Is War in Sudan Over?

A top UN official thinks so, but activists and experts still debate the state of Sudan

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Today, the United Nations' military commander in Sudan declared that the civil war there has ended and President Obama's special envoy to Sudan said it is not a state sponsor of terror. The news comes in the midst of what may be a turning point in the long-lasting debate over what role--if any--America should play in Sudan's violent crisis. It also coincides with one Sudan activist group's barrage of humanitarian ads in major papers and on Martha's Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing.

  • Should We Intervene?  The New Republic's Richard Just tackled the debate over intervention head-on in a lengthy review of Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror by Mahmood Mamdani, which Just called "a book dedicated to arguing that the Darfur genocide was not really as bad as we think." While not explicitly telling Obama to send in infrantry brigade to Khartoum, Just argues passionately in the abstract on behalf of intervention, especially in cases of human rights abuses such as those in Sudan. Just compared Sudan to the Balkans, arguing that intervention could be part of "changing Khartoum's behavior." He wrote, "It is often quite possible to stop the killing through diplomacy, threats, and punitive military force against that government." He sympathetically referenced "calls for U.N. troops or even the United States to take action in Darfur," noting that he himself has made them.
  • Obama's Darfur Record  Just criticized Obama's "glacial caution." He called out Obama's refusal to take a firm position that intervention on behalf of human rights was a possibility. "It would be important to hear a liberal American president say so," wrote Just. "It would be even more important to see him act on it." The Atlantic's Chris Good noted, "Obama hasn't exactly done nothing." Good wrote, "The administration has focused on getting humanitarian aid groups back into Sudan, after they were kicked out by President Omar al-Bashir." Chuck Thies, a consultant to Sudan activist groups, told Ben Smith, "The organizations that lead the advocacy movement are divided on whether or not to hammer the Obama administration." Thies explained, "There are those who want to allow the administartion more time to develop a detailed policy and plan of action, and there are others who recall Obama's words as a Senator and on the campaign trail about the need to take strong, immediate action to protect civillians from the genocide."
  • What If It's Over?  Just conceded much of the violence may be over. "There was a lag between what was happening on the ground and how activists and journalists in America responded," he wrote. "By 2006, when the Save Darfur movement began to gain some momentum, the bulk of the destruction was largely complete." Thies argued that, with many still in camps, it's far from over. "Though the rate of death from violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced in the past year, millions of people still live in unsafe refugee and IDP camps, slowly starving to death," he wrote. "No one suggested the Holocaust genocide ended until the death camps were liberated; the same should be true for Darfur."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.