Monday, August 24, 2009

Darfur Activists Urge Obama to Get Tougher

WASHINGTON — Darfur activists upset about President Barack Obama's Sudan policy are launching a critical advertising campaign that urges him to step up pressure on Khartoum.

The move comes as the Obama administration is preparing to release a delayed review of U.S. policy on Sudan. Activists, who had hoped Obama would focus more than the Bush administration did on Darfur and take a tougher line, say they fear disappointment.

Advertisements purchased in U.S. newspapers to begin running Tuesday highlight past statements on Sudan by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and urge the officials to live up to their words.

They are signed by:
Humanity United,
Save Darfur,
the Genocide Intervention Network
Investors against Genocide.

The groups say they have purchased ad space in newspapers including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and two local papers on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where Obama is vacationing this week.

One spot quotes Obama's statement on the appointment of his special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, in March.

"Sudan is a priority for this administration, particularly at a time when it cries out for peace and for justice," Obama said.

"President Obama, it is just a nice quote unless it inspires equally strong action in Sudan," the advertisement says. It urges the administration to ensure the international community enforces consequences for human rights violations in Sudan.

Some of the activists have been critical of Gration for what they believe is an emphasis on incentives for the Sudanese government to cooperate. While the administration wants to pressure Khartoum to prevent further violence in Darfur, where conflict has led to the deaths of up to 300,000 people and the displacement of 2.7 million, it also is seeking help in fighting terror.

The United States also is trying to help Sudan fully apply the terms of a 2005 peace accord that ended a 22-year civil war between the northern and southern parts of Sudan.

Some of the activists say the administration needs to make clear that it will press for sanctions and other punitive measures if the Sudanese government commits or condones human rights violations.

"There is considerable angst about how the policy is unfolding," said John Prendergast, co-founder of Enough! "The current strategy is a recipe for a return to war."

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