Obama Sudan Envoy: “inshallah” U.S. Darfur/Sudan policy review will be completed

I’m just returning from the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., where President Obama’s Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration is hosting a major conference to shore up the Comprehensive Peace Accord, which ended a twenty year conflict between the ruling Sudanese National Congress Party and South Sudan rebels known as the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement.

The CPA, which was spearheaded by the Bush administration and signed in 2005, is on the verge of unraveling. The CPA created a so-called National Unity Government that brought the SPLM into the governing structure in Khartoum until national elections can be held later this year early next year. Then, most forcefully, the CPA calls for a referendum on the status of South Sudan in 2011–and in all likelihood, southern Sudanese will vote to secede. The CPA was a remarkable achievement at the time, but is showing signs of faltering. Outstanding issues like the status of the oil-rich Abyei region threaten to undermine the agreement. Both sides are re-arming in advance of the 2011 secession referendum. The Enough Project says that a return to civil war is a distinct possibility if progress is not made in the near term. 

To that end, Gration told a small gathering of journalists at the conference that the meeting was to stave off the disintegration of the CPA by “rekindling the same passion” that infused the original signing of the CPA. The meeting was intended to shore up political will to address some of the unresolved issues and to help prepare a “soft landing” when the south votes in its secession referendum. A “joint communiqué” between the SPLM and the National Congress Party is expected this afternoon, which will lay out the progress that has been made during this summer.

I asked Gration about a related issue: what, if any, news he can relay about Darfur/Sudan Policy Review that the president said would be completed within 60 days of his inauguration? I thought this was a prudent question because ss Colum Lynch reported last week, the “deputies committee” of the National Security Council (that is, the deputy secretary of state, deputy secretary of defense, etc) could not come to an agreement over the right balance of carrots and sticks in a new Sudan policy. 

So, I asked Gration when can he expect the review to be completed? His answer was telling. “Inshallah” was all he said. Meaning, of course, “god willing” it will be completed at all.   Not exactly a good sign.