Visit the Save Darfur website these days and it’s hard to tell what the coalition thinks of Obama’s approach to Sudan. The news stories the site highlights on the left seem to be chosen to show the president’s inaction; the blog posts that the SDC folks author seem to cautiously praise him. Overall, I’ve sensed frustration with Obama emanating from the SDC camp — despite Obama’s appointment of Scott Gration as special envoy to Sudan, per the coalition’s request to appoint an envoy. It seems like the coalition doesn’t think he’s been bold enough.
But it looks to me like Obama’s reaction has been pretty smart. Check out Gration’s approach to engaging the Sudanese leadership. It seems that, in the wake of the ICC prosecutors’ announcement that they will try to reintroduce genocide charges against Omar al-Bashir, Gration is effectively saying that justice is a good long-term goal, but that solving problems is a more pressing one. I would think that this is a message palatable to Sudanese authorities, to the multitudes of people in Darfur who are languishing in IDP camps, and to rebel groups and factions.
Who is really not OK with Gration’s message? I’m sure there are people in Sudan who view even his mild endorsement of the ICC with suspicion, but who thinks Gration is not being aggressive enough? I’d like to know, O Blogosphere. I’d imagine it’s mostly people who don’t have to deal with the day-to-day reality of Sudan or Darfur.
(Finally, a comment on the lead photo, which I found on Creative Commons. I love it because it so aptly symbolizes a certain mentality. White activists are the caring, enlightened adults leading the African child through the continent’s impenetrable sandstorm. No wonder people get sensitive to the appearance of colonial-era intervention when it comes to groups like Save Darfur and its affiliate, the Genocide Intervention Network, which published this photo. A romanticized picture like this could have been lifted straight from the literature of a Victorian “White Man’s Burden” pamphlet. Of course, the similarity is irrelevant if the substance behind such a picture is different. Then again, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Right?)