On Monday, President Bush reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to ending conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region – and providing assistance those displaced by violence. He made the remarks Monday during a question and answer session at the Alfred M. Landon Lecture Series on Public Issues at Kansas State University.
The US president said, “We will continue to work with Congress to provide aid, food aid and help. We helped fly the AU troops into Sudan. We're watching it very carefully. We are considering different strategies as to how to make sure that there's enough protection at least to get people help… and at the same time see if we can't try to broker the same kind of agreement we did north-south with Darfur and the government.”
The president said the US is following the controversy over Sudan’s interest in chairing the Africa Union, despite the government’s poor human rights record and alleged support for the conflict in Darfur: “…Obviously, that should be a concern – a concern to us -- and it should be a concern to the AU nations.”
It was also a matter of concern to Suleiman Baldo, the Sudanese-born head of the Africa Program of the International Crisis Group in New York City. He tells English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that that the African Union faces a critical test of its credibility, with Sudanese president Omar Hassan al Bashir being considered as a candidate to chair the Africa Union while his country is accused of complicity in the violence in Darfur.
As Baldo puts it, “Several African countries are aware of the risk to the credibility of the African Union if they allow Sudan to assume the chairmanship of the Union. And therefore they have been sending signals to the Sudanese government that it had better avoid submitting a formal request to that effect.”
On Tuesday, the delegates to the AU summit in Khartoum reached a compromise arrangement whereby the Republic of Congo would take over leadership of the African Union instead of the summit host, Sudan. But Sudan will chair the pan-African organization in 2007. AU delegates say Congo president Denis Sassou Nguesso officially assumed the chairmanship today.