Ending Violence And Genocide In Africa Perhaps Not A Priority For The White House
The New York Times is reporting today that President Barack Obama is changing his foreign policy strategy on Sudan. Instead of keeping his promise of isolating the country’s bloody dictator, Obama’s envoy will now try to work with him to achieve peace in the region. But given the uncooperative history of Sudan’s leader, the news only reflects Obama’s weak commitment to tackle head on the human rights violations that occur in that region of Africa.
From the NY Times on Saturday:
In advertisements and letters to the White House, legislators, activist groups and Sudanese rebel leaders have accused Mr. Obama of abandoning his promises to make Sudan a priority from his first day in office and to stand tough against President Bashir, whom the International Criminal Court indicted this year for crimes against humanity.
Many African activists and human rights organizations had pinned their hopes on Obama to help restore peace and end the violence in Congo, Darfur, Somalia, and the injustices still being committed in Rwanda. They hoped that Obama’s African roots could perhaps move the U.S. president to do more.
THE MAN BEHIND HOTEL RWANDA
Even Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager which inspired the academy-nominated movie, “Hotel Rwanda” called Obama “brother” and pleaded to him in a letter on January to intervene and put a stop to violence in Congo and other parts of the continent:
Your swift executive action and call for peace will carry enormous weight as one of the early major decisions of your Presidency. It can stop the fateful march to confrontation and have an immediate impact in preventing the death of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent Congolese civilians caught in the cross-fire of the two battling armies.
…Mr. President, our brothers and sisters are being massacred unnecessarily in Central Africa and I, for one, cannot remain indifferent.
In his lengthy letter to Obama, Rusesabagina outlined the problems affecting the most troubled parts of Africa. He has established a foundation that is working to bring solutions to the many conflicts including the ones still happening in his country of Rwanda:
International reports are clear that most militia members currently in the region were not even alive, or were at most children during the genocide in 1994. Unfortunately, given the ongoing political situation in Rwanda, many have since joined the militia as their only hope for a better life. According to the Rwandan government, only Tutsis count as “survivors” of the genocide, even though countless Hutus were also victims in the conflict. Thus if you have two Hutu parents, you cannot receive an education or any other benefits in Rwanda. Combined with other government policies, such as the recent change in official language from French to English, anyone with a Hutu background is an estranged minority at best in Rwanda today.
THE NEW STRATEGY
This latest change of strategy on Sudan may be one huge blow to the hopes that activists like Rusesabagina and others had. The envoy to Sudan led by retired General J. Scott Gration will work with the corrupted Sudanese government and ask for President Omar al-Bashir to fulfill the conditions set in the 2005 peace agreement that the government signed with the southern rebels, the NY Times reports. Obama’s original plan before taking the oath as president was much more aggressive and included sanctioning the Sudanese government until it agreed to stop the violence.
During his campaign, Mr. Obama criticized the Bush administration for doing too little to stop the killing.
His new policy, the result of months of vigorous and heated debate within the administration, signals a significant shift in the president’s thinking.