Center for American Progress

To Save Darfur, We’ll Need a Plan“B” With Muscle

To Save Darfur, We’ll Need a Plan“B” With Muscle

A strategy to end the Sudanese genocide must include punitive measures that incorporate but go beyond the U.S. government’s “Plan B."

On Wednesday morning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from Andrew Natsios, the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan, in a hearing titled “Darfur: A ‘Plan B’ to Stop Genocide?”

They’re correct to include the question mark at the end. The efficacy of the U.S. government’s proffered “Plan B” to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide occurring in Darfur is questionable at best. If “Plan B” were implemented seriously and multilaterally, things might be different.

Efforts to engage Khartoum multilaterally hit a snag recently when a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution was put on hold by Britain—the new chair of the Council—after five African Union peacekeepers were killed in Sudan and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asked for more time for diplomacy.

The Sudanese government has been very skillful in entertaining visits by foreign leaders—including Chinese envoy Zhai Jun, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte later this week—but giving away nothing.
After four years, how much more talk is necessary?

The Enough Project—a joint initiative of the International Crisis Group and the Center for American Progress—laid out a six-sided “Rubik’s Cube” strategy to influence Sudan’s government in its recent report “The Answer to Darfur: How to Resolve the World’s Hottest War.” The Rubik’s Cube strategy is an aggressive, multilateral strategy that offers clear consequences for Khartoum. It offers a far better chance of influencing Sudan’s leaders than “Plan B,” which is too little, too unilateral, and too late to have any hope of stemming the killing in Darfur.

“Plan B” is the Bush administration’s attempt to employ sticks instead of carrots in its dealings with Khartoum. It involves multilateral and unilateral, targeted sanctions against a few Sudanese officials and a group of Sudanese companies, combined with vague proposals to restrict Sudanese oil transactions using U.S. dollars. The administration only recently decided to move toward implementing the policy and already U.S. agencies tasked with the job are either unresponsive or lack the resources and manpower necessary to carry it out.

The administration’s move toward “Plan B” is a baby step in the right direction—a more aggressive policy in U.S. attempts to influence Khartoum—but it needs to go farther in specificity and implementation, especially considering how high the stakes are.

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief John Holmes recently gave a grim assessment of the current situation in Darfur. On top of the low estimate of 200,000 Darfurians killed since janjaweed militias first began burning down villages and killing villagers in 2003, some 250,000 people have fled their homes in Darfur for refugee camps in the last six months. The number of displaced civilians now living in camps is now 2.2 million—representing well over a third of Darfur’s population.  Many of these refugees have fled to neighboring Chad and Central African Republic, further destabilizing two countries that have conflicts of their own.

To be effective in their attempts to influence Khartoum, the United States, United Nations, and others must present the Sudanese government with the clearly defined consequences it will face if it fails to comply with demands—and actually follow through with the promised punishments if Khartoum fails to comply.

The Bush administration’s dealings with Sudan’s government to date have been riddled with vague threats and no follow-through. In fact, “Plan B” was supposed to go into effect three months ago if the Khartoum regime didn’t accept an internationally agreed-upon U.N. role in a peacekeeping force. That Jan. 1 deadline came and went with no action from the administration.

What would a successful plan to halt the genocide look like? Enough has formulated a “Rubik’s Cube” of policy responses that incorporate the administration’s “Plan B” but go beyond it. When lined up correctly, the policy responses of the Rubik’s Cube can influence Khartoum’s behavior.

The Rubik’s Cube policy responses include:

  • Support rebel unity: Without more rebel cohesion, no resolution is possible: the peace process is nearly impossible to broker when so many different rebel factions exist. A successful strategy will include efforts to broker a common negotiating position among the rebel groups.
  • Build an effective peace process: Key ingredients to past efforts at ending mass atrocities have involved a singular, clearly identified, multilaterally-supported peace process marked by a close partnership between an African mediator and a set of external countries, which provided full-time diplomats to support the process.
  • Secure full-time, high-level U.S. diplomacy: To end the crisis, the Bush administration must devote resources to its resolution. The White House Special Envoy position is critical and should be a full-time position with a larger staff in Washington and in Africa to work to secure rebel unification, press for international cooperation on a common strategy, staff any contact group that would work directly on the peace process, and attend to other activities.
  • Accelerate military planning and action for protection: Altering the calculations of Khartoum’s officials will require credible threats of military action. To date, threats have been all bark and no bite. Parties working on the conflict must deploy a credible military force to protect civilians and prevent further atrocities. The U.N. Security Council should finance an enhanced hybrid U.N./A.U. force and accelerate the deployment of protection elements to Sudan’s border regions with a mandate to protect vulnerable communities.
  • Impose punitive measures now: The U.S. government already has strong unilateral sanctions in place against Sudan—including freezing Sudanese officials’ assets in the Untied States and blocking financial transactions of companies registered in Sudan. But if measures such as these were imposed multilaterally and expanded, they would have a much larger impact on the pocketbooks of Sudanese leaders.
  • Ramp up global citizen activism: Citizens around the world must shape and maintain their governments’ political will to take action in Darfur. Citizens in democratic systems can use their power as constituents to will government action. Past efforts at global activism have been instrumental in altering calculations that allow crises to continue.

“Plan B” is a step in the direction, but putting an end to the killing in Darfur will require much more than a step.

The United States, United Nations, and others working to halt the genocide must adopt the measures above to formulate a more muscular policy that will present Khartoum with real costs for non-compliance. When Andrew Natsios goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow and John Negroponte meets with Sudanese officials on Thursday, they should be prepared to answer when and how the U.S. government is prepared to stop a genocide.

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