From NBC's Ali Weinberg
Darfur activist groups said they support President Obama's plans to engage the Sudanese government by using both sanctions and incentives, but urged him not to offer rewards until President Omar Hassan al-Bashir offers tangible evidence of cooperation in bringing peace to the war-torn Darfur region.
In a press release unveiling his Sudan policy yesterday, Obama said, "If the government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives. If it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community."
The Save Darfur Coalition, a worldwide activist group, released a statement yesterday saying it "cautiously welcomed" the Obama administration's new strategy.
"Its success will depend on implementation backed by sustained presidential leadership," said Jerry Fowler, Save Darfur's president, in the statement. "Incentives should not be provided before there is concrete and lasting progress on resolving Sudan's interlocking crises, opening political space for Sudanese to determine their future and protecting human rights."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday deflected questions about the White House engaging with someone it believes committed genocide, saying only, "What we're trying to do is seek a comprehensive solution to this problem that -- again -- addresses both the humanitarian crisis that has happened and is ongoing in Darfur."
Last month, anti-genocide organizations criticized Obama's special envoy for using language seen as overly conciliatory to Khartoum.
Sudan special envoy J. Scott Gration was quoted in the Washington Post last month saying, "We've got to think about giving out cookies... Kids, countries -- they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."
Sam Bell, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network, responded to Gration's saying, "If Washington is going to start taking war criminals at their word, despite the long list of Khartoum's broken commitments, an even larger tragedy will soon unfold."
Fowler of Save Darfur added that in order to support Obama's approach, his group needs "to see substantial personal involvement from President Obama" in keeping an international spotlight on improving conditions in Darfur, including "making Sudan a priority when he goes to China next month." China is a big investor in Sudan's oil industry, and has resisted U.N. Security Council resolutions against Khartoum in the past.
From NBC's Ali Weinberg