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Global Conflict in the 21st Century, Colloquium on Darfur

Gregory L. Garland , Public Affairs Chief, African Affairs
Nova-Southeastern University
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
March 29, 2007

Greg Garland, Public Affairs Chief, African Affairs, speaks at Nova-Southeastern University conference on Darfur.  State Department photo.Distinguished faculty, students, fellow speakers, ladies and gentlemen - good afternoon.

I want to thank Nova-Southeastern University for this initiative.

Today's eloquent expositions of the history, culture, and people of that region have helped us to understand the context of the atrocities that have and continue to occur there.

Let me repeat that word: atrocities. This is not a crisis to be reviewed. It is human suffering and loss of the vilest sort and on the grandest scale. It must end now, and those responsible must be held accountable.

Today, I will discuss the two prongs of U.S. policy: saving lives, and ending the violence. I will close by placing our policy in the larger context of a dynamic, successful U.S. Africa policy. I hope to leave you with a clear sense of what the U.S. has done and am doing, and your own roles in influencing that process.

A REFLECTION ON LOCAL HISTORY -- FT. LAUDERDALE

Before I turn my attention to policy, I'd like to take up the challenges that Dr. Alex Cuc and Mr. Altrayeb Bashier issued this morning. I want to apply their respective concepts of collective amnesia and the importance of place names to the place where we find ourselves today - Greater Ft. Lauderdale (with apologies to the mayor of Davie).

To much of America, indeed the Western world, Ft. Lauderdale conjures up images of the beach town that invented spring break. This is where the boys are. This is the Venice of America, which is exactly what the official Ft. Lauderdale website says.

What the city's website doesn't mention is the origin of the name "Ft. Lauderdale."' I suppose my counterparts in the city's PR office don't think it important, or at least not in line with the image they wish to promote. Students of local history know that the "fort" part of the name was originally a military facility erected in 1838, during what was then called the Florida War, and which history books later termed the Second Seminole War. "Lauderdale" was Major William Lauderdale, who commanded a detachment of Tennessee volunteers at the site.

That war grew out of an insurrection by American Indian tribes against the loss of their lands to aggressive white settlers. Those settlers demanded and got U.S. military intervention. To put down the violence, and open new land up to whites, the U.S. Army set up a network of fortifications, whose memory survives today mainly as place names. Ft. Lauderdale functioned briefly as a dry-land base for sallies into the Everglades to destroy tribal villages, farms, and ultimately to remove every tribesman, woman, and child to what is now Oklahoma. William Lauderdale's unit was one of the units in this campaign. The few that slipped out of the Army's net were the ancestors of the modern Florida tribes.

Consider also the name of the county in which we sit: Broward. Named for Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Florida governor in the early 20th century. Broward is mostly remembered for his scheme to drain the Everglades to open it up to small farmers. He can take full credit for the canals that make this the Venice of America.

Broward, however, achieved fame and wealth long before his governorship; he already had what we now call name-brand recognition by the time he ran for state-wide office. He got it by running guns to Cuba, in the process cultivating a romantic image of a daring do-gooder. He owned a large boat for those days, which he operated between Florida and Cuba in the 1890s during the Cuban insurrection against Spanish rule. This was the war that gave the world the term "concentration camp," and an updated strategy of removing entire civilian populations to defeat a revolt. Of course, it was American military intervention that ended this bloody struggle and Spanish rule in Cuba in the form of the Spanish-American War.

Broward: gunrunner and war-profiteer, or activist in the cause of Cuban freedom? You choose.

I note these names because, as most of us in this room know, we Americans often don't know our own past. Nowhere is this truer than right here in South Florida, home to so many from everywhere but Florida. In this light, I suggest to you that it is altogether fitting that this colloquium on the terrible conflict in Darfur be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida.

I say this as a Floridian, not just as an American or as a U.S. Government official. As we approach the horrors of Darfur, remembering a bit of our own past would go far to help us speak with humility, with the quiet confidence of a people who know themselves, who understand their strengths and flaws, and who act according to the truth that our common humanity binds all us, whether as Americans, Sudanese, or anyone anywhere anytime. That, my friends, I submit is authenticity. Moral outrage must flow from authenticity of character, person, and argument if it is to resonate at all and convince the world to end this killing.

U.S. POLICY IN SUDAN

Let me now turn my attention to Africa. The U. S. has two overriding goals in Darfur: saving lives and ending the violence.

1. Saving Lives (Humanitarian)

a) food

Hundreds of thousands of Darfurians are alive today because of the United States. American humanitarian assistance feeds them daily; America provides three quarters of all the food delivered by the World Food Program. In a region scorched by war and creeping desert, survival is difficult enough; it is American food and equipment that is keeping displaced Darfurians alive.

Yet, survival requires more than simply the bare minimum to eat. People must be safe -- safe from the army and its militia surrogate called the Janjaweed that have wiped out thousands of communities.

You heard that between 200,000 and 400,000 people have died, and more than 2.2 million -- one-third of all Darfurians -- have been brutally driven from their homes, some 86,000 this year alone. Janjaweeed militia and the Sudanese army have burned entire villages to ensure that people cannot return home. If they survive, they are forced into camps where they are dependent on international assistance.

Let me state what your government has done in dollar terms. Money bespeaks the depth of our commitment, so please note these figures. Since 2003, the U.S. has given more than $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to the victims. Depending on your measure, that's in the range of 70 percent of all aid.

Darfurians are safer and healthier in these camps than they would be otherwise. There's considerable evidence that our assistance to these victims in camps has resulted lower mortality levels than in villages where there is no assistance.

b) obstacles to getting more help fast

Still, we need to more aid to more people faster -- there's no debate about that.

What's the problem? Why can't the combined resources of the United Nations, European Union, and world's only superpower find a way to get relief into Darfur?

Obstacle #1: The war itself. How do you get relief supplies through a battle zone? This isn't a war that respects humanitarian convoys.

To the contrary; we've seen increasing numbers of hijackings of humanitarian vehicles. We've seen relief workers injured and killed by both rebel and army units. Now, some of this violence is purely criminal with the breakdown in law and order. It's a war economy that rewards kidnapping, killing, looting, and stealing.

Obstacle #2: Geography. Darfur is one of the most isolated, underdeveloped corners of the planet. The Darfur town of Genaina sits 1000 miles from main Sudanese port, Port Sudan; 1500 miles from Djibouti; and 1400 miles from the Mediterranean coast. There are few paved roads in any direction. Yet, supplies must get through.

Obstacle #3: Bureaucracy. If geography were the only obstacle, we would have solved it. It's not. There's another, more grievous one. The Government of Sudan has purposely and maliciously blocked the deployment of humanitarian supplies and personnel to Darfur. It has done so by imposing a sea of red tape requirements that has paralyzed much of the relief effort; these take the form of visa delays, high customs fees, and holding up commodities in Port Sudan. Harassment of NGOs goes on and on. All this could stop immediately if the Government wished.

Despite these obstacles, ladies and gentlemen, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of Darfurians today are alive because of action taken by the United States.

2. Ending the Violence

The second overriding goal of the U.S. in Darfur is to end the violence. What are we doing?

America has taken the lead in organizing the international response: striking a ceasefire, getting one major rebel group and the Government to come to terms, and getting African peacekeepers on the ground. That has proven to be a tall order.

We are working both unilaterally and multilaterally to end the war. Recognizing that Sudan's neighbors have the greatest national interests in peace, we have supported the African Union's peacekeeping force, the African Union Mission in Sudan. The AU deployed this force to Darfur in 2004 to protect and monitor civilians. Since then, the U.S. has granted $300 million to build and operate 34 base camps for the AU's 7000 strong peacekeeping force. The U.S. also provides vehicles, communications, airlift, and training for AMIS.

We have led the effort to engage in the United Nations. In August 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706, authorizing expansion of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Darfur and setting a level of 17,000 peacekeeping troops. Neither China nor Russia, permanent members of the Security Council, opposed the resolution. Key support has come from the European Union, the Arab League, and throughout Africa. 1706 authorizes what's called a hybrid force combining African Union and United Nations authority.

Why bring in the UN as peacekeeper when the AU is already there? In part because of the difficulty in recruiting sufficient troop contributions. In part, because they are so few that they are reluctant to leave barracks to protect civilians, which happens to be their primary job. And partly because the UN can pay for it, whereas the AU must seek contributions constantly. The force itself would still be primarily African in composition and commanded by an African general.

Finally, any peace process must include the disarmament of the Arab and rebel militias. Only a neutral international peacekeeping force with experience in disarmament operations can accomplish this. As our speakers pointed out this morning, this war is about land, resources, and ethnicity: ethnic Arabs, Muslims, with government support, seeking to take lands from Muslim black Africans. Religion is not an issue.

The Sudanese government has now told us that it rejects the plan, after having accepted it in Ethiopia November 16. This is the political obstacle. President Bashir's recent letter to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon raises real questions about implementation of the next, second phase of peacekeeping -- the hybrid force. Without Bashir's support, it will be nearly impossible to get countries to contribute troops. It is time that President Bashir to live up to his commitments. 

WHAT NEXT?

To summarize, we've reached a brick wall on peacekeeping and the search for a political solution. But through formidable humanitarian efforts, we are saving countless lives.

We prefer to work together with the Government of Sudan and the international community to bring peace and security to Darfur. We are prepared, however, to apply series of more coercive measures to put further pressure on the Government of Sudan to end the war, should it continue to obstruct a hybrid UN-AU force, prevent humanitarian worker access and protection, and evade a political solution. We are equally prepared to put pressure on all other parties to the violence who act to obstruct a political solution.

We must note Sudan's new oil wealth and puts pressure those countries doing business with it. Note the contrast between Darfur and Khartoum's bright skyline, Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealerships, and ample hard currency to buy weapons.

a) Unintended consequences

Some critics have argued that what the U.S. is doing is too little, too late. I ask: What would you have your government do? I ask: What would be the consequences of that action? Think carefully. Unintended consequences have a way of flowing from the best of intentions.

Is the objective to save lives? This is the most moral of purposes. But remember, we are already saving lives every day, lives dependent on American food, shelter, and relative safety in camps. Any coercive action could well provoke unintended consequences, such as disruption of the tenuous supply line keeping those people alive.

Such as undermining the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south. We have focused entirely on Darfur today; this is a mistake. We must talk about Sudan as a whole, a point I'm sure the Sudanese Charge d'Affaires will underscore. Andrew Natsios is the President's Special Envoy for Sudan, not Darfur.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in early 2005, ended 30 years of gruesome war that killed more than 2 million people. It is a landmark that has brought a measure of peace and justice to the south. Intervene in Darfur militarily, and you risk the collapse of this agreement and renewal of that other war.

Any coercive action risks spillover of violence into neighboring countries, above all Chad, which faces a rebel movement. A war over half a continent: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Central African Republic, Uganda, Congo -- all vulnerable.

These are real and serious questions. Accordingly, we much prefer a solution that comes with Khartoum's consent.

U.S. AFRICA POLICY

We have to talk about Africa, not just Sudan. The context for this war, the context for the consequences of any action, can only be understood in terms of the larger continent. It is this reality that serves as the basis for U.S. policy.

Let me say right here that the Bush Administration has placed Africa front and center. I want to thank Bryant Salter of Enterprise Florida for helping to make my point. From Day One, the administration has understood that Africa matters. It has matched rhetoric with action in a historic, unprecedented engagement with Africa:

  A $15 billion HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention program focused on Africa that is saving hundreds of thousands lives;

  A billion dollar program to fight malaria, Africa's number one killer.

  A new trading regime, as Mr. Salter noted, the African Growth and Opportunity Act --that has jump-started export economies in several Africa countries;

  A revolutionary concept in foreign assistance - the Millennium Challenge Corporation - that rewards countries that are doing things right. MCC has compacts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in such countries as Ghana, Cape Verde, Benin, and Mozambique, countries that stay out of the news exactly because there are no disasters or wars.

  Expanded commitment to public diplomacy - citizens exchanges, libraries, cultural activities, study abroad - that engages Africans in all walks of life outside of government, and create spaces for Americans like yourselves to listen and learn - including in Sudan. You, as students and teachers, should leap to participate in these programs, to go to Africa, and to bring more of Africa to Ft. Lauderdale.

  Overall, this administration has tripled assistance to Africa - this doesn't include HIV/AIDS or MCC spending.

  And a new approach to conflict resolution that has worked: transformational diplomacy. This means treating African countries as partners, as equals, and expecting them - Africans -- to take the lead in solving African problems, and supporting them in that process.

Six conflicts in six countries have ended in the past six years with African leadership and American support. Regional organizations such as the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (East Africa), and the Economic Community of West African States have shown the way to peace and justice, and cooperation on counter-terrorism. This is the formula that gave us the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan's north-south war. This is the formula that remains our best hope for Darfur.

CONCLUSION: AFRICA MATTERS

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reversed America's historical pattern of marginalization of this the Mother Continent.

Africa matters, not just because it may be strategic or a source of vital minerals; not just because much of what we consider American art, music, dance, history, and even our own language came from or was molded by Africa; not just because 13 percent of Americans are African-American, and perhaps twice that many, including myself, carry African blood in their veins, in our veins, though we call ourselves white.

Africa matters above all because it is a large piece of humanity: the second largest continent in size and numbers.

It matters because it was there that mankind was born. It is there that future of our planet, a vision of just peace, is being forged today often under the most trying of circumstances.

Let me close by suggesting that the best news to come out of this conference today is your participation, your interest, your compassion to make a difference.

I just said that this administration has reversed a historical tendency to marginalize Africa.

Likewise, the American public has largely ignored Africa. That is changing.

It is changing in part because of television: African images are beamed to our living rooms every day, images usually but not always of disaster. George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Mia Farrow have used their celebrity status to make the world pay attention to Darfur.

It is changing because of a remarkable series of commercially-successful films - like Blood Diamond. They depict a vibrant, vital face of Africa even in the midst of tragedy, films that are made in Africa, use African actors, and that make all of us want to know more about and even visit the continent.

It is changing because of great writing that has emerged from the continent. Americans now read African writers, not just foreigners writing about Africa.

It is changing because a two-way street of cultural exchange and migration: the migration of Africa to America to study and live new lives, and Americans who have gone to Africa as Peace Corps volunteers, teachers, students, missionaries, NGO workers.

It is changing, too, because, at long last Americans are beginning to understand that Africa is part of who we are as a people, and has been since four Angolan slaves in chains walked off a ship in Jamestown, Virginia, nearly four centuries ago.

I commend you again for convoking this important conference. You now are at the forefront of American voices saying that Africa matters, and that life matters.

I say to you that your government has and is taking action. I urge you to build on this conference. You have raised your voice for the cause of saving lives and justice in Darfur.

Ultimately, you are speaking for the weak and vulnerable, for the voiceless millions unaccountable regimes would simply ignore, or remove.

Raise that voice, however, with humility, listen more than talk, see more than be seen. Raise that voice gently but clearly, knowing all that the complexity of our own experience as Americans teaches us. Believe me, people around the world then will sense your authenticity and respond.

Thank you again, I look forward to your comments and questions.


Released on April 10, 2007

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