His country is known among many Americans as one of the most vile, hateful, misogynistic, terror supporting, genocidal hell-holes on the planet. But, the man from Khartoum was hardly as demonic as many have depicted when he came to Washington and called for "turning a new page" in Sudan/U.S. relationships. The man from Sudan came to Washington following a referendum that he knows likely leads to half his country's land area going to the new and independent State of Southern Sudan.
In talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and his speech at the Washington Woodrow Center Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti put United States' foreign policy makers in question by asking "what next"? Ali Karti says the United States should build on the progress from its successful referendum and quickly move on in normalizing ties with Sudan. "The Sudanese have fulfilled an essential obligation. As far as world expectations go, we have delivered and thus our commitment to peace should never be in question," Karti told Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
After decades of U.S. operatives' involvement to topple Khartoum's government they succeeded in cutting Karti's country in half with the South's January vote to succeed. Two decades of Sudan campaigns that labeled people from Khartoum as perpetrators of slavery, "genocidal," "terror supporting" and "woman mutilating" brought the parties to here. The final results of the referendum are due in early February2011. For letting it take away from the land, the U.S. has offered Sudan a range of incentives if it peacefully accepts the results. Karti believes that improved relations should result from his government's concessions after experiencing years of disinformation and discord. Karti wants the Obama administration to drop Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
When Karti says: "It's time to turn a new page" he is going against years of American opposition to his regime. While some Washington officials have praised Sudan for the January vote, some of the old-line opposition are set on moving the goalposts, saying they are "still concerned about the situation in Darfur." Karti considers "Darfur," where violence from rebelling forces continues, the canard in this deck and says: "Rather than moving the goals, let us stick to the goals now and work together to get to those goals." Scott Gration, the Obama administration's special envoy for Sudan was in the audience.
Sudan (land of the Blacks) received its "bad rap" from a coalition of Jewish Lobby organizations and most Black Members of Congress. Led by Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Donald Payne, theirs were the voices that spoke for two decades about "unspeakable atrocities" they claimed were being committed by Arabs in Khartoum against 1) the "Christians" of South Sudan and 2) "Africans" in Darfur.
Isn't it high time we turn a new page in U.S.-Sudan relations? That begins with removal of the Khartoum government from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and lifting of sanctions which have wreaked havoc on the Sudanese people and their economy for nearly two decades. Khartoum and Washington still have issues have issues left unresolved by the independence vote to discuss. These important items include borders, citizenship, and the division of oil revenues and the future of the oil-rich region of Abyei.
The Land of the Blacks probably holds good investment opportunities for African Americans. Washington will permit an exchange of ambassadors if both North and South Sudan agree on the key principles for co-existence. With full implementation of Sudan's 2005 peace deal and commitments put in place to resolve the Darfur conflict, the U.S. government would work with Congress to lift economic sanctions, rescind the state sponsor of terrorism designation and support international assistance and relief of Sudan's $35 billion external debt.
Within weeks after referendum results are finalized, the Obama administration should move ahead to normalize relations with Khartoum. There should be no wavering in U.S. commitments in these matters. State Department spokespeople say Clinton "reaffirmed U.S. willingness to take steps toward normalization of relations, as Sudan meets its commitments."
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.