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February 16, 2011

'-when the people revolt -- and they will -- the Americans will run away from him-'

US olive branch to Sudan could backfire
Opheera McDoom
McDooms pitch perfect piece linked here http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE71A0AO20110211
Excerpts below;
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Washington risks repeating an old mistake in Sudan by supporting a repressive government for the sake of regional stability, a policy which has imploded with mass protests throughout the Middle East, government critics say.

Many in Sudan say the United States is turning a blind eye to Khartoum's crackdown on freedoms in the north and in Darfur --

Given popular uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia against U.S.-supported governments that have crushed opposition for decades, opposition figures in Sudan question the wisdom of rewarding Khartoum for allowing the south to secede unless it relaxes its security policies in the north.

So far Khartoum has used force to suppress small anti-government protests, but as food price rises bite and it cracks down more, demonstrations could gain more support. "They are making the same mistake as elsewhere and it's absolutely unacceptable how they can be silent on the fighting in Darfur and the violence in the capital," said Mariam al-Mahdi, an opposition leader and the daughter of the last democratically elected leader of Sudan.

Leading the U.S. charge to befriend Khartoum is presidential envoy Scott Gration. At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Ali Karti this week, Gration praised government cooperation with U.N. peacekeepers (UNAMID) in Darfur and defended the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission's restrictions on aid agencies. "The Government of Sudan has taken great steps to lift restrictions on UNAMID," he said. "We've seen great improvement of access for UNAMID and for the international NGOs.

" This may surprise those working in Darfur. U.N. reports in January alone recorded 11 patrols stopped by the government and four threats of attack in the past two months. Aid agencies are still barred from much of rebel-controlled Jabel Marra.-

Gration, along with much of the West, has also kept largely silent on a crackdown on three opposition parties, dozens of arrests of youths demonstrating against price rises and government policies, and the beating and tear gassing of a series of peaceful student protests throughout the north.--

What Washington has offered -- help with relief of Sudan's $40 billion external debt, removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism or easing of a trade embargo -- seems to have been sufficient for Khartoum to change its tone and stop it beating the drums of north-south war.-

"If you're listed as a state sponsor of terror you should be delisted because you're not supporting terrorism not as a reward for something ... political -- it politicises that classification," said Gill Lusk, a Sudan specialist at the Africa Confidential publication.-

"If things continue to deteriorate in Darfur and the north, the (United) States will be forced to take a stand," said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.--

"Bashir just wants American support so he does not fall. But when the people revolt -- and they will -- the Americans will run away from him," said Ibrahim el-Senoussi, a senior member of the opposition Islamist Popular Congress Party.
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