By Akol, Jacob
It is doubtful if President George W. Bush knew exactly what he was getting himself into when, barely a week before the 11 September attack on America, he appointed former Senator John Danforrh as his "Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan".
Announcing the appointment, Bush "eloquently expressed the anguish felt by many Americans for the suffering of the Sudanese people", and he thus instructed Danforth "to bring some sanity" into that country.
Then 11 September happened, and Sudan's "faults", for which the US had long considered it a terrorist hosting state (Bin Laden was once a long time guest of the Sudanese president, Omar Bashir), were brought sharply into focus.
While Bush's war cabinet considered military targets, Khartoum on its knees declared its support for war on terrorism and flooded the CIA with unsolicited information about the terrorists' network.
Khartoum saw the appointment of Danforth as a saving grace and an opportunity to re-engage with the US and get itself off the hook. Danforth was promised the red carpet.
The southern-based main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which has been fighting Khartoum for a just and fair Sudan and self-determination for the southern region since 1983, saw the 11 September event as the last straw the US had been waiting for to support their cause and topple Bashir.
The traditional northern political parties, whose activities remain strictly curtailed with their leaders regularly imprisoned by Bashir's government since it came to power in a military coup in 1989, also thought that their deliverance was at hand.
A straggly "National Democratic Alliance" (NDA), an organisarion which groups together the SPLM/A, led by Dr Gol. John Garang, with the disaffected northern parties and northern armed forces opposed to Khartoum and based in Asmara, Erirrca, saw itself as the likely benefactor if Bashir's regime was forced out of power by covert or overt US activities.
Danforth was therefore courted by all.
But no sooner had he begun his job than he came face to Face with the chronic disease that has haunted to death every agreement signed by the Sudanese to end the war: no commitment to agreements.
Danforrh presented his report to President Bush in mid-May, and recommended that America should engage in the peace process "upon concrete implementation of, and full compliance with, all agreements".
"The history of Sudan," wrote Danforth in his report to President Bush, "is littered with dozens of proposals and agreements to end the fighting. These agreements all have one thing in common: none was implemented, and none brought Sudan closer to peace. After 18 (now 19) years, with over two million dead and 4.5 million refugees and internally displaced, the war continues.
Commenting on his success in getting the warring parties to agree to a cease-fire and the bringing of relief to the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan, a relatively tiny area compared to the vast and war-torn territory to the south, Danforth stressed the point:
"As difficult as it has been to reach agreements on paper, it is essential to recognise that the end product of past efforts has been paper agreements and nothing more. The history of Sudan is replete with paper agreements that the parties have quickly ignored."
Illustrating even further this seemingly innate Sudanese lack of commitment to agreements and why the government of President Bashir cannot be fully trusted, Danforrh wrote: "Prior to my November trip, the government of Sudan promised that I could travel to the Nuba Mountains. Two days before my visit, government artillery shelled the landing strip on which I was scheduled to arrive. In another instance, the government of Sudan tentatively agreed to our proposal not to intentionally attack civilians. …