Activists: Sudan policy review good on paper. Now what?

Sudan activists John Prendergast of the Enough Project, Randy Newcomb of Humanity United, Sam Bell of the Genocide Intervention Network and Jerry Fowler of Save Darfur just held a conference call for reporters in which they offered their reactions to the Sudan policy review. 

The group was pleased that the policy review was finally completed after such a long delay.   The activists agreed that, on paper, it says the right things.   The big question now is whether or not it will actually be implemented.  

John Prendergast said the policy was “worthy of support” and that it moves the United States “from a policy of appeasement to one of principled and conditional engagement.”  The next key U.S. objective, said Prendergast, is building a broad multi-lateral coalition around implementing the policy. “The U.S. policy looks good on paper,” he said. “But it will go up in smoke as Sudan burns if it is not followed through to the letter.”   

Prendergast’s point about the necessity of building a broad international coalition to support this policy was echoed by the other speakers.  Jerry Fowler urged Obama to use his international popularity to help build multi-lateral support for the policy. He said that one indicator of whether or not this coalition-building is really happening can be seen in whether or not President Obama raises the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao when Obama visits China next month.  

Based on the call, I would say that activists are no more trustful of the Obama administration’s approach to Sudan than they were prior to the policy review.  Sam Bell, for example, suggested that President Obama’s absence from the roll out this morning was an indicator of the relatively low priority afforded to Sudan issues inside the White House.  To be sure, each of the activist leaders agreed with Prendergast’s assessment that the policy strikes the right balance between peace, protecting vulnerable populations, and accountability for war crimes.   There is, however, a definite wait-and-see attitude concerning whether or not this policy will be effectively implemented.