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US struggles to exert leverage on Sudan

US efforts to both persuade and strong-arm Sudan's northern government into cooperation have been unsuccessful, illustrating a lack of leverage that is a result of inconsistent policies.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / June 24, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a UN Security Council meeting on Sudan at UN headquarters in New York on Nov. 16, 2010.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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In early June, violence began in Southern Kordofan State (which lies inside North Sudan, on the border with South Sudan) when the government in Khartoum started to disarm residents who had fought on the side of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during the 1983-2005 civil war. With peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) unable to halt the violence, and with Khartoum pressing for UNMIS to end its mandate once Southern independence happens on July 9, many fear an escalation of conflict. The crisis in Southern Kordofan – which observers like UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Golberg are calling “ethnic cleansing” – raises the issue, once again, of how much leverage the US has over the regime in Khartoum.

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Yesterday President Barack Obama released a statement praising a peace agreement in Abyei, another Sudanese border region, and condemning the violence in Southern Kordofan:

The situation in Southern Kordofan is dire, with deeply disturbing reports of attacks based on ethnicity. The United States condemns all acts of violence, in particular the Sudanese Armed Forces aerial bombardment of civilians and harassment and intimidation of UN peacekeepers. With a ceasefire in Southern Kordofan, alongside the agreement to deploy peacekeepers to Abyei, we can get the peace process back on track. But without these actions, the roadmap for better relations with the Government of Sudan cannot be carried forward, which will only deepen Sudan’s isolation in the international community. Without a cease-fire and political negotiations, the people of Southern Kordofan cannot enjoy the right to have their political grievances addressed. The negotiations now under way in Addis Ababa demand the urgent commitment from both sides to peace and to the agreement for immediate help to those civilians caught up in this conflict.

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