, WASHINGTON, Sep 2 – US President Barack Obama is facing calls by activists to get tougher with the Sudanese government to bring peace to Darfur and ensure a peaceful referendum on southern independence in January.
In a letter sent to Obama dated August 26 — a copy of which was obtained by AFP — activist groups urged the Obama administration to return to its original carrot-and-stick policy that was unveiled last October.
The letter signed by around 80 groups welcomed the announcement last week by the State Department to expand its diplomatic presence in Sudan, including dispatching retired US ambassador Princeton Lyman, a seasoned Africa hand.
But it added: "We believe a more robust set of tools must be employed to ensure not only a peaceful referendum on southern independence, but also peace in all Sudanese regions, including Darfur, through the referendum and beyond."
Under the 2005 US-backed Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended a 20-year civil war between north and south, a referendum is due to be held on January 9 to let southerners decide on union or independence.
But a commission formed in June to organize the referendum is torn by internal disagreement and has still not begun the process of voter registration which is expected to take several weeks at least.
"It appears that some in your administration are currently advocating for an incentives-based approach focused on the short-term goal of a peaceful referendum," said the letter to Obama.
"While we agree that this goal is a critical one, we strongly believe that this approach will only ensure more backsliding in the future by an emboldened regime in Khartoum," the letter said.
Amir Osman, a Save Darfur Coalition executive, told AFP he believed Scott Gration, the special envoy for Sudan, favors the "incentives-only approach", and Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, backs "the balanced approach."
The letter added: "We must also not lose focus on resolving the worsening humanitarian and security crisis in Darfur as the government of Sudan continues its track record of abuses and violence in Darfur and throughout Sudan.
Darfur has been gripped by civil war since 2003 that has left 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million displaced, according to the United Nations.
The letter was signed by groups including The Enough Project, Genocide Intervention Network, Save Darfur Coalition, Affiliation of Christian Engineers, American Islamic Congress, and Jewish World Watch.
The Enough Project said incentives could include full normalization of Khartoum\’s ties with Washington, while pressures could include urging countries to ban international travel for officials and expanding the UN arms embargo.