John Danforth, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said that the United States is playing a leading role in helping bring peace to Sudan in Gaston Hall Monday.
Danforth, who had been considered a possible candidate to replace Secretary of State Colin Powell, announced last week that he would be resigning his position as Ambassador to the U.N. for personal reasons. President Bush appointed Danforth in July with the aim of increasing the U.N. presence in Iraq before the transfer of power after elections there on Jan. 20.
Danforth has helped bring representatives of Sudan’s Islamic government and the Christian-backed Sudanese rebels to consider signing a peace agreement that seeks to end the country’s 21-year civil war before the end of the year.
Calling Sudan “one of the great tragedies of the world today and a very long-standing tragedy,” Danforth emphasized the importance of educating Americans about the current conflict in Darfur, Sudan, where some international observers have alleged that genocide is occurring.
The African Union has announced plans to strengthen its peacekeeping force in Darfur to 3,300 troops by the end of the year. The current conflict has its roots in long-standing animosity between the Islamic north and Christian and animist south.
“This particular north-south war and the side effects of it have been responsible for the lives of more than two million people,” Danforth said. “It’s really a dreadful situation but there’s terrific attention on Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.”
Danforth, who in 2001 served as the president’s special envoy for peace to Sudan, said that widespread international criticism of U.S. policies in the region was unfounded.
“Some have said that if the United States really cared about it, we’d stop this from happening, that we’d put an end to this atrocity,” he said. “I’ve been at this for more than three years. I think I’ve been trying hard and I know our government has been trying hard.”
Danforth cited statistics showing that the United States has been the largest contributor of aid to the area and said that President Bush has been “intimately involved” in bringing peace to Sudan.
“It’s not a matter that the U.S. doesn’t care,” he said. “It’s not that at all. The real issue isn’t whether we care. The real issue is what works, what real steps can be taken that have a real chance of improving the situation.”
Danforth said progress was recently made in bringing a resolution to the Sudanese conflict. The U.N. Security Council held a special meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where the warring factions signed a memorandum of understanding, promising to sign a peace treaty by the end of the year, he said.
Speaking specifically about the conflict in Darfur, Danforth emphasized that the international community’s best course of action is to “increase the outside presence [in the region] particularly of the African Union.”
“There’s no chance the Security Council would agree to military action. As a practical matter, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “People say what about sanctions? We passed two resolutions in the Security Council that hinted at the possibility of sanctions. But to show the resistance to sanctions, we couldn’t even use that word in resolutions.”
Danforth said that “international observers would have a chilling effect on the worst incidences of abuse,” and urged European countries to provide soldiers or police officers to provide security at displaced persons camps.
“Sudan is never going to be a place where we can cross it off the international to-do list,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever a point that a country can stop the ongoing work of gluing itself together.”
Danforth fielded questions from the audience on topics ranging from the Bush administration’s foreign policy to the definition of genocide.
“Whether it’s genocide or ethnic cleansing, it’s a very bad situation,” he said.
In a short ceremony following the lecture, Casimir Yost, director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, presented Danforth with the Jit Trainor Award. The award is given annually to distinguished diplomats. Trainor (F ’27) was a secretary in the School of Foreign Service.
Danforth, a Republican, served three terms in the Senate representing Missouri from 1976-1994. He later served as special counsel in an investigation of the government raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Danforth is also an ordained minister and presided over the funeral of President Ronald Reagan in June.
The Institute for the Study of Diplomacy sponsored the lecture.