A possibility for U.S. leadership in Sudan

A news release sent out on Wednesday, the 4th of May 2016 has called for President Obama to ramp up American pressure on Sudan to ease the suffering of those targeted by the government, particularly those in Darfur. Since 2003, Sudanese government forces in the region have used various forms of violence against the population to intimidate, humiliate and murder to the point of genocide. The call for action by more than 100 lawmakers, led by Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern, urges Obama to take greater action in an attempt to end the humanitarian crisis which has plagued Darfur for more than a decade.

The waning media coverage over time has allowed Sudanese forces to act with impunity, while increasing levels of violence in recent years support this notion. By doing little or nothing, the Obama administration has appeared to give its tacit approval towards the Sudanese government, as their actions go largely unpunished due to US’ focus on other geopolitical priorities. Therefore, the Darfuris and other conflict-affected Sudanese are subjected to the mercy of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the only sitting head of state to ever be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Despite this, al-Bashir has continued to travel freely to many countries, while continuing his campaign of terror which has come to characterize life for many in Darfur. Two days before the release on May 3rd, the Sudan Air Force was implicated in the killings of six children in the Nuba Mountains, while air raids continued in Darfur, further exemplifying the opinion that continual systematic violence will not end without international efforts. The bipartisan request compels Obama to use American resources to ensure a lasting peace can be realized. This would be a formidable foreign policy success during his last year in office.

We at Darfur Women Action Group advocate for not only stronger US pressure on the Sudanese government to halt their relentless violence, but also to provide support to those displaced by the conflict. Furthermore, the use of sexual violence and rape as a tool of war has had a detrimental impact on Darfuri society, as the female population are forced to suffer in silence. Local civil society organizations are understaffed, underfunded and constantly undermined, meaning that women and girls are rarely truly safe. Therefore, the Obama administration must place more pressure on the Sudanese government to halt their actions. Secondly, the US must also place pressure on countries that allow al-Bashir to travel freely to limit his diplomatic leverage as much as possible. Thirdly, the US must allocate greater funding to local civil society particularly from the historically excluded and reinforce international support networks for affected communities to enable them to rebuild their lives.

With these measures, violence can be reduced, perpetrators can begin to be punished, and the marginalized populations can begin a transition to a more peaceful co-existence. Though the conflict will not cease overnight, the Obama administration possesses the means to begin that process and would be a clear demonstration of the responsible use of resources, at a time when American global leadership has been overshadowed by failures and setbacks.