As committees in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives prepare to hold hearings this week on U.S. policy toward Sudan, a newly released strategy paper argues that conflict resolution efforts in Chad are essential to achieving an end to the Sudan crisis.
In its findings, the Enough Project says there has to be a strategy to deal with Chad’s authoritarian governance and state weakness that it indicates have kept the country and the region unstable. Enough Project policy adviser Omer Ismail says that without an end to the constant cross-border volley of attacks against each others' regimes, a durable, comprehensive peace for the region cannot be achieved.
“It is very important because a resolution of that sort will end the proxy war that is going on in both sides of the war zone. In other words, it will end the war that is fueled by the Chadian government helping the Darfuri rebels -- mainly, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the largest and the most equipped of all the rebel groups in Darfur -- and also will prompt Khartoum to stop backing the rebel groups that are attacking Ndjamena from time to time for the last several years,” he said.
Chad, which plays host to 250,000 refugees from Darfur, lacks the mechanisms of democracy and good governance, according to the report. It has spawned an insurgency that threatens the ability of government officials to manage the turmoil that impairs its borders, to the south with the Central African Republic and Cameroun, and to the east with Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region.
“Once you look at the institutions that constitute any working government in the world, you find that Chad is failing miserably. However, there are conditions that created the continuous war in the Sahel and the challenges that Chad faced as a landlocked country with a history of conflicts happening in its north and its east and the center, the low income and the poverty of the people, the illiteracy that is rampant in the area. Those are all elements that fuel this kind of instability,” the Darfuri-born Ismail observed.
His report makes distinctions between Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 (CPA), which has set the course for a 2011 referendum for the south Sudanese population to determine their political future, and a comprehensive approach to achieving peace for the entire Chad-Sudan region. The Enough Project’s Omer Ismail says it is essential to avoid the trap of pursuing piecemeal solutions.
“There are these conflicting elements, and they might need to be handled one at a time. However, the bigger picture, the focus, should be on that comprehensive approach because what I’ve seen in Sudan, for example, a piecemeal deal that did not go anywhere – we had the CPA, or Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the south. And while that was negotiated, Darfur started to go into flames,” he pointed out.
Foreign relations committees of the Senate and House will hear from Obama administration point people on the Darfur crisis this week. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice testifies before the full House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday on peacekeeping issues, and Special Envoy for Darfur General Scott Gration will face the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. Another Wednesday hearing by the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health will engage in a discussion of U.S. Policy and Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Policy adviser Ismail says that Congress, which has been quite outspoken about the genocide in Darfur, would like to help the Obama administration sharpen its focus on dealing with the threats to peace being posed by continuing tensions in Chad and Sudan.
“What Congress is trying to say is: Obama administration, you are new. You are only about 7 or 8 months on the job. This is the situation that we have been following for the last 25-30 years. We would like to work with you. We would like to help you sharpen your focus. And we would like to listen to what you have to say in terms of your policy toward Sudan,” noted Ismail.
The stakes are high, he says, not only for the peoples of Chad, Darfur, and the rest of Sudan, but for a total of almost 400-million Africans who live in the 9 countries that surround Sudan and the 5 other states that border Chad.