sought to end genocide in Darfur and enforce the peace treaty with the south will remain vigilant. We will continue to press the administration to ensure that carrots do not obscure the necessary sticks. It is not unreasonable to seek progress through greater dialogue, but experience has taught us that Khartoum must be made to understand that evasion or inaction will be met with grave consequences.

Representative Michael E. Capuano
Democrat of Somerville

The writer is cofounder and cochairman of the House Sudan Caucus.

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