The Khartoum government said yesterday that US President Barack Obama’s new policy on Sudan had positive points and was a strategy of engagement, not isolation.
Unveiling the policy yesterday, Obama called for a “definitive end” to the conflict in the western Darfur region and implementation of a peace deal that ended more than two decades of a separate north-south civil war.
The strategy offers incentives if Khartoum works toward peace but Sudan faces tougher steps if it fails to act. Obama also said he would renew sanctions on Sudan this week.
Sudanese presidential adviser Ghazi Salahadin said the absence of the threat of military intervention in the strategy was important and represented “the new Obama spirit.”
“This is a strategy of engagement. It is not a strategy of isolation,” he told a news conference in Khartoum. “Compared to the previous policies, there are positive points.”
Sudan’s former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) urged Obama not to go soft on Khartoum.
“There were reasons for which those sanctions were placed on Khartoum and those situations have not changed,” said Anne Itto, a senior SPLM official.
The SPLM accuse the north of stalling on a democratic transformation outlined in the north-south peace deal, a necessity for Sudan to hold free elections due in April 2010.
Salahadin expressed disappointment that the White House was still using the term “genocide” for the conflict in Darfur.
“It’s unfortunate that the administration insists on using the word genocide…but it does not reflect the realities in Darfur,” he said.
Fighting in Darfur flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, accusing it of neglect. Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, unleashing a wave of violence.
The conflict has since descended into a free-for-all involving bandits, rival tribes and rebel splinter factions.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has claimed 300 000 lives but Khartoum puts the death toll at 10 000.
Pic: President Al Bashir of Sudan