By: Cameron Hudson, Atlantic Council Africa Center
Hamdok has a positive story to tell regarding his efforts to bring peace to a war-torn region. He recently toured some of Darfur’s vast internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, where more than one million Sudanese citizens still live—thanks in large part to the international assistance and UN peacekeepers that have been there for more than a decade. While there, he committed to developing a plan for the return of civilians to their former villages and agreed to an extension of the UN peacekeeping operation—a move formerly rejected by Bashir’s military—to ensure that the peaceful conditions for the IDPs’ eventual return are being met.
Moreover, on his first trip to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Hamdok signed a new agreement with the UN providing unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of the country for any and all international humanitarian assistance. This commitment was put to the test earlier this month when David Beasley, the head of the UN’s World Food Program, personally delivered the first international food assistance to the town of Kauda in the disputed state of South Kordofan.
Most importantly, Hamdok has made ending the conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states), along with all of Sudan’s other internal disputes, a top priority. He has already dispatched multiple military and civilian leaders to Juba-sponsored peace talks and met in Paris himself with Darfur’s most intransigent rebel, Abdul Wahid al-Nour. While there has recently emerged some question as to who is truly in charge of the peace process—the military or the civilians—Hamdok would do well to ensure that he holds the pen on any final agreement, and that it is arrived at in partnership with the military.
The government’s overall commitment, backed by Hamdok’s personal diplomacy, suggests that an end to Sudan’s internal conflicts is possible and that he will do his best to make good on the protesters’ demands for peace. Again, where the United States can and should play a role is in lending the good offices of our special envoy and other senior officials to support the peace process and help guard against spoilers. The United States should also be prepared to certify the government’s actions and act quickly to finally remove all the conflict-related sanctions the agreed moment when peace is memorialized.