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Q&A With Andrew Natsios on Sudan

Is Peace Possible After the ICC Warrant?

Andrew Natsios

  • Country: The United States
  • Title: Former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan
  • Education: Georgetown University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
  • Books: he Great North Korean Famine (2001)

Brown N. Ugbaja: How is the international community engaging African governments in finding a political solution to the crisis in Darfur? And what is the moral responsibility of Africans to settle the dispute, seeing as how governments have not shown any clear disposition toward ending the crisis?

 

Nick R.: It is argued that a civil war is extremely difficult to end, if one believes a civil war does end. It is my opinion that everything the West has done has either resulted in no progress or has made the situation worse. Should the West, then, back off and let the African Union and more influential African countries negotiate a peace?

A: Practically speaking, no solution can be found to the Sudanese crisis between the North and the South and in Darfur without the active cooperation of Sudan's African and Arab neighbors. Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda were actively involved in the negotiations over the North-South peace agreement. But alone I do not think they have sufficient leverage with the Sudanese government to get the peace process moving; they must be involved, but need the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway involved as well. The Sudanese are really most fearful of the U.S. government and want better relations with the United States, a circumstance that could be helpful if used in a constructive way in negotiations. Right now, the African Union-UN negotiator on Darfur is doing an excellent job, and the U.S. Government should support his work when he asks for it. On the North-South issues, the East African countries that helped negotiate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway should take the lead. The question is not whether the United States is involved, but how it is involved -- not as a sledgehammer but as a constructive mediator.

Sean Li: What do you expect the Obama administration's new policy on Sudan and Darfur to be? Do you believe the end of the conflict is in sight?

David Jordan: What are the United States' key national interests with regard to the Sudan crisis?

Emad: Do you see any possibility for J. Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, to succeed in bringing peace to Darfur and normalizing relations with Khartoum?  

Joseph Geni: You have argued that the genocide in Darfur ended in 2004. Yet Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, continues to call it an "ongoing genocide" nearly every time she speaks of Sudan. How would you appraise current U.S. policy toward Sudan, given that, as you say, the Obama administration can't realistically support invoking Article 16. And what should U.S. policy be toward Sudan now that the indictment is on the table, probably for good?

A: The central U.S. national interest in Sudan is humanitarian. The cooperation between the Sudanese and U.S. government on counterterrorism has been exaggerated and overemphasized as a motivating force in U.S. policy -- it is useful but not central to the relationship. I think the Obama administration is now trying to formulate a policy and an approach that have not yet been finalized. Initial indications suggest that the administration may take a diplomatic rather than a confrontational approach, but we will have to wait and see. The UN just reported casualty rates for Darfur that were similar to what the U.S. embassy is also reporting, which apparently surprised the U.S. embassy. I suspect that the office was uncritically accepting the figures of the advocacy movement rather than looking at the actual field reports.

I don't see any near-term solution to Darfur, because the rebel movements -- now in the dozens -- have no single leader capable of negotiating with the Sudanese government. The elections next year, if they are free and fair, do offer a chance for increasing Darfuri participation in the national government -- if the rebel movements let their people vote in those elections (they are now threatening to boycott them).

Matt: What is the likelihood of a non-UN intervention in Darfur (e.g., NATO, European Union, United States)?

A:  I presume you mean a military intervention. I think there is little support outside the United States for any military action, except perhaps for a no-fly zone, and even that is limited to the United Kingdom. I do not see the UN Security Council authorizing any military action by any other organization unless some new, unforeseen crisis emerges involving widespread civilian deaths of the kind we saw in 2003 and 2004. Civilian deaths have dramatically declined since then (the UN reports that about 1,500 people were killed in Darfur last year, of which 500 were Arabs allied with the Sudanese government), which would categorize the situation as a low-level insurgency.

Greg R. Lawson: How can China be brought along to put serious pressure upon the Bashir regime? Doesn't China have legitimate concerns that, in the absence of the current regime, future natural-resource deals would be far more difficult to obtain?

Also, do you believe that elements within the Sudanese regime would be willing to sideline Bashir in return for normalized relations with the United States? Wouldn't there have to be some kind of arrangement for other members of the regime to not be prosecuted, and wouldn't that raise the ire of humanitarian organizations?

Jillian Fishman: Given that recent relations between Sudan and China entail weapons sales and military training as well as extensive oil exploration and extraction, do you see a role for China in bringing peace and humanitarian relief to Sudan?

A: Too much emphasis has been put on Bashir -- the regime is an oligarchy, not a one-person dictatorship. His entire party is the problem: if he were removed but his party still in power, little would change inside the country. In some ways, Bashir is more moderate than other elements of the ruling party, which stonewalled the North-South peace agreement that he ultimately supported despite his party's objections.  

The Chinese are engaging constructively, but they do so very quietly, which is their diplomatic style. The reason the government of Sudan ultimately accepted the UN peacekeeping force (now two-thirds deployed) is because of Chinese pressure. The Chinese have a vested interest in peace in Sudan and have played an increasingly active and constructive role, which the United States should continue to encourage; the U.S. government should continue to work with them cooperatively. 

Claire Bannerman: From 1985 to 1987, I lived in Nairobi, Kenya. From 1994 to 1995, I volunteered at the Center of Concern. Sudan was in dire straits then, and the UN was very much aware of the needs of the Sudanese people. We have the dedication of some terrific people who give their lives to improving the world's worst situations, so my question is: Why does it take so long?

A: Sadly, everything in Sudan moves in slow motion (except the killing of civilians) probably because of the paralysis of the political system, its internal divisions and dysfunctions, and because of the very weak political institutions of the country.    

 

 

 

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