The Rice is Right: Why We Should Follow the Ambassador’s Ideas for Sudan Policy

Posted by at 2:04PM

By Marloes and Judith Sijstermans, student anti-genocide activists

UN Ambassador Susan Rice '86 has followed through with the advice she gave at her commencement address. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

When U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (Class of ’86) returned to Stanford to deliver the 2010 commencement address, she urged graduates to work towards positive change in the world. This week, she has backed up those words.

When General Scott Gration, US Special Envoy to Sudan, proposed a policy towards Sudan that would sideline Darfur completely, Rice spoke out as the lone dissenting voice defending millions of Sudanese people. Activists around the country have joined Rice in standing against the proposed plan, which continues the use of only positive incentives rather than consequences in dealing with Khartoum. Anti-genocide activists, including us students, are calling for President Obama to live up to his promises and to make this critical choice a positive turning point in Sudan policy. He has said, “I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.”

But Gration’s proposed plan for Sudan does just that. This new policy proposal deemphasizes the genocide in Darfur and contains few solid consequences. Like the World War II era policy of appeasement, Gration supports positive incentives for the Sudanese government if the January referendum goes smoothly. However, negotiation with Khartoum has proven to be an ineffective method in curbing violence, genocide and, corruption.

This year’s April elections were neither fair nor free, reelecting Omar al Bashir through a flawed and corrupt process. The Sudanese government has broken peace agreements time after time, and the violence and destruction continues in Sudan.

Scott Gration (right) briefs the President on Sudan. (Photo: White House/Pete Souza)

While there is a time and place for policies of appeasement, the Sudanese government has been unresponsive to these policies and thus, Gration’s proposal this week is severely out of sync with what the people of Sudan need. President Obama himself has said that if engagement has been shown not to work then, “We’re going to have to apply additional pressure on Sudan in order to achieve our objectives.” Engagement has not worked. In making his choice between Gration and Rice’s proposals this week, President Obama should live up to his promises. The United States must pressure the Sudanese government; incentives have not worked to quell the atrocities occurring in Sudan.

Additionally, while the January referendum is a very important part of Sudan policy, the new proposal focuses too singularly on the referendum. The referendum is an important moment in Sudan and it speaks to those southern Sudanese people who fervently want independence. It does not, however, address the ongoing violence in Darfur, the millions of people in IDP camps around the country, and the Sudanese government’s culture of impunity. Focus on the referendum does not ensure a safer Sudan for all Sudanese, and this is the problem that Rice’s dissent seeks to address.

In neglecting to pay adequate attention to the human rights atrocities, Gration turns a blind eye to some of Sudanese president Omar al Bashir’s worst offenses, which the ICC has quantified as three counts of genocide and seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. US policy cannot reward Bashir any longer. President Obama must live up to his very own convictions, that “we can’t say never again and then allow it to happen again.”

This week we face a turning point in Sudan. We must make the situation in Sudan a priority and call on our leaders to do what is right. As Susan Rice noted in June, “Things get better because we make them better; and things go wrong when we get too comfortable, when we fail to […] seize opportunities.” This may be the best opportunity we have to improve the situation in Sudan.

Marloes is a senior at Stanford and Judith is a freshman at Berkeley. They are sisters and members of the group STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, which advocates on issues relating to genocide and mass atrocities around the world.


3 Responses to “The Rice is Right: Why We Should Follow the Ambassador’s Ideas for Sudan Policy”

  1. different opinion says:

    1. Darfur is but one of many conflicts that are raging in Sudan. Jonglei State had a higher death toll and more displaced in 2009 than Darfur, according to International Crisis Group.

    2. An arms race between North and South Sudan means that if the referendum is not made a PRIORITY, civil war could break out, causing even worse violence in all of Sudan, including Darfur.

    3. Khartoum needs to be sanctioned, Bashir is a War-Criminal. Fact. But Khartoum is necessary if the referendum is to be successful. Bashir needs to accept the result of the referendum, and Gration’s positive relations with khartoum mean that he might be able to achieve that.

    4. Bashir is terrible, yes, but who are the alternatives? Hasan al-Turabi leads a rival political group in the North, and he was the guy who harbored Osama bin-laden and tried to assasinate Mubarak in 1995. We want Bashir out, be we should also be careful what we wish for.

    Sudan is more complex than just Darfur, and yes I feel for the people in Darfur who are suffering, but the political realities on the ground dictate that we need to focus on preventing what could be an even greater catastrophe first.

  2. Alice Bosley says:

    Thanks for the comment! There are a few things that I should clarify: The US’s policy towards Sudan as it was written in October has three priorities when it comes to Sudan:

    1) Ending all mass atrocities, human rights violations and genocide in Darfur
    2) Ensuring that the North/South referendum doesn’t end in violence and that both sides are complying with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and
    3) Making sure that Sudan is not a breeding ground for terrorism/ does not support terrorism

    The North/South referendum is already a priority, and it definitely should stay that way. What we’re advocating is not putting Darfur as a priority OVER the North/South, but rather to make sure that Darfur remains one of our policy priorities towards Sudan throughout this year, rather than getting left by the wayside. Violence in Darfur has significantly increased in the past year (see: and, and it’s crucial that the international community does not let the situation return to what it was in 2004 or 2005. If Obama were to accept the policy implementation strategy that was put forward this week, the North/ South referendum would be a priority but Darfur would no longer be one.

    In response to your second point, again, we are not advocating for the use of pressure and consequences OVER the use of incentives. We realize that both are equally important. I do firmly believe, though, that our policy must be balanced. Our relations with Sudan in the past have shown very clearly that the use of only incentives doesn’t work. If we want to be able to ensure a positive outcome to the referendum and to recent occurrences in Darfur, like clearing the Kalma camp, we need to be ready to use pressure as well as “gold stars and cookies” (

    In the past year, the Sudanese government has:
    –Presided over rigged national elections (

    — Cracked down on human rights activists and political opponents (

    –Threatened aid workers and refused their entrance into Kalma Camp (

    — And has failed to fulfill pre-referendum requirements in the CPA (

    This is all while Gration was feeding them “gold stars and cookies”.

  3. different opinion says:

    I’m glad that STAND is aware of the importance of the referendum… I’ve always been a big supporter of STAND, and I think you guys do awesome work, especially at Stanford!

    I do have to disagree with one thing though:

    1. Violence has increased in Darfur in the past year: Sure, but the important thing to look at is violence between whom? The Genocide is characterized as ARAB violence against NON-ARAB Africans. The article you cited ( attributes a majority of the violence to ARAB vs ARAB tribal conflict. Violence may have increased, but it is not the same as the Genocide.


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