Sixth Annual Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition Forum

By Mary Dawn Edwards

(Photo Caption: Speakers Ibrahim Mohamed Ishaq, Eric Cohen, Andrew Burnett and Brian Adeba lead the discussion at the Sixth Annual PDEC Forum. (Photo: Chelsey Engel)

The Sixth Annual PDEC Forum on Sudan and South Sudan was held at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church (ELPC) on Sunday, April 15, 2018. This program, “Sudan: Crises Unresolved,” was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC), hosted by the Peace Committee of ELPC, and underwritten by the International Partnership of the Pittsburgh Presbytery and the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church of Monroeville, PA.

Dr. David Rosenberg, PDEC Coordinator, thanked  members and supporters and gave a brief history of the conflicts in Sudan (and later South Sudan) that led to the founding of PDEC in 2004 and our continuing advocacy. He introduced the speakers: Ibrahim Mohamed Ishaq, Founder, Alliance for Civil Society Darfur; Andrew Burnett, Deputy Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan in the US Department of State; Brian Adeba, Associate Director of Policy for ENOUGH: the Project to End Genocide and Crimes against Humanity; and Eric Cohen, President, Massachusetts Coalition for Darfur and co-founder of Act for Sudan and Investors against Genocide.

Ibrahim Mohamed Ishaq gave a brief history of the conflict in Darfur, his role in advocating for oppressed people there, the persecution by the Sudanese government that led to his exile, and the goals of the organization that he founded, the Alliance for Civil Society Darfur. These goals are to obtain justice and peace in the region, to obtain civil rights for its people, to obtain relief for the victims of the fighting, and to bring more attention to (and respect for) its cultural heritage. Methods for achieving these objectives include bringing more attention to the situation in the media of other countries, planning for technical innovation, and projects for economic development.

Eric Cohen said that the efforts of grassroots organizations like PDEC and his MA Coalition for Darfur helped to prevent more deaths in Sudan but were insufficient to make real change. He also said that the US government, during the last three presidential administrations, and the governments of other countries have mounted an inadequate response to the atrocities committed by the Bashir government of Sudan, which  has learned to continue its atrocities with impunity from that response.

Cohen believes that regime change, which has not been a part of US policy so far, will be the only effective way to stop the oppression by the Government of Sudan (GOS). He also suggested actions short of direct military intervention that may lead to this goal: increased financial pressure on the GOS, delivering aid to victims in areas of conflict without approval by the GOS, and support of opposition groups (such as inviting members of credible opposition groups to the US for education and training).

Andrew Burnett has worked in the office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan for 7 years and had previously been involved in negotiations with Sudan. Although there is currently no special envoy to head the office and less reliance on special envoys by the Trump administration, the staff will continue to work through senior State Department officials on issues involving the two countries. While US input is important in mediating the conflicts, regional organizations such as IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) and the African Union should take the lead in negotiations; the US should not take over the process. The office recognizes numerous ongoing problems in both countries and has developed goals for their solution.

Brian Adeba of ENOUGH emphasized that we must keep the issues faced by the people of both countries and efforts to resolve them alive. Financial sanctions may be an effective tool of leverage on the corrupt leaders of both countries; they should target specific individuals with power in government and business, curtailing their ability to move money in the international market, rather than the whole country to avoid ill effects on the general population. There is a detailed description of this strategy on the ENOUGH web site.

The forum ended with a Q & A session, mainly about Sudanese overtures to Russia to obtain weapons embargoed by Western countries.

Mary Dawn Edwards is a long time member of PDEC.

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