Negroponte to Sudan: no ultimatum on Darfur

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte leaves April 11 for Sudan, where the State Department says the Khartoum government can expect new sanctions if there is no movement on a long-delayed expansion of international peacekeeping in Darfur. But State officials also made clear they are not saying Negroponte is delivering an ultimatum to Sudan over the issue. Negroponte’s North Africa mission will later take him to Chad, Libya and Mauritania. (VOA, April 11)

South African President Thabo Mbeki has already arrived in Khartoum, where he is expected to press President Omar al-Bashir to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur. (Mail & Guardian, April 11)

Meanwhile, the Darfur conflict is only spreading. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported April 10 that Janjaweed militiamen killed up to 400 in raids on villages across the border in Chad, leaving an ā€œapocalypticā€ scene of mass graves and destruction. The attacks took place March 31 in the border villages of Tiero and Marena. (AP via NYT, April 11)

We view all the diplomatic effortsā€”especially those by Washingtonā€”cynically. The tip-off is the weasily “no-ultimatum” position, designed to make Washington look tough while doing nothing to place real pressure on Khartoum. Another tip-off is the State Department’s ongoing equivocation about whether the Janjaweed’s four-year campaign of mass murder constitutes “genocide.”

Similar strategic ambiguity is evidenced around Negroponte’s stopover in Libya. A group of US Senators, including Hillary Clinton, have penned an open letter to Negroponte, urging: “We urge you to use the opportunity your visit presents to send a strong message to Libya’s President Gaddafi that he must settle the remaining terrorism cases against his country before he can have fully normalized diplomatic relations with the United States.” The letter refers to unresolved compensation for relatives of US victims of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 disco bombing in Berlin. (Reuters, April 11)

As we have noted before, whether Washington takes meaningful action over Darfur “may ultimately depend less on the actual conditions there than on whether Sudan’s regime can recast itself as a U.S. ally in the eyes of the Bush administration.” We suspect Negroponte’s real agenda in Khartoum has less to do with humanitarian concerns than with using the 200,000 Darfur victims as leverage to turn the genocidal regime into a client for Washington’s proxy wars in the Maghreb, Sahel and Horn of Africa. After all, cultivating genocidal client states is an area where Negroponte has a great deal of experience from his years in Central America.

See our last posts on Darfur and the crisis spilling into Chad. See also our last posts on Libya and John Negroponte.