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Vol 50 No 21

Published 23rd October 2009


Sudan

Washington unveils its new policy as tension rises throughout Sudan

Amid a spreading feeling at home and abroad that Sudan may be at a crossroads, the United States announced its long-postponed policy. This departs from the usual cautious diplomacy of interested governments by leaving the National Congress Party in no doubt that it will be held responsible for most of the country's political woes. The only sanction that the NCP really fears is military action: this is included in a confidential annex. As elections and referenda draw near, the Khartoum regime pursues its own military action west and south ­ and perhaps soon again in the east.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the new United States' policy on Sudan on 19 October, press reports focussed on 'engagement', a concept beloved of President Barack Obama's Special Envoy, Scott Gration. What is troubling the National Congress Party (NCP, aka National Islamic Front) is the implied threats in the most coherent US policy since the NIF's 1989 coup. 'When Ghazi Salah el Din Atabani says this is "positive", you know the NIF is worried', one senior Sudan People's Liberation Movement official told us. Ghazi, a doctor, tank driver and NCP baron, is Presidential Advisor on Darfur but handles NCP relations with the West since the Foreign Minister, Deng Alor Kwol, is a powerful SPLM leader. The NCP strategy of obstructing the South's 2011 independence referendum has eroded the pretence that the SPLM and NCP are genuine partners in the Government of National Unity, formed under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

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