In an April speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Bush reiterated his statement that the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region is genocide. He also announced “Plan B,” a set of steps to up pressure on the Sudanese government over its complicity in the conflict that has killed some two hundred thousand and displaced nearly three million people. At the urging of the United Nations, however, Bush held off on implementing the plan to allow UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon time for his diplomatic efforts to bear fruit. Though Ban has reported progress in his negotiations (WashPost), on May 29 President Bush announced the implementation of those measures.
When the crisis in Darfur erupted in 2003, janjaweed militias backed by the Sudanese government attacked villages to suppress two rebel groups fighting the government. Now, the conflict has spread to neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic, at least twelve rebel groups fight each other and the janjaweed in Darfur, and the Sudanese government continues to obstruct the deployment of UN peacekeepers. International actors have thus far failed to pressure Khartoum to stop the killing in Darfur, as this CFR.org Crisis Guide explains.
The measures President Bush announced all boil down to one action: sanctions. Thirty companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government and one company accused of transporting arms to Darfur (CNN) will be targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department. Individuals connected to the violence in Darfur will also be sanctioned, including Ahmad Muhammed Harun, Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, and Khalil Ibrahim, leader of rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement. Harun has been accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, and Ibrahim has refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.
The U.S. government has applied strict sanctions to Sudan since 1997 (when the country played host to Osama bin Laden), so it’s unclear how powerful an effect additional sanctions will have. “Sudan has been quite adept at avoiding sanctions for the past decade, and this is not going to have a lot of bite,” Philippe de Pontet, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group, told the New York Times. The United States will also press for a new UN Security Council resolution to impose multilateral sanctions, an expanded embargo on arms sales, and a no-fly zone over Darfur. In a Reuters debate on May 29, John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group argued that progress in Darfur will require multilateral sanctions. He suggested there is a “monumental opportunity staring us in the face” right now for the United States, France, and China to work together on exerting leverage over Khartoum.
As a Council Special Report on mass atrocities and Darfur notes, the main obstacle to stopping the crisis in Darfur is a lack of political will. While the Sudanese government is responsible for the atrocities in the region, the report argues “the failure to stop the killing is a collective one.” Now that the United States has toughened its stance on Darfur, others may follow suit. The European Union has already signaled it is open to sanctions (AP). Despite recent shifts in its policy on Darfur, China, a major investor in Sudan’s oil, has come out in opposition (Reuters).