Civil war has raged in Sudan since 1955, with an 11-year break in the 1970s and '80s. Since 1983, the world's longest-running war has killed 2 million of the nation's 28 million people and displaced millions of others.
The causes are complex: The Arabic and Muslim north wants to impose Islamic law on the African, Christian, and animist south. Southerners complain they have never been adequately represented in the Khartoum government, which controls natural resources in their region.
The Khartoum regime has turned a blind eye to religious persecution and slavery. But the southern rebels have contributed to the list of human-rights violations too.
What originally was a north-south civil war, however, has evolved into a conflict involving 10 warring parties in every section of the country. Flip-flopping alliances add to the disorder.
Last year a disastrous famine threatened 2.6 million people with starvation. While peace efforts are under way, including one organized by neighboring states, they have been spasmodic at best.
The world is currently spending $1 million a day in humanitarian aid to the war's refugees, while the Khartoum government spends $1 million a day fighting the war. This can't go on. It's time the world moved Sudan to the front burner and put an end to the conflict, which would help stop the slave trade in the south. The United States should:
*Press the United Nations Security Council to take the matter up, get a cease-fire, and arrange a settlement.
*Appoint a US special envoy to bolster the peace process.
*Help fund a permanent office, with commissioner and staff, for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the neighboring countries' mediation committee. This will allow regular negotiations to continue without interruption.
*Fund university scholarships for selected southern Sudanese students, who have been cut off from educational opportunities by the war. Educated people will be needed to help run any future government and develop the region.
The US has spent $700 million during the last decade on aid to the war's victims. The prospect of even one more year of this tragedy ought to be enough to spur US and UN officials to action.