The Blog

Obama's Sudan Policy Imperative

Reining in Bashir and bolstering South Sudan.

12:00 AM, Apr 2, 2009 • By LEONARD A. LEO and NINA SHEA
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The Obama administration should immediately establish security guarantees for the South, and strengthen its defensive capacities to raise the costs of any relapse into aggression by Khartoum. In a recent meeting, South Sudan's President Salva Kir expressed his anxiety over the population's vulnerability to air strikes. He pleaded for such basics as radar--lacking even in southern airports--and communications equipment.

Voting on independence rings hollow if the South cannot stand on its own. America generously provides humanitarian aid. It should now help it develop the basis of a modern economy. On a recent visit, amidst the squalor, Juba's marketplace could be seen bustling with women and children whose expressions and cadence reflect that resilient people's determination and optimism. Without an elementary banking system to foster capital formation and extend credit, however, development beyond the vegetable market will stall.

The South's infrastructure, especially its educational and legal systems, is in dire shape. The reopened Juba University is the region's sole institution of higher learning. With instruction now in English instead of Arabic, the university has no books published within the last decade, no computers, and a dearth of teachers. There are no law schools and a visit to the Supreme Court "library" reveals a solitary, dog-eared legal handbook relied on by both judges and lawyers.

South Sudan's needs are great but it is in American interests to ensure the CPA fulfills its promise of a durable and just peace. The ICC decision is a strategic blunder that exponentially complicates Gen. Gration's job. He deserves the full support of the Obama administration. Before her confirmation, Secretary Clinton unequivocally prioritized the CPA. Her seriousness and that of the administration's is now being put to the test.

Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, and Nina Shea, director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, serve as commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Mr. Leo led the commission's delegation to South Sudan in October. The views expressed herein are their own.