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But everything changed when President George Bush became US president. In just four years,

the Bush administration achieved a lot more for peace in Sudan than the Clinton administration

did in eight years, endearing the Southern Sudanese to the Republicans.




Why South Sudan Wants Obama to Lose White House Bid

By Badru Mulumba


Juba Sudan

The people of South Sudan take great pride in identifying themselves with Africans, so one would expect them to support Barack Obama, who is vying for the US presidency on a Democratic ticket, because his father was an African. However, that is not the case.

And while many in the US fear that Republican presidential contender John McCain would continue with President George W. Bush's hawkish style, the people of Southern Sudan fully support the Republican contender. "The Democrats did nothing for us," says Juk Langjuk, the editor-in-chief of South Sudan's BusinessWeek. "They were not interested." Even before McCain became the Republican nominee, the southern Sudanese were rooting for him because of his reputation as a fighter. "McCain would be better for us," Dr Loi Cingoth, a columnist with Sudan Tribune, said last December.

As this year's US presidential campaign gets into high gear, South Sudan is going against the general feeling in many African countries, who are extremely excited about the possibility of an Obama victory. The Democrat Party's hands-off approach to Sudan in the 1990s, compared with the pressure the Republican exerted on the regime in the 2000s, has condemned Obama in South Sudan.

It is not that the people of South Sudan hate Obama; they just want the Democrats out of the White House. The truth is, Obama is a victim of the Bill Clinton administration, which the Southern Sudanese feel did not do much to help them. Indeed, the worst phase of Sudan's 21-year civil war, which left 2.5 million dead, took place during the Clinton administration.

And the Southern Sudanese still recall the Juba massacre of 1992, which followed the repulsion of a rebel attack on their capital, when people were picked up and dropped in crocodile infested waters. Some were dropped from military jets to their deaths while others were tortured before being killed at the notorious security headquarters, curiously known the White House.

Granted, the US Secretary of State at the time, Madeleine Albright, held meetings with then Sudan People's Liberation Movement leader, John Garang, and it is partly thanks to her efforts that the US accepted to take in South Sudanese children, who came to be known as the "lost boys".

However, at no time was Khartoum's hold on power under any serious threat from the US as a result of its actions in the south. And that is something the Southern Sudanese will not forget easily. But everything changed when President George Bush became US president. In just four years, the Bush administration achieved a lot more for peace in Sudan than the Clinton administration did in eight years, endearing the Southern Sudanese to the Republicans.

John Danforth, then US ambassador to Sudan, put a great deal of pressure on Khartoum, which forced it to sign a peace agreement with the South. Notably, the treaty gave the South much more than it had sought—and was denied—during a series of peace talks in the 1990s. By June 2004, McCain was already saying that "The UN Security Council should demand that the Sudanese government immediately stop all violence against civilians, disarm and disband its militias, allow full humanitarian access, and let displaced persons return home.

"Should the government refuse to reverse course, its leadership should face multilateral sanctions and visa bans," McCain wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. "Peacekeeping troops should be deployed to Darfur to protect civilians and expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid, and we should encourage African, European and Arab countries to contribute to these forces." Then, in October 2004, Obama entered the fray.

"First, the UN Security Council should impose tough sanctions on the Khartoum government immediately," Obama wrote in a statement. "These sanctions should freeze the assets of the Sudanese government, its leaders and business affiliates; outlaw arms sales and transfers to Sudan; and prohibit the purchase of Sudanese oil. The United States must make this a high priority in our relations with other governments on the Security Council."

According to McCain, the priority issues were sanctions and visa bans targeting leaders and UN peacekeepers, while Obama stressed sanctions against government leaders and businesses, disrupting arms purchases and oil sales, with peacekeepers getting a mention much further down the statement.

A comparison between these two statements—four years before the two senators would run for President— has Obama coming across as a man who believes in disrupting trade to force a regime to toe the line. Not so McCain, whose wife, Cindy, had interests in companies operating in Sudan even as he spoke out on the need for sanctions.

Obama put military force in Darfur as priority three—after business has been disrupted and humanitarian aid taken to the people, while McCain put it first.

Sanctions, in which Obama believes so strongly, did not work then, as did military might, which is McCain's preferred course of action. Even though the use of military might messed up Iraq, the threat of military force helped South Sudan achieve a viable peace agreement.

But that is not to say that Obama's foreign policy is doomed in Sudan.Whichever one of them becomes the next US president, he will find a world that's greatly different from the one in which Clinton or Bush ruled. The first challenge for the next US President who handles Sudan—or any other conflict—is the image of the country.

Next president

The next American president will find a US whose say in the UN is diminished; whose friends are seething at having been bullied into war; where there are other emerging centres of global power, such as a new Europe that's increasingly independent of the US; and an economically successful China. The second challenge is Sudan itself. The next American president will find a Sudan that is markedly different from that of the 1990s or the early 2000s, thanks to the discovery of oil.

The availability of oil in Sudan would complicate the issue of sanctions. Sudan's oil industry came of age at the end of the last decade, when oil production surpassed local consumption, at an estimated 20,000-30,000 barrels per day. The country approaches the end of this decade producing half a million barrels a day at four times the 1999 world prices. With countries like China now dealing with Sudan, the continued absence of the US only reduced American influence on the country.

And the possible discovery of oil in Darfur would increase, not lower, Sudan's growing influence. The well-intentioned Sudan Divestment campaign, which has brought Darfur to the fore of US debate, spells doom for future US influence on the country. This complicated picture, coupled with dwindling US power, means that the US must seek some kind of diplomacy with Sudan.

Source: The Nation (Nairobi), 3 June 2008

Badru Mulumba Jr. was born in Jinja, formerly the industrial center of eastern and central Africa, once famous for bubbling multiculturalism, confounding quiet and conspicuous greenery, and where the River Nile starts its journey to the Mediterranean. Mulumba is currently the Southern Sudan Correspondent for the Nation Media Group, a Consulting Editor for a daily newspaper, and a Stringer for IRIN and AFP. In addition, he belongs to various alumni communities, including the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in the City of New York, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (Uganda Chapter), International House, Institute for Humane Studies, U.S. International Visitors’ Program, Uganda Habitat for Humanity and the World Bank Institute.

posted 15 June 2008 

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Maybe you are right. But I don't think so, entirely. The author is a journalist. The leaders in South Sudan are thinking regionally and they are thinking anti-Khartoum and anti-Arab and anti-Islam, and pro-Israel. There are more complexities involved than you allow. And the South Sudan leaders might be rather naive about American politics. Some believe nevertheless there is a need to enlist the help of African Americans in their efforts to break away from the militarily oppressive Khartoum government.—Rudy

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Dear Rudy, I am actually in Southern Sudan. Have been for about two years. . . . One would be surprised if you interviewed ordinary people here about what happened, including how the evangelicals, in fact, tried to supply arms and were only disrupted by their government. And I am not thinking tribally, because I don't belong to any of the tribes here, which allows me to look at issues in a more global sense.—Badru

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Rudy, Unfortunately his story posted on your website needs to be taken seriously. I see Badru daily. He is with The Citizen, published in Juba and Khartoum. I have a daily column in The Citizen on Pan-Africanism, called 'From the Borderlands'. He mentions Loi in his piece. Loi is a medical Doctor in Juba, who has a daily column in the Sudan Tribune, published in Khartoum Which is  widely read in Sudan, if slightly conservative.—Bankie 

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