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Crisis in Darfur: When "Never Again" Isn't Enough

Speakers: John Prendergast, Senior Adviser, International Crisis Group, and Erin Mazursky, Executive Director, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND)
Presider: Gideon Yago, Correspondent and Producer, MTV Networks
December 18, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations


Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.

December 18, 2006

GIDEON YAGO:  Hi, everybody.  Thank you very, very much for coming to this event this evening here at the Council on Foreign Relations.  This is technically the Sons and Daughters event.  To those of you who fit that description within the audience, this is where your parents go when they get whisked away to meetings like these, and this is kind of what it looks and feels like.

I just wanted to remind, before we get started, I wanted to remind everybody just to turn off their cell phones, their blackberries, their pagers and other wireless devices, and just to let you guys all know that this is going to be on the record.  And in about a half an hour we're going to open up the floor and you guys will be able to throw questions to both Erin and John. 

And with that, I'd like to introduce the two people that will be contributing far, far more importantly to this conversation than I will today:  John Prendergast and Erin Mazursky.  I'll start with Erin. 

Two years ago Erin, while at Georgetown University campus, started STAND, which is a grassroots movement to stop the genocide in Darfur and is now, and correct me if I'm wrong, the largest student grassroots movement in America.  So when --

JOHN PRENDERGAST:  According to her, of course.

YAGO:   According to her.  (Laughter.)

PRENDERGAST:  With no independent verification.  (Laughter.)

YAGO:  Right.  But we'll assume that's the case for now before we -- but in terms of making this a forefront issue on college campuses, Erin will be able to talk a lot about that.  And John Prendergast, who's to my right, your left, works for the International Crisis Group and has been on the ground.  Well, he's written seven books -- six or seven on Africa?

PRENDERGAST:  Number eight is on its way.

YAGO:  Number eight is on its way.

PRENDERGAST:  That's the one that's important.  All of you get out there and start ordering the book.  Seven -- don't worry about the other seven, they didn't do too well.  This one --

YAGO:  This is the one.  (Laughter.)

PRENDERGAST:  This is the one that's going to put me over the top. (Laughs/Laughter.)

YAGO:  Right, all of them.  That's what we always keep hoping for. 

John has spent an enormous amount of time both in Chad and in the Darfur region of the Sudan trying to raise awareness of the issue through the media, writing op-eds, and also sort of studying the actual happenings on the ground.

And then why am I here?  My name is Gideon Yago.  I'm a producer with MTV Networks.  About three years ago MTV and MTVU looked at what was happening in the Sudan, looked at work that students like Erin were doing, and decided to throw our weight behind, as much as we possibly could, raising awareness amongst our audience, you the sons and daughters in the room, about the issue; to get you to take interest, to get you to mobilize potentially, and to try and force some sort of intervention to stop the violence and stop the killing.  So that's why I'm here today.

And speaking of the violence and the killings, John, I really was hoping that you might be able to paint a picture for us as to what the situation is on the ground at present.

PRENDERGAST:  Well, it's probably the most intense, active conflict zone in the world today, Darfur and the cross-border implications of the Darfur conflict in Chad and the Central African Republic.  Everybody probably is roughly aware of the figures, but we really don't know how many people have actually died in Darfur.  We don't even remotely know.  Anywhere between 200,000 and 450,000 are the estimates that are used. 

Secretary-General Annan the day -- a couple of days before his last, here in New York -- and we will miss him, I guarantee you, on issues that are human rights related -- he said that hundreds, their best guess is that hundreds are being killed, not dying, being killed every day in Darfur as we speak.  And then there are associated mortality and morbidity figures that are much higher because of disease and the other effects of continuous displacement that ethnic cleansing campaigns that are being encouraged throughout North and particularly West Darfur will produce.

So the violence, rather then being reduced by all of the sound and fury in the international community, is actually on the increase since the peace agreement was signed in May between the government of Sudan and the larger -- one of the larger rebel groups.  The others had stayed out of the peace deal. 

The war has intensified in the name of this very peace agreement that was signed back in May, and the government of Sudan -- which, don't let anyone kid you, is responsible for the vast preponderance of violence in Darfur, in eastern Chad, in northeastern Central Africa Republic, for the last 12 years in parts of northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army that it sponsored.  This is a government that is willing to retain power, to maintain power by any means necessary whether it's genocide or other strategies.

And so the strategy it's using now in Darfur and across the border in Chad and Central Africa Republic are the same ones we've read and heard about to our great despair over the last four years.  They're still doing it.  They're still arming the Janjaweed.  Janjaweed militias are now not only riding camel and horseback, but they've been given vehicles by the government of Sudan to accelerate and intensify their damage, and the killing continues. 

The rebels, on the other hand, won't go away.  They're still fighting.  They felt that the deal that was put on the table in May was inadequate and they weren't going to sign, and they've continued to stay out of the process and continue to fight, which gives, of course, the pretext for the government of Sudan to attack, mostly civilian targets in the context of its counterinsurgency campaign.

You all understand that this isn't just happening for no reason.  The government of Sudan is employing the oldest counterinsurgency tactics known to mankind:   It's to drain the water to catch the fish.  We can read, go back in literature to "The Art of War," the very earliest written tomes on how you conduct warfare.  It is what they're doing.  And all of the wonderful conventions that have been signed over the last 50 years, for 75 years, to restrain the kind of attacks that were written about so long ago have been ignored and flouted by the government of Sudan, from the Genocide Convention to all the Geneva Conventions.  And they used these strategies to attack civilian populations, to effectively cut the umbilical cord between the civilian supporters and the rebels.  So the beat goes on.

YAGO:  And I hate to ask you to continue to drum on it, but for some of the younger members who are here tonight, what does that mean?  You know, you're describing these tactics. You're describing, you know, what the situation is.  But if you're John Q. Darfuri -- and I know the situation is very different for men and women there -- how is your life today substantially different from your life three and a half years ago?  And what is it that you're constantly facing on a day-to-day basis?

PRENDERGAST:  Well, one of the things that I've had the opportunity to do is I've been going in and out of Sudan and lived in Sudan about for the last 20-some years, and so in Darfur there was certainly localized conflict in some places over the last two decades, but nearly four years ago, February 2003 when this war erupted, people were largely living in villages.  They were trading robustly across borders and internally within Darfur and adapting to a very harsh Saharan climate which has seen the slow and steady reduction of rainfall over the last century, thus creating and requiring all kinds of very creative, adaptive strategies to survive. 

And then when this war erupted, we've all seen many of the pictures, but the government of Sudan used these militias to basically clear out the non-Arab population from the villages that they inhabited throughout Darfur.  Thousands of villages were destroyed.  Two and a half million displaced.  Probably, as we said, you know, we don't know how many people died, but well over 200,000. 

And so life today for men and women and children in Darfur is as dramatically different as it possibly can be over a four or five-year period to go from a life of agro-pastoralism to a life of complete dependence in displaced camps and refugee camps where vulnerability levels are so high, where sexual violence continues to be a daily concern, a daily trauma for the women in the camps.  Where men, if they leave the safety, the relative safety of these camps and try to move to another location, it's highly likely that they will be picked off and killed in ways that we don't want to discuss here in this room. 

And the general slow, steady deterioration of even the various indices or standards for life and quality of life in these camps is slowly, steadily reducing because the government of Sudan has used food as a weapon; has used starvation as a weapon.  So they turn on and off the aid tap, so people go for weeks without assistance.  Of course, their nutritional status declines dramatically, health problems increase dramatically, and couple that with continuing displacement and you have a cocktail of health and security crises that is often deadly. 

YAGO:  Erin, I wanted to throw a question to you, which is:  When did you find out about what was going on in Darfur?  How did you make it your cause?  And can you tell me about what initially STAND looked and felt like before it got off the ground?

ERIN MAZURSKY:   Sure.  Well, I'm currently a senior at Georgetown University here in D.C., and obviously -- (inaudible).  But I started off as a sophomore in college.  I was actually playing soccer for Georgetown, so kind of very sort of not active in any kind of social justice type of thing at Georgetown, but I was a student of international affairs, I'm a major in culture and politics and sort of heard about this through an e-mail that I got saying "Come to this event" actually at the Holocaust Museum here in D.C. about today's genocide.

And I saw the e-mail and sort of just stopped and sort of was really upset with myself that, you know, I hadn't read up on the news enough to know that there was a genocide going on and that I had to find out through this e-mail.

So I went, just, you know, worked on my schedule and went with a group of friends and I  found out.  We heard the testimony of a Holocaust survivor and then heard about what was currently going on in Darfur, and we were all just kind of appalled and shocked.  And they had sort of an open forum afterwards that was sort of like, okay, well, this is going on, now what do we do about it?

And the answer was kind of obvious, just that we needed to sort of pull together our ideas and our thoughts and work together and form a group, which we -- when we formed STAND at Georgetown.  And it was right around the time that President Bush had first declared Darfur a genocide, September 9th, 2004.  And so that was sort of when Darfur really got on the map, I would say, in the public eye, and so that's when we first heard about it was not too long after that and decided to do something. 

And I guess for me, as the situation continues to worsen, and like this week seven aid organizations just pulled out leaving 500,000 people without anything, you know, it's harder and harder.  And, you know, people are, like, "How did you get involved?" and, you know, there were other things I was doing at the time -- not anymore.  But -- (laughs) -- but it's kind of just the sense of responsibility of that, nobody else is doing something, so we have to try and figure out what we can do.

YAGO:   How quickly did it go from being one chapter to multiple chapters?  And how many chapters of STAND are there now in the world -- excuse me, in the U.S.?

MAZURSKY:   Yeah.  Georgetown formed sort of with the idea that Georgetown would sort of be the nucleus of something that spreads nationwide, and now Georgetown is actually just one of the chapters under sort of a national umbrella organization, which is what I do now.

And it spread very quickly.  We formed in September and by February we had our first national leadership -- national conference on Darfur.  And I want to say that there were about 92 schools just within the first few months there at that conference.  You know, individuals representing one school, but there.  And it just kind of spread like wildfire, I think through our various e-mail networks, our various online networks, through the work of the Holocaust Museum and just sort of hearsay by students, and what we tried to do and through our media efforts and the news and writing op-eds and that kind of thing. 

And originally, you know, it was a thing at Georgetown, we sort of divided up, we said okay, what are the three ways that we need to attack this issue.  And it was sort of fundraising, awareness and political action.  And so that's sort of how STAND on a national level is sort of organized as well now in its different efforts.

YAGO:  What would you say, I mean in those three in particular, whether it's raising awareness, whether it's getting funds and whether it's actually pushing policy -- where have you seen the biggest successes, and how far would you like to continue to go?

MAZURSKY:  Yeah.  The biggest successes, I have to say, the first one in terms of fundraising, or at least in terms of economic pressure on Sudan, has been the student-led divestment movement.  The Sudan Divestment Taskforce has led tens of divestment campaigns in universities across the country.  Providence has divested as a city, California just divested $350 billion from Sudan, and the U.C. system, University of California system divested, and just divestment campaigns are sort of popping up across the country.

And I actually asked Don Cheadle this a couple months ago:  “How do you know we're making a difference?  How do you know that students are making a difference?” And he said, “Well, you know, I attended an event at UCLA, and at first there were only 25 students there for a divestment rally and then there were 150 by the end.  And in the end UCLA decided to divest, along with the U.C. system.”  And he said and that just shows that people's presence has something.

Other successes have been really the target advocacy that we've tried to do through the STAND network, which I didn't answer your question earlier.  There's now over 600 chapters nationwide, but also we have chapters in 10 different countries on four different continents.  And that continues to grow, and so it's becoming more of an international movement.  And that continues to become our focus because the U.S., while we have the most constituency there and that's the most power, or the most sway, we realize that this isn't just the U.S.'s problem and it needs to be something that other countries step in.  And the U.S. can lead the way, certainly, but we need other countries to sort of -- especially sort of middle powers, as you call them, to sort of lead the way.

And so in our targeted advocacy we've been able to sway certain members of Congress and say, "You're not doing enough," or, "You need to push harder on these issues," and really sort of seeking them out and showing that they have a constituency behind them or constituents behind them that they're representing that want this and want them to make Darfur a priority.  And so that I would say those two successes have been huge.

YAGO:  And I'm going to toss this out to both of you guys, but that said, I mean the U.S. has spent a lot of money in terms of doing logistical support of the African Union which is actually there in Darfur now, but it seems like the yeoman's work that's really being done in the field is being done by NGOs.  Why is it that close to four years after the whole start of this thing it's become so difficult to stop the levels of violence and to, you know, basically provide these communities, these now displaced communities of close to 2 million people with either a route home or sustainable living conditions?

PRENDERGAST:   Well, I think because there hasn't been a cost imposed on the perpetrators of the violence, the orchestraters of the violence, particularly the government of Sudan.  It would be, I think, irrational for a regime hell-bent on maintaining power by any means necessary, if it was conducting policies like it has conducted in Darfur and was succeeding in those policies in sowing such tremendous instability that it undermines the rebellion, that if that succeeds and they commit what the Bush administration calls genocide and in so doing but there's no cost to it, why would they stop?

So of course they're going to intensify those policies to, A, ensure that the Darfurian rebellion is shattered, smashed and destroyed once and for all, and B, send a message to any other would-be rebels throughout the country -- because as we know, there are a great deal of instability and rebellion and political opposition throughout Sudan -- to send the message:  Go ahead, try something, this is where you're going, this is your fate.

So I think that the ultimate bottom line is that the policy that the international community has pursued -- which I would summarize as sort of gentle persuasion, the same kind of policy which we pursued during the -- in response to -- the Reagan administration did -- in response to apartheid South Africa in the '80s, constructive engagement, you can call it -- that that policy has encouraged the government of Sudan to continue because there hasn't been a cost.  And it just simply has to change.  We have to change the dynamic. 

And this is why sitting in this room today is so interesting, because the Bush administration has said, in response largely to these kinds of efforts, to student groups, to Jewish organizations, to Christian groups -- who have been hammering on the administration to do more; "You say not on your watch, what do you mean by that?" -- well, finally the administration has said, "Okay, January 1st is the deadline."  They basically drew a line -- we'll see how firm it is -- in the sand, and said if the government of Sudan does not acquiesce on certain measures, key policies, policy shifts, then we are going to introduce what they call Plan B -- which they haven't yet specified -- rightly.  Diplomatically you don't want to play your cards too early or away from your chest.  But we hope they have a Plan B.  And that's where we are right now.   It's at a very big tipping moment.

YAGO:   Can I just add -- is it really possible, though, to affect that kind of cost, to make that kind of demands when 1.5 million barrels of oil a day are going from the Sudan to China, and when we have a delicate relationship with the Sudan in pursuing the war on terror?

PRENDERGAST:   Every government is different and you've got to look, you know, at your adversaries over -- across the table.  You've got to study their activities, their behavior, and their calculations over a decades-long process to understand what they will do and not do in response to the policy instruments you have at your disposal.

If this is the Taliban across the table, I'd say no, some of these punitive measures, particularly economic and legal, will mean nothing to them.  But the National Islamic Front, now called the National Congress Party, the ruling party in Sudan, is not the Taliban.  Bashir, despite his rhetoric, is not Saddam Hussein.  They don't want to go down with the ship; they want to maintain power, as I said, by any means necessary.  Genocide is one means; another means is adaptation. 

When the pressure gets too high, when there's actually a cost associated with the kinds of actions that you're taking, they will change their behavior.  We have plenty of evidence of that during the last 15 years.  When multilateral pressure was applied, either economic or legal pressure was applied, or simply the spotlight on their country for what -- on the government for what they're doing, and specific individuals particularly for what they were doing, they changed their behavior. 

So we haven't yet imposed one punitive measure on the government of Sudan for what the Bush administration calls genocide.  That's a record.  I mean, we've talked ad nauseam, correctly, and we continue to commemorate the 800,000 Rwandans that died in the genocide which the Clinton administration did nothing in response to, and that genocide took 100 days to complete.  This has been four years and we haven't imposed a cost.  We haven't lifted a finger, frankly, to stop these guys from doing it.  And before we send in the 82nd Airborne, before we unleash the military hounds, there certainly are many things we could try, economic measures and legal measures, particularly the International Criminal Court, that in my view, having worked with this government and against this government for 20 years, would change their calculations, alter their behavior and stop the genocide.

YAGO:  We live in a time when politics, though, are dominated by discussions of Iraq, discussions of national security.  Going into something that you said before, Erin, which was that you were trying to make this a constituent's issue, that you were trying to make this something that the voters could go to their local congressman, their local senator and say this is what I'm voting on; this is what I care about -- how do you do that when the national landscape and the national dialogue is obsessed with another part of the world and seemingly very different issues?

MAZURSKY:  Yeah, I mean it's often difficult and I think there's often a separation between sort of people and sort of the people who are representing them, and people really don't feel that connection.  So part of the trick is sort of trying to figure out how to make sort of advocacy interesting and sort of new, and so that people -- and accessible so that people can do it.  And I think one of the things that we sort of started to do is really, like I said, pinpoint members of Congress and hold them accountable. 

Our partner organization, who we work very closely with, the Genocide Intervention Network, just put out something called Darfur Scores.  And it's essentially a grading system of every member of Congress, A through F, on their performance in Darfur, essentially graded -- the Senate and the House have different sort of grading systems, but essentially in their support of different bills that have crossed through, have crossed through Congress. 

And by saying to your constituents and really pinpointing and saying, "Did you know that your representative got an F?  Here's something tangible that you can really push them on and here's the information," and really working to sort of make the information accessible and easy for people to use against or even in favor of their congressman.  Even if their congressman, like Nancy Pelosi, she's got -- she's an A across the board, A-plus across the board, and saying, "You've done a great job but here you are in a leadership position in the House, you have the ability now to push even harder.  And, you know, these are the people, people are falling off, you need to take more of a leadership role." 

And sort of really putting the information into people's hands, into different chapters' hands and saying, this is your district, this is your responsibility and sort of making it innovative is a large key to that.  And sort of just getting people to think of that connection between them and their individual voices and how they can affect their members of Congress.

YAGO:  Outstanding.  And with that, I wanted to open up the floor to all of you to throw questions at Erin or John. 

I also wanted to acknowledge Joey Cheek who's joining us, Olympic speed skater -- please stand up -- who's been a huge advocate for the cause of trying to raise awareness.  And, you know, maybe you can tell us a little about what you've done and what it's been -- if we could get a mike, somehow into -- ah, there we are. 

JOEY CHEEK (2006 Olympic speed skating gold medalist):  Thank you.  Yeah.  I actually just returned -- I was talking to John just a few minutes ago -- from China and Egypt with George Clooney and Don Cheadle, and then we went and addressed the U.N. and met with the Secretary-General.  And one of the things we were told, this group, this delegation -- we flew, last week we flew to Beijing first and met with some foreign ministers in China, and then we flew to Egypt and met with Billion (ph) Mubarak and Mrs. Mubarak, the president's wife and son. 

One of the things we were told was that this is the highest-level delegation that had ever traveled to China and Egypt to discuss the Darfur issue, which you can argue how you want to -- (laughter) -- but I think it's a bit tragic.  You got a couple of actors and a couple of athletes who travel into this region.

Suffice it to say we went to Egypt obviously because they're one of the leaders in the Arab world and one of the leaders in the Arab League, and of course China, as discussed already, is, you know, the largest trading partner with Sudan.  I think they buy 60 percent of Sudan's oil exports.  And so when you ask -- I ask myself what is the impetus that Sudan has to flout U.N. resolutions, like 1706, which says there are 22,000 -- is that right -- troops that are needed on the ground in Sudan if Sudan wants? 

And what you look at is you go, well, China is on the Security Council, the vote was passed unanimously, and China was the only abstaining -- well, Russia might have abstained as well.  But there was a few abstaining votes, but China was one of them.  So then you go to these supporters of Sudan, and you go and you say: What can we do to enlist your help in this?  And we try to handle it as diplomatically as possible because China doesn't operate like we do, if you know what I mean.  So it's a much more closed society.  And we went in there asking not so much, not so much, you know, militantly in their face about things, but asking them how to draw them in as allies on this.

And it's interesting and frustrating at the same time.  What we found is that the Arab world and China obviously have a very different view on this particular crisis than we do.  They look at it as a nation -- or as an issue, one, of sovereignty.  Because they say, you know, we talked about -- Gideon asked earlier, how can we look at what's going on?  How come it's only NGOs on the ground?  How come there's not aid from other countries?  Well, the fact is, Sudan just doesn't let you in.  And if a nation doesn't let you in, then you've only got one other option, and that's send in whoever.  And probably rightly so.  It's not perhaps time for us to send the troops into another Muslim country, and that's why we're hamstrung. 

So, again, I wish I had great optimistic news, that George Clooney really wowed them and -- (laughter) -- and now they're on board.  But I can say this, though.  Certainly in Egypt, meeting with the Mubarak family, we met with what I considered relative success.  Everyone within the government that we met with was very clearly aware of the situation, in fact much better than many U.S. government officials that I've met with, and made overtures to they say that they wanted to help and that they wanted to take a further role.   

Mrs. Mubarak said that she wanted to take a group of Arab women into this region because, although it wasn't mentioned -- it was mentioned a bit in passing.  One of the methods that these proxies, these Sudanese proxies are using is mass rape, which sometimes it gets overlooked when you talk about 200,000 or 300,000 or 400,000 deaths.  It seems like that's the worst thing, and this is a horrible, horrible thing, but when you think about -- maybe nothing seems to offend the senses quite as much as the idea of hundreds and thousands of women being raped by these soldiers.  And at least in my case it just -- it just infuriates me. 

And my biggest frustration has been you have to act diplomatically.  There's a good chance if we did -- and again, I'm no expert on policy. Ten months ago, man, I wore tights for a living, so take this with a grain of salt.  (Laughter.)  But if we do implement heavy military ordnances -- fly-overs, naval blockades, these sorts of things -- without troops to send in, it's also possible -- and John, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, actually I wanted to ask you this before -- it's also possible that they could step up the violence against aid workers.  We saw last week 30 aid workers killed and trucks full of food burned.  It's possible that if we did these huge measures they could step up the violence as well. 

So, it's very delicate, and diplomacy has to be employed, but it's frustrating because it moves so slowly.  And there seems like there're so few plans on the ground. 

Again, I wish I had a more rosy picture to paint, but that was the trip and that is the honest answer of it. 

For the sake especially of the students at STAND and the people of Save Darfur, who have put on several of the rallies, one here in D.C., one in New York, I cannot believe how effective it is, citizens using their voice to move their government.  And it really does make a big deal. 

I met with several senators and congressmen over the last several months.  And if their constituents are talking about this, then they talk about this.  So, citizens leading government in this country, it is effective if people take that role.  And so that has been one of the more heart-warming things, that things actually can happen when citizens decide to take a role and when all of you use your voice and you use your pen and you use your brain to come up with, you know, legislative and political activism like this. 

So, thank you, guys.

YAGO:  Okay.  Thank you very much, Joey.  (Applause.)

Does anyone in the crowd have a question?  First hand I saw went up in the back.

QUESTIONER:  How are you doing?  My name's Travis Atkins.  I'm with Africare.

YAGO:  Okay. 

QUESTIONER:  And I worked in Sudan about two years ago at the beginning of the Conflict 2004 with Save the Children. 

My question is that in my opinion, due to the fact that I see what I would call a diminished state of the moral authority of the U.S. in the world, and the fact that after four years the Sudanese government may have changed the demography of Darfur forever; and because of that lack of moral authority and the fact that even if we took economic measures, the reality is that there are Middle Eastern countries, there is China, there are some Southeast Asia countries that Sudan can turn to; and so even though I applaud everyone who's moving the American government, I really want to figure out how we can move the Sudanese government. 

And without the option of military intervention, my mind cannot even conceive what else is possible.  So I just wanted to put that out there and see if anyone might have thoughts on that.

 PRENDERGAST:  Thank you for bringing it up, it's important. It's important to confront the elephant in the living room.  You know, what do we do?  What could really have an impact on Sudan if we don't have 40,000, 50,000 troops to invade Darfur tomorrow with, which we don't?

Now, if the situation deteriorates dramatically, if we get Rwanda-like conditions in some of these displaced camps three months from now, which, if some of the members of the government of Sudan have their way we will, the debate may shift and people may be much more forward leaning to look at the military possibilities, but right now we know where we are, and Sudan, the government of Sudan knows where we are as well.

So my contention is that there are measures that can be used that have worked in the past to change the government's calculations.  In the 1990s Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan. He incubated his commercial infrastructure for al Qaeda in Khartoum, financed some of the early activities of al Qaeda with the investments that were made in Sudan and the money that was laundered through Sudan in banks there. 

And as a result of that partnership between the Sudan government and bin Laden, the United Nations Security Council, led by the United States, passed a series of multilateral sanctions, very light sanctions but sanctions nonetheless, against individuals in the government of Sudan and the regime itself.  And as a result of that the government dismantled the al Qaeda infrastructure, booted bin Laden out, undertook a series of actions that led to the dismantling of other terrorist training camps in the country, revoked the passports which many international terrorists were traveling -- Sudanese passports that international terrorists were traveling on, and took a number of other actions in response to that because, as we've seen over and over again, the government of Sudan, officials, senior officials in the government of Sudan do not want top have the scarlet letter on their shirt.  They don't want to be perceived as international pariahs.

Therefore, fast forward to the present, and there are many other examples which we can talk about afterwards, many other examples of a response by this regime when multilateral pressures are pursued, particularly through the Security Council. 

There are specific things that can be done.  We can freeze the assets of the companies that they have formed in response to the creation of the oil sector.  We can go after some of those companies, freeze their assets and put a spotlight on them.   This has not only the dynamic of reducing their investment opportunities, but particularly it shines a spotlight on the thieves and the criminals at the senior ranks of that government, because the biggest issue in Khartoum today is not the genocide in Darfur, it's not implementing the peace deal in southern Sudan; it's corruption in this government. We have to be smarter about how we foment internal opposition within the government of Sudan.

Another very important tool is this International Criminal Court, these indictments that are going to be coming throughout 2007.  The United States possesses the largest amount of information and intelligence about who has orchestrated the crimes against humanity that have been committed in Darfur.  If we put those dossiers together, and either threaten to turn them over, or turn them over to the ICC, it will accelerate rapidly the process of forging indictments against senior officials in this government.  Nothing will have a more chilling effect on their actions than that.

So we need to be -- Senator McCain and Bob Dole wrote an op-ed about this very recently.  We need to be playing this tool and going to the government of Sudan and saying:  Which way do you want it?  Door A or door B?  If you go door A, you can be Milosevic, Pinochet, we're not going to get you right away.  Nobody is going to send in a military force to capture you if we've indicted you, but you will be hunted for the rest of your life.  We'll turn the information over gladly if you don't change your behavior.  Or take the B route, which would be much more pleasant for you, stop the kind of actions you're undertaking now, work with us on a revised peace deal in Darfur, allow the troops in, let's do business here.  It's up to you.

We haven't used the leverage that we have.  Until we use the leverage we have we have no idea how they will react.  So, I think there's a lot we can do now to try to influence their calculations.  In the meantime, we need to be planning, rapidly, for the eventuality, the potential for a decline in the situation on the ground in Darfur beyond where it is today.  And I think that the planning has to happen within NATO, it has to happen up in DPKO up in New York, up in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, it needs to happen in the Pentagon.  We need to look at all available options where troops could come from.  We need to start talking to people.  And the government of Sudan needs to see that we're serious about this. 

If they see that we're serious about this -- they don't believe we're serious up till now, which they're probably right because we haven't really planned like this.  We haven't imposed one targeted sanction, one of any kind of punitive measure.  We start to do that, we start to send the message, yeah, this is a top-tier issue: this is North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Middle East.  This is something that we care about and we're going to start acting; time of fiddling around is over.

YAGO:  I'd like to pass to the gentleman in the green tie.  In the middle row please.

Q:   Picking up, John, as you've just indicated, the whole issue of a negative incentive --

YAGO:   I'm sorry.  Can you introduce yourself, please?

 QUESTIONER:  Dick Schubert, I'm sorry, International Youth Foundation, among others.  But picking up the issue that you've just highlighted, and that is the potential indictments coming out of the ICC.  Is it possible as a practical matter for someone to give a kind of grant of immunity?  Because as long as that exists, there is a negative incentive not to permit -- to keep the African Union troops in, who really have no impact, and to preclude the U.N. force from coming in.  Does somebody have the authority to in effect grant a kind of immunity?  And what about the public or global policy consequences of doing that as a practical matter?

PRENDERGAST:  You mean immunity to the troops?

QUESTIONER:  Immunity to the leaders about whom there has been a great deal of data accumulated that they've already committed sufficient crimes to be held.

PRENDERGAST:  Well, many of you, all of you who have -- the fathers and mothers in the room have grappled at one point or another in their life with these questions of peace versus justice, and many of the sons and daughters certainly studied it and will confront these issues as well, because they often don't go hand in hand.

The argument can be made, if we indict these senior officials in Khartoum, it will put them further into a corner and they will pursue their policies of destruction, death and mayhem with even more zealousness because they will feel they have no out.  Well, fortunately, the drafters, including a member of the council, I'm sure, David Scheffer, during the Clinton administration, even though the U.S. didn't sign the -- ultimately ratify the convention, there is  a clause which allows for the suspension of indictments by either the prosecutor or the Security Council in the interests of justice and peace.

So you in my view -- it's a personal view -- press very hard with the prospect of indictment, and indict if you have to some of these senior officials, and on the other hand you say:  If you comply with the various things that we've discussed with you for four years now, as hundreds of thousands of people have died, if you comply with these requests then we will suspend the indictment process. 

And I think it's one of these kinds of things where you have to build the leverage.  Leverage doesn't grow on trees.  You have to build it and then use it to get more.  And I think that when we act and say -- if we back off and don't impose some of these measures, and threaten to impose them but then never impose them, the government of Sudan has taken our measure and has realized that we're not really going to do anything serious. 

And that's why January 1st looms so large.  Andrew Natsios has made it very clear that if the government does not allow this force in and allow there to be some form of a process to get a peace -- a true peace deal in Darfur, that we're going to go to plan B, which will inevitably involve some very strong punitive measures, one would hope.

And if we once again punt, if they haven't done what we've said, what we've asked them to do, what the international community is united about asking them to do -- it's not just the United States, China agrees that there ought to be an international peacekeeping force in there.  They've said it very clearly publicly.  It's not like this is a U.S. agenda.  And if they once again defy that international consensus, and the U.S. does nothing again after threatening this plan B, then people of Darfur better just button down the hatches because there's going to be no hope whatsoever.

January 1st is really crucial.  And it's groups like STAND and the other organizations, national organizations and local organizations throughout this country holding the administration's feet to the fire is going to be the only way I think people in Darfur have a chance.

YAGO:  I just want to try one of the younger members. Thank you.

Q:  My name is Julia van der Vink and I'm a junior in high school.  I understand that you're not policy makers, but I was wondering that as a lobbyist of policy makers, what your vision is for how the products of any U.S. intervention or U.S. aid can really be sustainable in a government that's so unreceptive and that's so different?  And that how long -- I mean I guess what you were talking about earlier, about how long the cat and mouse game can truly be sustainable?

MAZURSKY:   So if an intervention force is in Sudan, basically, how sustainable is that force, is your question?

QUESTIONER:  The products of any U.S. intervention or U.S. aid.

MAZURSKY:   Yes.  So right now, I mean, aid is -- they're desperate for aid in the camps.  And like John was saying, the Sudanese government sort of turns it on, turns it off, and sometimes aid is allowed to go through and sometimes it's not.  And so I mean aid is desperate there.   But I would say what's most desperate right now, what they're the most desperate for is protection and for the AU force, 7,000 members strong right now, for an area the size of Texas is certainly not enough and it can't protect everyone, and it's not.  And like Joey was saying, as a result, hundreds of thousands of women are just -- they're being raped, and it's systematic and it's weapon of war.

And so in terms of the sustainability, there needs to be an international commitment and otherwise there can't be really sustainability.  And I mean you would intervene with the objective of allowing people to return to their homes safely and without fear of these repetitive rapes or without the fear of their villages being burned down again and allowing them to rebuild.

So your question is a difficult one just because there's so many things which come into play when -- if a force is to be deployed.  At the same time, you know, as students we kind of face -- we're kind of -- we kind of face the idealism that kind of drives us versus sort of the realism of the situation.  And so it's often difficult because idealistically we want to say sovereignty shouldn't matter and, you know, it's the ultimate question of human rights versus sovereignty, and in this case everyone would say human rights, this is ridiculous. 

But, you know, for practicality's sake, it's a sovereign nation.  And that's sort of something that we're continuing to work against and saying that, you know, we're not just sort of fighting against these norms, or fighting for Darfur, we're fighting against these norms so that in the future, John doesn't have to -- (laughs) -- you know, work these policies so hard and it's just sort of like well here's the norm and this is the same thing that should be implemented in the future.

So, I don't know if I really answered your question, but it's hard to sustain a force exactly if there isn't a commitment internationally, and it can't just be a U.S. effort.  So there's just a lot of things that have to go into play for that can happen, I guess.

PRENDERGAST:  Just real quickly, you know, there's no -- big news flash here -- there's no military solution to Darfur, there's no military solution to Iraq, in any of these places.  There has to be a political strategy as well.

So the enduring thing, as you're asking, the sustainable thing would be a real peace deal that everyone vests themselves in in Darfur, they believe they have a future and they start to work towards that future.  So the process, the exigency, the absolute, overwhelming requirement right now is for Andrew Natsios, as President Bush's special envoy, to lead the process of redefining and renegotiating that Darfur peace agreement that was so much a contributor to the violence for the last six months.  Get the amendments on that Darfur peace agreement that are necessary to bring in the other rebels and some of the civilian groups in Darfur, invest and build input from a wide variety Darfurians into the future of that region. 

You see the same thing in Southern Sudan now where after 20 years and two and a quarter million people having died in a war between southern Sudanese and the central government in Sudan, they have a peace deal now.  There are problems, of course, and very grave difficulty, but people are investing now in structures, in institutions that will hopefully obviate the need for future cycles of deadly conflict.

We've got to get a political agreement in Darfur, and that's where some of these measures, twisting the arms of the government of Sudan to go ahead and bite the bullet and make the kind of compromises necessary to have a political agreement, then you can invest in that sustainable political agreement in hopes that peace and stability can be brought back to Darfur sometime in the near future.

YAGO:   More questions.  The young lady down there.

QUESTIONER:  Can you talk a little bit more about -- oh sorry, I'm Isabel Roth,  I'm a senior in high school.  Can you talk a little bit more about the root causes of the conflict in Darfur and maybe talk about ways this could be broadcast?   I mean, I've seen a lot of things about Darfur on the Internet and on Facebook, but this is the first time that I've heard about what it really is.  I've seen pictures of lots of kids and I mean, well, I guess I also have a question for Gideon Yago as well.  Can I ask you a question?

YAGO:   Sure.  (Laughter.)  By all means.

QUESTIONER:  Is there a way that we could broadcast this in -- bigger than just the Internet, but on TV and in movies to get the message across to the entire nation?  Where this is coming from, where the ethnic -- the desire for ethnic cleansing is coming from?  Could you talk about that?

YAGO:   Well, I'll let John talk a little bit about the root causes first, as to how the whole situation sparked off.  But as regards to this issue, that we're now nearly four years into it and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lot of people at large in America going about their daily lives who could find Darfur on a map or Sudan on a map, much less tell you why, you know, the genocide there is a moral imperative or not.

You know, I can tell you that there's a large core of people -- you know, Joey was just talking about working with George Clooney -- there's a large portion of people in Hollywood who I think are devoted to kind of cracking that formula.  How do you take something from some far away place that isn't part of people's daily lives and make it relevant and make it sort of important to them?  And I don't think that there's an easy answer.  I think right now you have a situation where -- I mean, there's something about African genocides in particular, too, I hate to say it, that seems to in America get swept under the rug. You know, when you had the parallel examples of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia versus what was happening in Rwanda, you know, look at where the U.S. is, you know, throwing sort of its weight. 

I think frankly, though, that doesn't really matter, whether it's a cause celebre or not, if it is a grassroots movement.  Right now there's very, very few things that I can think of, maybe environmentalism, that transcends political boundaries the way that trying to push toward legislation or different aspects of legislation, you know, over Darfur has.

You have very conservative evangelical communities coming together with very liberal human rights and social justice communities on a common cause, which is just simply just the moral imperative of "if it is a genocide, we have to do something."

I think that there's different aspects of what's going on in Darfur that you can creatively address.  You know, one of that -- a lot of that's the human rights stuff.  There was a piece that John was just in, in "60 Minutes," where they took a very novel approach of following a single thing and how that affected -- making it very personal and very, very human.  But I think if you have a grassroots organization that's pushing for, theoretically, hypothetically, pushing names towards the international community -- Criminal Court, towards refugee status.  Surprisingly, there's very, very few refugees from this conflict that have come to the U.S.  We're still getting to the process of granting immunity, amnesty status to people from Somalia, to people from Rwanda.  So maybe saying, look, this is happening right now, we need to get people out, whether it's the U.S. or other places, to actually give teeth to things like the Darfur Accountability Act or whatever the next stage of legislation is.

And if it is being motivated in that way it doesn't really necessarily have to be, you know, the kind of thing where everybody wears the ribbon or has the t-shirt or is the popular thing.  If there's a sustained sort of interest amongst a devoted sort of community, then I think you still have the capacity to do a great deal of good.  That's my two seconds on that, or in excess of that.

But John, why don't you talk a little bit about the how and the why?  How do you get a tinderbox situation between a bunch of black farmers in a western province of a country that's had 20 years of civil war and an aggravated radical Islamic militia?

PRENDERGAST:  (Chuckles.)  I -- (laughter) -- I was at this thing last weekend that was hosted by a former secretary of State.  It was off the record.  So it's -- you can guess.  And then, it was -- it's a council of a number of former ministers from around the world, former ministers.  The whole discussion for the weekend was about Darfur.  And a former deputy secretary of State came and made a very long presentation about the root causes of the Darfur crisis.  It was the same presentation that he had made in front of Capitol Hill at a congressional hearing, a very exhaustive history. 

He went into all this stuff about Arabs versus Africans and pastoralists versus farmers, and blah, blah, blah.  And there were two -- three Darfurians who had been invited to the meeting, were in the room, were, of course, over in the corner listening to this thing, and they were rolling their eyes.  Because of course every place has history, and every place has difficulties and competitions, local competitions over resources, and sometimes ethnic and nationalist and identity-based conflicts.

But Darfur was not an area of Sudan that was subject to massive civil conflict and ethnic cleansing until the government of Sudan decided to use a particular group of militias to carry out these policies.  What I'm saying to you is the root cause of the Darfur crisis, and therefore the solution, is in horrifically bad governance, governance which will use tactics that constitute genocide and crimes against humanity in order to maintain power.

Darfurians rose up in rebellion against the central government of Sudan because they were being excluded from power; they were excluded from all the wealth-sharing mechanisms of the country.   The non-Arab populations were being subjected to very significant pressure from small groups of militia who were being supported by the central government as a quid pro quo for their political support.   It's very similar to these kinds of things all over the world.  And the only difference is that the government of Sudan is willing to go as far as it's gone. You know, people use any means they can to maintain power.  In Florida they mess around with the ballot boxes.  In Iraq, you know, they gas the Kurds during Saddam's regime.

But in Sudan, these guys have made a very significant study over the last two decades of what works in counterinsurgency. They used all these tools in Southern Sudan.  They used starvation as a weapon, they used militias, they used slave raiding, all the kinds of things that they've now perfected and deployed to Darfur.

Yeah, there are root causes, there are all kinds of inequalities in Darfur based on history, identity and resources.  But that's not why the horrific civil conflict has erupted in Sudan.   It erupted because this government was willing to -- or was unwilling to share power, unwilling to share wealth, and used violent means to pressure populations who do not agree with it politically until those populations decided the only recourse they had was to take up arms to protect themselves, their communities, and to fight for their rights. And that's what we got, an old-fashioned war.

YAGO:  I'll take one last question, from the gentleman with the beard, as they gave me the five-minute wrap it up before.  And I should tell you guys that I guess the buffet is on the first floor if you're interested in sticking around and eating and pestering either Erin or John with your questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER:  What an incentive, there is a free lunch.  (Laughter.)  A preface and then a quick question.

YAGO:   Can I ask you to introduce yourself?

QUESTIONER:  I'm sorry.  I'm John Sewell from the Woodrow Wilson Center.  Lest you feel that you're a voice in the wilderness, a lot of people in this town depend on your reporting, and trust it, on what's happening in Darfur, and we thank you for that.  And Erin, the same thing for you for organizing the university students.

Question is this.  You implied, but I'm not sure you meant, that there's a uniformity within the international community, and if you're going to make these measures effective, there are a lot of different countries with lots of different interests beside China in the Sudanese situation.

And secondly, part of it, is there no growing sense within segments of the Khartoum elite that this is a high-cost, low-return operation if they continue it?  Is there the same kind of belief growing that grew within South Africa that, leaving morality aside, this isn't in our interest to do so if we want to continue in our position?  And I'd be interested in your views on that.

PRENDERGAST:  The interesting thing about that is, you know, that they're watching us, and I talk to them a lot so I try to now to represent the positions of the government of Sudan as fairly as I can. 

But there's certainly grave concern, particularly about the kind of things that Erin talked about earlier, the divestment movement sweeping across the United States, universities, states.  And by the way when Clooney stood behind Governor Schwarzenegger when he signed the California divestment bill, let's just say George got a number of calls in the next few days afterwards from governors' offices around the country saying, "Well, if we sign such a bill, will you come and stand behind us?" (Laughter.)

So these kinds of things, they have a tendency to pick up steam.  And the government of Sudan is very, very clever, very good students of history, they see where the handwriting potentially will go on the wall, but they also see, as I said, so far the United States government, for its reasons -- we haven't talked about its reasons, and we could take another whole session on the complicated factors why the U.S. has not escalated more dramatically in response to this genocide.  And my view is that it is counterterrorism considerations and imperatives, but that's a different discussion.

So I think that when the Sudan government realizes that in fact this public pressure that has been building -- which has led the president, by the way, to instruct National Security Adviser Hadley to come up with some real options here because he feels like he has not been given robust enough choices up till now -- and therefore this January 1st deadline will be even more interesting because it seems to have the president's support.

And I think the potential for the worm turning has arrived.  That in fact, if the government of Sudan sees that the United States is serious about these issues and is willing to lead in the Security Council, at times probably costing us some support on other top-tier issues for the kinds of things that we pursue in the Security Council -- there are just endless daily trade-offs, as all of us know, in those kinds of power politics situations.  But I think that once demonstrated, that once the United States, through the Security Council, demonstrates it's willing to act, that the Sudanese will respond very quickly. 

And I do know that they are very unnerved by the announcement by Ocampo that he's going to start announcing indictments for the ICC in February.  They do not want to spend the rest of their lives with the very significant sword of Damocles hanging over their heads as being an indicted war criminal to be captured at any time they step out of the country.  So I think there are these tools if applied will affect their calculations quickly. 

But in the meantime, the thing that would get their attention the most, and three of your members -- Tony Lake and Susan Rice and Carson Payne -- have written about this in The Post, but there's got to be credible planning on the military front.  Whether we ever use it or not, I don't know.  I don't know what the political calculations will be on all parties.  But multilaterally as much as possible, there has to be planning that goes forward. 

And stop talking so much about it.  We've walked very loudly and carried a toothpick for the last four years.  It's time now to do what our predecessors have told us; we walk softly and build that stick, build it outward, let them know what we got, what we're planning for, quietly and confidently, and start to move.  Because genocide, as the president has called it, requires, I think, a response far more robust than what we've delivered up till now.  Requires morally, requires strategically, I think, for us to do more, to be bigger then we have up till now.

So I'm looking forward to January 1st.  I'm looking forward to seeing whether, A, Sudan acquiesces because they don't want to face whatever plan B is, or B, there actually is teeth; there actually is a stick that is going to be wielded and hopefully will move the process down the road towards the end of this horrible crisis for the people of Darfur.

YAGO:  Well, that wraps this discussion.  I want to thank you all for coming.  And I want to thank especially Erin and John for what they had to say. (Applause.)

Thank you all very much. 






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