With widespread allegations of fraud, voter intimidation, and the withdrawal of nearly all opposition candidates, the conclusion of Sudan’s elections is unsurprising. Receiving 68 percent of the national vote, indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir has maintained his grip on the presidency. Post-election Sudan appears very similar to pre-election Sudan.
Many advocacy NGOs, despite their occasional criticisms of U.S. policymakers, maintain that the United States has a deeply felt, long-term interest in Sudan’s democratization, and never question whether Washington formulates policy with the best interests of the Sudanese people at heart.
Yet such a worldview fails to account for decades of U.S. policy toward Sudan, during which Washington collaborated militarily with Khartoum in the 1980s in the devastating north-south civil war, and has maintained close intelligence-sharing relationships with figures involved in the violence in Darfur, which disproves the well-traveled thesis of U.S. benevolence.
South Sudan is certainly one of the world’s poorest regions and is desperately in need of disinterested aid. However, with most of Sudan’s oil reserves in the south, the United States is not purely focused on state-building. With the upcoming 2011 referendum on independence for the south, the United States has turned to cultivating an alliance with oil-rich and increasingly oppressive south Sudan.
Washington’s true motives in Sudan are questionable when viewed from a broader African context. The fundamental problem with U.S. foreign policy is its support for anti-democratic regimes on Sudan’s borders and elsewhere in Africa. From Ethiopia to Egypt and Uganda, the United States continues to ally itself with authoritarian regimes throughout the continent. These alliances challenge the common assumption the United States seeks to sustain democracy in Africa.
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