Our Arthritic Fingers are Still Crossed

Our Arthritic Fingers are Still Crossed

Salva Kiir practicing for an election he has waited for for 27 years.
The years and years of violence, genocide, child soldiers and poverty in the midst of the world’s greatest riches may be coming to an end in The Sudan, even as new obstacles presented themselves this week.

Against all odds and every expert’s prediction, the beleaguered and troubled Sudan, Africa’s largest country and guardian of its greatest length of Nile, agreed nearly five years ago to begin a peace process that should end in a few months.

That final of hundreds of steps and missteps is a national referendum that will allow the non-Arab south of the country to secede. And with it goes 80% of Sudan’s enormous and mostly untapped oil reserves.

Who on earth would have thought that the recalcitrant government of Khartoum, the one which is headed by the only sitting world leader indicted by The Hague for war crimes against humanity, the man who cannot travel anywhere without being arrested, has agreed to excise four-fifths of his nation’s wealth?

The answer is not simple, but the simplest way to convey its myriad of complications is that believe it or not, Gen. Omar al-Bashir finally concluded (as half of his life passed before him) that not to do so would cost him greater than trying to keep it.

Patient world diplomacy, patient sanctions changed this dictator’s mind.

At least until last week.

As we race towards a finish line on this generational marathon, Bashir’s government is stalling. That doesn’t strike me as very odd. Imagine having agreed to settle a class action suit against your drug company by giving 80% of it away. It’s a rather tough decision to come to, and once made, there’s going to be a number of second thoughts.

No one’s taking any chances, though. Next week at the UN one of the few meetings that President Obama will hold, with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, are two high ranking Sudanese officials. (They can’t meet with Bashir, because if he stepped foot in the U.S. he would be arrested with an international court warrant.)

Headlines around the world are calling this “Obama’s rescue” and in a sense, I can understand the headline but I think it’s mostly opprobrium.

Patience is the key, patience even as the marathon comes to an end. And when it does, is there a possibility we could apply this masterful patience to places like, oh say, Afghanistan?