Beyond Darfur

Sunday, May 15, 2005

THIS PAGE has urged tougher pressure on Sudan's government, which promotes genocide in the western province of Darfur. But such pressure could also yield benefits elsewhere. Sudan's government has backed murderous militias in other parts of the country, and may be tempted to do so again in response to a regional rebellion brewing in the east. Sudan's rulers need to hear the message that sponsoring horrific death squads is not an acceptable practice, in Darfur or anywhere.

A good example of the potential gains from pressuring Khartoum is provided by the Lord's Resistance Army, which terrorizes parts of southern Sudan and northern Uganda. Thanks to the LRA, northern Uganda has been in a state of low-level war for 18 years. Thousands of children have been kidnapped to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, and perhaps 1.6 million people have been driven from their homes. The LRA's leader, a self-styled messiah named Joseph Kony, has received arms and a safe haven from Sudan's government. In return he has attacked Sudanese civilians, acting as a proxy for the government in its long war with the southern rebels.

That war recently ended, at least on paper. But Sudan's government continues to provide sanctuary to the LRA, raising questions about its commitment to the peace; meanwhile, LRA fighters cross into northern Uganda to prey on civilians. Every night children walk into the center of the provincial capital, Gulu, to sleep on the streets. It's safer there than on the outskirts of the town, where the LRA kidnappers come calling.

The United States and its allies have sometimes viewed Sudan's various conflicts as separate issues: If you try to solve one you have to de-emphasize the others. For a while last year they made a north-south peace accord the priority, letting Darfur take second place; today they emphasize Darfur and feel they cannot simultaneously press for the arrest of LRA leaders. But the truth is that all these conflicts reflect the same challenge: The willingness of Sudan's government to sponsor atrocities. It will take a common effort from the United States, Europe, Russia and (most awkwardly) China to pressure the Sudanese regime into changing its ways. But the diplomatic effort is worthwhile: The stakes are bigger even than the awful genocide in Darfur.

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