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iconINTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY Updated December 31, 2009

Section Contents:  North-South War | Darfur

North-South War

United Nations

Early humanitarian relief efforts

Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)

The substantial and long lasting involvement of the United Nations in Sudan began when it brokered, in April 1989, an agreement with the GoS and the SPLM/A to establish Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), a consortium of UN agencies,- led by UNICEF and the World Food Programme, together with more than 35 NGOs.  In response to widespread famine across southern and central Sudan caused by sustained drought and armed conflict, which killed an estimated 250,000 people in 1988, OLS provided humanitarian assistance through relief corridors via the air, river barges, and the rail road. Operating strictly on the basis of neutrality in the conflict, OLS provided emergency food aid to all civilians in need,[xxiv] on both sides of the military frontlines and whatever their political affiliation.  OLS operations, which lasted until 2005, were divided into a northern Khartoum-based sector and a southern Nairobi-based sector, both of which reported to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The OLS Ground Rules, as agreed between the UN and various factions of the SPLM/A, was then considered a considerable achievement in the implementation of humanitarian principles towards securing a sound basis on which to deliver humanitarian assistance outside the traditional, bilateral framework.

Operation Lifeline Sudan demonstrated that the international community, led by the United Nations, could find ways to implement the humanitarian imperative and meet human need in settings where political authority was contested. Under UNICEF's lead, access was negotiated with all parties for humanitarian operations in all areas. [viii]

Furthermore, quite apart from its humanitarian mandate, the UN led operation is also credited with creating an atmosphere conducive to peace efforts. As SPLM official Lam Akol notes: 'There was a profound connection between OLS and opportunities for peacemaking, even if peace was not its stated aim. The operation was mounted to ameliorate the suffering caused by war-induced famine, hence, the final solution to the problem lay in achieving peace. OLS also provided the donors, especially the US, with leverage or influence on the SPLM/A.

However, OLS has also been criticized for having been manipulated by both parties and sustaining the conflict.  Khartoum abused its power to veto relief flights and denying access to suit its military objectives.  These restrictions prevented the World Food Program (WFP) from providing assistance to populations that faced food shortages ranging from 50 to 100 percent. Though not nearly as egregious as the government, the SPLA was also guilty of manipulating aid. Commentators have argued that the SPLA stole food and cattle from civilians, diverted food assistance to feed its troops, and used displaced civilians as bait to attract more relief supplies. [xxv]

More information about Operation Lifeline Sudan and the transition into post-CPA relief efforts can be found in the Relief and Development section.

Peace Support Operations

United Nations Advance Mission

Building on the momentum of the IGAD-led peace talks thus far, and in anticipation of the early conclusion of a peace agreement, the United Nations Security Council established in June 2004 a special political mission, the United Nations Advance Mission in the Sudan (UNAMIS). [ix]  UNAMIS was mandated to prepare for the deployment of an envisaged peace operation in support of the imminent CPA.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMIS, Jan Pronk, led UN peacemaking support to the IGAD-mediated talks on the North-South conflict. In addition, a United Nations multidisciplinary team was assigned to the final stages of the peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya, to provide support and to ensure complementarities between the outcome of the negotiations and preparations for an expanded operation in the Sudan. UNAMIS and the United Nations country developed a strategy for the new peace operation that would integrate the entire UN presence in Sudan to ensure the most effective structure for supporting the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). [x]

United Nations Mission in Sudan

On 24 March 2005, the Security Council established the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), to support the implementation of the CPA and provide assistance on a number of other crucial post-conflict issues. The Council took this action in its resolution 1590 after determining that the situation in the country continued to constitute a threat to international peace and security. [xi]

More detailed information about the United Nations missions can be found in the UNMIS Profile section.


In 1986, the governments of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda formed the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) for the limited purpose of increasing regional cooperation regarding the cross-border problems of drought and desertification.  However, under the leadership of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, IGADD began to evolve into a vehicle for regional political dialogue, as it took up the Sudan peace process in 1994.  IGADD established a Standing Committee on Peace in Sudan and facilitated peace negotiations between the GoS and the SPLM/A in Nairobi.  The IGADD mediators presented the two sides with a Declaration of Principles (DoP) as the basis of discussion.  In critical part, the DoP established several principles: a unified Sudan, a secular and democratic government and the equitable sharing of resources.   In the event that the parties were unable to agree on these fundamental principles, the DoP held that the south would be entitled to hold a referendum on self-determination.  The talks foundered on the issue of self-determination, and the GoS refused to endorse the DoP.  Although these initial efforts on Sudan were not successful, the member states saw the potential of a broader mandate, thus the organization was reborn in 1996 as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a more comprehensive regional entity for political and economic dialogue and cooperation. [xxi]

By the late 1990s, the GoS was prepared to return to the IGAD peace process and accept the DoP as the basis of negotiations.  A permanent secretariat on the Sudan Peace Process replaced the former ministerial standing committee, and new round of talks began in February 2000.  In July 2002, there was a breakthrough.  The GoS and the SPLA/M signed the Machakos Protocol, which established a roadmap for the future of Sudan consisting of: (1) a 6 month "pre-interim" period for cessation of hostilities and establishment of a formal ceasefire; (2) a subsequent 6 year "interim period," during which the ceasefire would be maintained and Sharia law would not be applied in the South; and (3) after the interim period, a referendum on self-determination in the South.   At resumed negotiations in Machakos, on 15 October 2002, the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to a cessation of hostilities during the talks.  Further negotiations in 2003 resulted in agreements on power and resource sharing and security arrangements during the interim period. [xxii]

The Naivasha Declaration of October 2003 established the framework for the final peace agreement and raised hopes that such an agreement would be in place by the end of the year.  Progress was blocked, however, by continued disagreement over issues of power-sharing and the disputed regions of Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the southern Blue Nile.  Talks proceeded at the highest level with the participation of Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha and SPLM/A leader, John Garang, culminating in the protocols of 26 May 2004 on power-sharing and the disputed regions.  On 5 June 2004, under the auspices of IGAD, the parties signed the Nairobi Declaration, confirming their dedication and commitment to the Peace Process.  After a special meeting of the UN Security Council, held in Nairobi in November 2004, the parties agreed to finalize the peace agreement by the end of the year.  On 9 January 2005, the parties signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), drawing together all of the protocols previously agreed by the GOS and the SPLM/A.

Key governments

Sudan shares borders with nine countries. Sudan's relations with its neighbours have frequently been shaped by its internal situation as, at different times, Sudan's neighbours have openly or covertly supported the SPLM/A in its armed struggle against the central government of Khartoum.  While the grounds for such support varied from one country to the other, it was often aimed primarily at weakening the GoS.  Similarly, Sudan's stand in the internal affairs of its neighbours has complicated relations. [xii]

Uganda has been a long time sponsor of the SPLM/A.  Sudan on the other hand has supported the Lord's Resistance Army in its violent campaign, ostensibly aimed at government policies in Northern Uganda. Uganda intensified its support for the SPLM/A in the mid 1990s which finally caused a breakdown in diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, in 1999 both countries pledged to cease supporting rebel groups.  Both Sudan and Uganda felt that working together served their mutual interests.  Sudan used Uganda to pressure the SPLM/A into a cease-fire, while Uganda was allowed to undertake limited military operations against the LRA on Sudanese territory. In 2003 the countries re-established full diplomatic relations.  Uganda and the GoS have welcomed the 2006 initiative of the Government of Southern Sudan to mediate between the LRA and the Government of Uganda. [xiii]

Sudan's relationship with Ethiopia has been equally difficult. Ethiopia's consistent support to the SPLM/A, and Sudan's backing of Eritrean separatists and rebels in northern Ethiopia complicated relations between the two countries. Ethiopia has consistently was also supporting the SPLM/A since its inception. After the regime change in Ethiopia in 1991, supported by Khartoum, the Ethiopian government ended its support to the SPLM/A.[xiv]  However, the alleged involvement of Sudan in the 1995 attempted murder on Egyptian president Mubarak created yet another break in diplomatic relations between the two countries. Ethiopia resumed supporting the SPLM/A while Sudan backed different groups that opposed the Ethiopian government. Forced to rethink its priorities due to its war against Eritrea in 1998, Ethiopia ended its public support for the SPLM/A, and eventually normalized its relations with Sudan. At present, both countries claim to maintain strong ties. 

Initially warm relations between Sudan and Eritrea during the first few years of Eritrea's independence soured after Eritrea joined other nations in accusing Sudan of backing the Islamic Jihad.[xv]  Eritrea soon joined Ethiopia and Uganda as one of the so called 'frontline states', backed by the US, and started its support to different Sudanese opposition groups including the SPLM/A. Sudan on its part supported Eritrean opposition groups, which was interrupted by the outbreak of the war with Ethiopia. In 2000 the two countries resumed diplomatic ties, which broke down again three years later when Sudan closed its borders with Eritrea amidst accusations that Eritrea was arming the Eastern Front rebels in eastern Sudan. In 2006, Eritrea brokered the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) between the government of Sudan and the rebels in the east, made possible by the general reconciliation between the governments of Sudan and Eritrea.

Sudan's relation with Egypt is shaped by three factors.  These are the use of the Nile, border disputes and Sudan's alleged involvement in the murder attempt on Egyptian president Mubarak in 1995. Although each issue is potentially explosive, the two countries have managed to contain the situation and normalize their diplomatic relations. Regarding the Nile, the two countries have an agreement which allocates a certain percentage of the water to be used by each country. The border dispute has led to serious confrontation between the two countries in 1995. [xvi] Currently the disputed territory, Halaib, is administered by Egypt. Although Sudan's involvement in the attempt on the life of Egyptian president rocked their relations, the two countries have been able to mend their relations.  Nonetheless, Egypt's attempts to mediate in the southern conflict have by and large been welcomed by Sudan, notably the Egyptian-Libyan Initiative that for a while rivaled the IGAD peace process, and the negotiations between the government and the DUP-led NDA that culminated in the Cairo Agreement in June 2005.[xvii]

Kenya has dominated the IGAD peace processes for Sudan, and has hosted significant numbers of refugees from the conflict in Southern Sudan.  It has retained good relations with both the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A.

During the Cold War, Sudan was commonly seen as an ally of the United States of America.  However, relations declined rapidly in the 1990s, especially when the Clinton administration responded aggressively to Khartoum's hosting of Osama bin Laden. Despite the departure of bin Laden from Sudan in 1996, relations between the US and Sudan continued to deteriorate as the US imposed further sanctions on Sudan products and assets.  Following the deadly attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al Qaida the US launched a missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum suspected of manufacturing nerve gas.  The evidence for the attack was later proven to be dubious. [xviii]

Meanwhile, the US Congress became increasingly involved in the cause of the SPLM/A as Garang's calls for a secular democracy resonated with Washington.  With President Bush's policy of engagement, the US became a force behind the rejuvenated peace process, in particular after John Danforth was appointed as a Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan in 2001.  Concluding that the war was unwinnable, he recommended confidence-building measures by the two main protagonists known as the 'Danforth tests': a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains; agreement on zones of tranquility for humanitarian access; an end to attacks on civilians; and the establishment of a commission on slavery and abduction. [xix]

While the White House and State Department have sought engagement with Khartoum in exchange for cooperation in the 'war on terror,' a number of Christian lobby groups in the US continued to call for pressure on Khartoum. In 2002, Congress passed the Sudan Peace Act providing massive aid deliveries for southern Sudan and imposing sanctions on the GoS if it failed to negotiate in good faith with the SPLM/A.

The US-Sudan rapprochement following the signing of the CPA quickly soured due to GoS' disappointment with a perceived failure by the US to publicly credit it for the successful conclusion of the CPA process and its cooperation in the 'war on terror'.  Furthermore, the window of opportunity that appeared when the CPA was signed on 9 January 2005, was quickly shut by the devastating conflict in Darfur. [xx]


United Nations

Early humanitarian relief efforts

The early stages of the Darfur conflict unfolded largely without notice by the outside world. The effects of the civil war were noticeable by the summer of 2003, however, as the number of refugees arriving in Chad reached roughly 70,000 and the few active NGOs inside Darfur put the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at over 400,000. The humanitarian appeals went out and resources began to arrive, slowly. The help that did arrive was initially focussed on those who were able to escape to Chad because the GoS was blocking most aid from reaching those in need within its borders. Apparently, the GoS was not interested in the additional scrutiny that would come with an influx of international aid workers and was prepared to go to considerable lengths to either block or tightly control the flow of aid to that end.

Once the UN became involved in a political sense in the spring of 2004, then Secretary-General, Kofi Annan placed a high priority on the humanitarian access issue in his public statements and his eventual direct talks with the GoS in July, 2004. These talks led to the signing of a Joint Communiqué on 3 July that, inter alia, committed the GoS to easing access for humanitarian workers and supplies. This commitment was pursued by Annan's Special Representative, Jan Pronk, upon his arrival in Khartoum the following month and progress was made, slowly, on the question of humanitarian access over the coming months. Though the improvements were always viewed as too modest and slow by the UN and NGOs, the Secretary-General was able to report to the Security Council at the end of August that the GoS was allowing more aid workers into Darfur, but that government policies still hindered some movement of aid workers and their supplies. This pattern of incomplete compliance on humanitarian issues persists today.

Political Engagement

As Darfur lurched towards civil war, the GoS and SPLM/A were in the process of negotiating an end to their long civil war through the Naivasha talks in Kenya. In anticipation of assisting in the implementation of any agreement, the UN decided in June 2004 to deploy an advanced mission to Sudan to lay the groundwork for a multidimensional peace support operation (SCR 1547, 11 June 2004). The focus of the United Nations Advanced Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) was to be on the North-South peace process as the Security Council's members at first chose to prioritise the North-South process over the unfolding crisis in Darfur. The Council likely made this decision with two reasons in mind: 1) so as not to threaten the prospects of a North-South deal by distracting diplomatic focus away from the Naivasha talks or applying unwanted pressure on GoS; and, 2) there was a hope in diplomatic circles that any eventual North-South deal would serve as a model settlement for Darfur.

By the time the UNAMIS leadership team arrived in Sudan in August 2004, the Council's posture had shifted and it began to address the Darfur crisis directly by mandating the Secretary-General (in SCR 1556, 30 July 2004) to engage humanitarian issues, improve independent investigations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, begin contingency planning for greater UN involvement in Darfur, report on the GoS efforts to implement the Joint Communiqué and provide support and assistance to the African Union as it prepared to take on its monitoring role of the Humanitarian Cease-fire Agreement of April 2004. These functions were continued by the unified, multidimensional operation that took over from the advanced mission in March 2005, the UN Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS (SCR 1590, 24 March 2005).

This largely humanitarian focus in activity was complemented by a supporting role in the political negotiations process that was led by the African Union and centred in the Nigerian capital city, Abuja. This Abuja process would continue, with the UN as an observer, until May 2006 and the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. While this political process played out, however, it became increasingly clear that the AU observer force on the ground in Darfur was not sufficient to monitor the existing agreements or protect civilians. Talks began in late 2005 between the UN and AU on enhanced cooperation and support for the AU mission while laying the groundwork for an eventual transition to a UN force in Darfur.

Khartoum's firm opposition to a UN force prompted months of difficult negotiations between the UN, AU, various concerned foreign governments and Khartoum. As these talks continued throughout most of 2006, the UN and the AU devised a support package that could be deployed in stages to serve the AU force while, at the same time, building a more robust foundation from which a future UN force could later deploy. Khartoum's opposition to a purely UN mission never diminished, however, and this compelled the UN and AU to plan and deploy a first-ever fully integrated 'hybrid' operation jointly managed by both organisations. The hybrid force was authorised by the UN Security Council on 31 July 2007 (SCR 1769) with a wide-ranging mandate (see UNAMID Profile) and is slowly deploying to the field.

African Union

The African Union has been directly involved on the ground in Darfur since the summer of 2004 when it deployed a small observer and monitoring mission as per the terms of the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement (HCFA) signed between the GoS and rebels in April 2004. A protocol signed the following month between the AU and the parties to the conflict established the terms of an oversight and decision-making body, the Joint Commission, a Ceasefire Commission (CFC) tasked to monitor the implementation of the HCFA and the CFC's operational arm, an AU monitoring mission.

Shortly after deploying the monitoring mission, the AU's Peace and Security Council requested that the mission be up-graded to a more robust peacekeeping operation. The plan to transform the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) from a small observer mission to a larger peacekeeping force was presented to the PSC in October 2004 and called for a force increase from 465 personnel (military and civilian) to 3,320. However, the mandate of the mission remained largely unchanged but with a higher profile among the parties and the civilian population.

In April 2005, AMIS was increased again to over 7,700 personnel (military, police and civilian) and given a broader mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian relief operations.  The new resources for AMIS were deployed throughout 2005 and 2006. Yet, even as this larger mission with an enhanced mandate for protecting civilians took shape, calls only increased that it be replaced by a (presumably) more effective UN or NATO force. As the critics argued, even with the larger force, AMIS did not have the sufficient number of soldiers, logistics, hardware, communications, planning capacity or mandate to protect civilians (either still in villages or in the many IDP camps) or monitor violations of the various agreements between the parties in such a large area. As the GoS effectively blocked the transition to a UN force, the AU and UN devised a plan for a hybrid force to take over from AMIS. The AU PSC endorsed this plan in a communiqué on 30 November 2006. The hybrid force was approved by the UN in July 2007 (see above) and it is currently in a long start-up phase.

In addition to deploying and managing AMIS, the AU also had a leading role on the diplomatic track in trying to find a solution to the Darfur crisis. Beginning in late 2004, the AU was the lead mediator in the peace process and centred its efforts on the Abuja process. After almost two years of off-again, on-again negotiations, the Abuja process concluded with the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement on May, 2006. This is a less-than-successful conclusion, however, because only one of the rebel actions signed the agreement with the others returning to the battlefield. More details below.

Non-Governmental Organisations

As noted above, the international community's early engagement with the Darfur crisis was largely through the humanitarian relief efforts. But, at the time the crisis broke, there were very few international or national non-governmental organisations' (NGOs) staff operating in Darfur. The Darfur Humanitarian Profile for May 2004 reported that there were only 128 international aid workers and 972 national staff for a total IDP population alone of over 1.1 million and an estimated affected population of 2 million. The resulting ration of international aid staff to IDPs alone was 1 to 8,500 and national staff to IDPs was 1 to 1,500. These numbers were far too low to provide effective assistance to such a large population and would be overwhelmed if the numbers of IDPs (to say nothing of people in need of help who could not reach an IDP camp) increased if the conflict continued to spread.

The official reaction from Khartoum was to downplay the humanitarian urgency and present obstacles for NGOs and UN agencies seeking to increase operations in Darfur. Nonetheless, a combination of international pressure and negotiations led to a relaxing of the constraining rules on humanitarian action. Although GoS continued to be less than cooperative in a number of respects, humanitarian access to affected populations increased greatly through late 2004 and by mid 2005, the humanitarian operation in Darfur was the largest in the world with some 11,500 aid workers deployed.

Sadly, the lack of progress on the political/military tracks means that the large-scale civilian suffering that characterised the Darfur conflict in 2004 continues today.  By early March 2009, the estimated population of displaced Darfurians had reached 2.7 million and another 4.7 million people were 'affected' by the conflict and in need of some form of assistance. To meet these ever-increasing humanitarian needs, the number of aid workers (national and international) was roughly 14,700 through 80 some NGOs, the Red Cross Movement and 14 UN agencies by 2008. While the numbers of aid workers has increased dramatically since 2004, serious complaints persist that humanitarian access is still constrained or blocked by GoS. The UN and GoS signed another joint communiqué in March 2007 on humanitarian access.  UN reports from the field, however, suggest that not all of the communiqué's provisions are being implemented.  After the decision by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Sudan's President al-Bashir on 4 March 2009, however, the question of humanitarian access took on much more urgency as GoS took steps to expel 13 international aid groups from Darfur.  After this announcement, GoS went further the following day by declaring its intent to have all international NGOs out of Darfur within a year and their delivery responsibilities taken over by Sudanese officials or Sudanese NGOs.

The UN and remaining humanitarian organizations quickly redrew aid plans after the NGOs were expelled.  According to the UN, the areas most at risk are sanitation, shelter, and health services.  Stop-gap measures were put in place that allowed for the distribution of food to 1.1 million people and the expansion of water and health services through April.  While these efforts may help in the short-term, there is the potential for serious long-term effect on Darfur's food supply.  Because of a lack of resources, twenty percent fewer cattle were vaccinated and farmers received substantially less seeds and tools. Attacks and abductions have further complicated humanitarian work for NGOs that remain in Darfur.  Two hundred-fifty aid workers from ICC signing nations have been attacked since the ICC issued its arrest warrant.  On November 22, two French Red Cross workers were kidnapped in Western Darfur and in Eastern Chad and have yet to be returned.  As a result, the ICRC suspended its work in those areas.  Attacks, banditry, and harassment have forced many international organizations to curtail their humanitarian work.   Sudan has since softened its stand on international NGOs after pressure from the United States and the Arab League.  Four American aid groups were allowed to re-enter Sudan provided they adopted new names and sent new foreign personnel.


Key governments

Chad - the role of Chad has changed dramatically since the outset of the rebellion in Darfur, and one must understand the history to understand how things have evolved. Chad and Sudan have been intrinsically linked throughout history as many of the tribes of this region have never recognized the international boundary as dividing their territories. President Idriss Déby is a Zaghawa as are many of the Darfur rebels. The Zaghawa tribe spans the region. This reality has entangled Sudan and Chad in frequent conflicts over land and power. Many of the Arab militia fighting in Darfur are of Chadian origin, and many of the rebels similarly served in the Chadian army or militia. President Déby entered office in Chad with the support of the Sudanese government by overthrowing his predecessor, Hissène Habré in 1990. He launched his offensive from Darfur. This support included an agreement of both governments to refrain from supporting rebel forces against each other's regimes. Déby initially honoured this agreement, to the extent that he was called upon to mediate the early ceasefire agreements in Abéché, September 2003 and N'djamena, April 2004. However the pressure from his Zaghawa kinsmen overcame his ability to deny them assistance. Déby's support to the Sudanese rebel forces provoked the government of Sudan into backing the Chadian rebels' efforts to overthrow Déby, thus creating a proxy war between the two countries. Déby declared a state of war between Sudan and Chad after rebels launched an attack from Sudan against Adre, Chad in December 2005. The tensions and current conflict between the two countries continue to undermine peace efforts in Darfur.  The UN approved the creation of EUFOR-CHAD/CAR.  This mission came to an end in mid January 2009 and the UN Security Council authorised MINURCAT to assume EUFOR's mandate in Chad and CAR.

On 3 May, Sudan and Chad signed a "Good Neighbours Agreement" in Doha.  The two countries agreed to discontinue their support of armed opposition groups in the other's territory and recommitted to deploying an independent border observation and protection force.  Initially, the agreement did little to stop cross-border incursions by the Chadian military and Sudanese rebel groups.  By June, the UN reported a decrease in violence on the border although armed groups continued to remain on high alert.

 Libya, in the course of the Darfur rebellion has consistently made overtures to the parties and initiated peace conferences. The Darfur Form, consisting of traditional leaders from Darfur met on numerous occasions with Col. Gaddafi in order to include them in formal peace negotiations as representatives of Darfurian civil society. The most recent talks were held in Sirte, Libya in October 2007, but failed to achieve any significant progress as many of the non-signatory rebel groups refused to attend.

Eritrea, like Chad, maintains an ambiguous relationship with the NCP, as an eastern neighbour to Sudan and one that also has experience with proxy wars. Eritrea has supported the Darfur rebels, as well as the Eastern Front for many years. It has provided military training within its own territory, support for the rebel movements to negotiate peace and it has also hosted international meetings geared at achieving peace in Darfur. Although until recently Eritrea has been active in its support to the Darfur rebels it did mediate the peace agreements between the GoS and the Eastern Front and agree that it would not support rebels on its border.

Egypt, as a member of the Arab League, has declared its support for peace in Darfur. It has hosted the NDA meetings and made visits to Darfur. However, many Darfurians express strong antipathy towards the Egyptians as they are perceived as allied to the Sudan government and have supported Arab militias in Darfur.

The USA has staked out an evolving position on the Darfur crisis since 2003. During the first year of the crisis, the Bush administration focused its Sudan policy on securing a peace agreement between the GoS and SPLM/A. As Darfur grabbed more international attention in 2004, however, Washington became more vocal on finding a peaceful solution and began supporting the fledging AU mission. In September 2004, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the conflict in Darfur was genocide but that the US government was of the view that this conclusion did not warrant any addition action. When the US government decided that GoS was not implementing its obligations reached with the UN, Washington pushed at the UN Security Council for sanctions against GoS and its Janjaweed militia, which led to SCR 1556 on 31 July 2004. In March 2005, the USA abstained on the resolution that referred war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court, thereby allowing the resolution to pass and give the ICC a major role in the crisis, against well-established Bush administration policy (SCR 1593, 31 March 2005). While providing substantial support to the operations of AMIS, Washington also took on a significant role in the AU-led Abuja process which led to the controversial signing of the DPA in May 2006. Critics, however, argued that the Bush administration should have and could have done more on the Darfur crisis but the administration resisted such calls.

US policy has been motivated and influenced by a number of different and, possibly, competing factors. In the first instance, Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since the late 1990s over US concerns that Sudan was a supporter of international terrorism directed against US interests. These sanctions remain in place today and have been augmented by the more recent Darfur-specific sanctions, but the Khartoum-Washington relationship evolved somewhat after the terror attacks of September 2001 in that Khartoum sought to cooperate with Washington on terror related intelligence. The CIA took some steps to establish this relationship after the eruption of the Darfur crisis but without the full support of other US departments. The administration has also had to contend with an interested and animated Congress when it comes to Sudan issues. Many members of Congress have long supported the SPLM/A's cause and, as a result, there was an existing group of US politicians suspicious of the GoS and prepared to take up the Darfur cause when it appeared on Washington radar in 2004. Congress pronounced the Darfur conflict to be genocide roughly six-weeks before Powell did on behalf of the administration. Finally, a large civil society movement demanding more action on Darfur took shape in the USA soon after the crisis became widely known (see below for more details).

The incoming Obama administration appears to bring with it a number of senior officials who have staked out very hard positions on Darfur that are critical of GoS and call for more forceful action to stop the fighting and abuses in Darfur. The new administration, however, adopted a softer and more conciliatory approach in its Sudan strategy with incentives to normalize relations with the Northern government and al-Bashir.  The strategy also offers clear disincentives should the government interfere with fair elections and the upcoming referendum on Southern Sudan's independence.  The shift in US policy and the shift within the Obama administration itself can be attributed to the new envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration.  Gration favours a softer approach.  He testified before Congress and called for the removal of Sudan from the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism and argued that economic sanctions were turning the Sudanese people against the US. Obama's strategy and his new envoy have been criticized by congressmen and in the media as too soft on Khartoum.

China and Russia are often characterised as the protectors of GoS in the UN Security Council. China has come under the greatest scrutiny as a result of its large investments in the growing Sudanese oil sector and as a provider of arms to the GoS. But, Chinese policy on Darfur is also informed by its long-standing opposition to international interference in the domestic matters of states. Because of these positions, however, Beijing has come in for sustained public criticism in many western countries. Over the past three years, there have been slight changes to Beijing's non-interference position on Darfur, perhaps out of concern that the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics would be overshadowed by persistent accusations of complicity in the conflict. These modest shifts have been credited in some quarters of convincing GoS to reverse its firm position opposing the AU-UN hybrid peace operation.  But, Chinese support for GoS remains firm over important issues like the ICC, as demonstrated by China's reported rejection of a draft Security Council Presidential statement that criticized Khartoum's decision to expel NGOs and called on it to reverse the decision.

In the case of Russia, commercial interests also seem to exert an influence over that country's position on Darfur. Russia has maintained relations with Khartoum throughout the crisis and has opposed sweeping sanctions and other punitive measures against GoS. Russia's economic interests appear to be based on prospects for arms sales and military servicing contracts. According to Amnesty International, arms transfers from Russia (China and others) continued even after SCR 1556 was adopted putting a partial arms embargo on Darfur. Also in parallel with China, the Russian government is a defender of national sovereignty and not likely to endorse forceful intervention measures.

The Darfur Movement

As neither international diplomatic nor political action has been sufficient to stop the war in Darfur, civil society actors have embarked upon their own movement of global advocacy to pressure governments to respond accordingly and put an end to the Darfur crisis. Some of these organizations uphold the US position that genocide is occurring in Darfur, and the international community has a responsibility to act. Others support the doctrine of 'Responsibility to Protect' and demand stronger action from the UNSC and governments of the world. Two such organizations are identified below.

The Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of more than 180 faith-based, advocacy, and human rights organizations that raises public awareness about the perceived genocide in Darfur and mobilizes a response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of people throughout the Darfur region. It is estimated that the coalition's member organizations represent 130 million people united to help the people of Darfur. (

The ENOUGH Project comes out of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. With an initial focus on the crises in Darfur, Chad, eastern Congo, and northern Uganda, ENOUGH's strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a '3P' crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. ENOUGH works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. (




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