September 11, 2005


Africa's peace seekers: Lazaro Sumbeiywo: Kenya's top general brought the wisdom of a tribal chief and the ingenuity of a modern mediator to negotiations that ended Sudan's 21-year civil war. (Abraham McLaughlin, 9/12/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Until a single phone call from the president of Kenya changed the trajectory of his life, Lazaro Sumbeiywo had spent the whole of his illustrious career focused on making war.

When the phone rang in his office in October 2001, this towering son of a village chief was Kenya's top general.

"I have an offer for you," he recalls the president saying, "and I order you not to refuse."

General Sumbeiywo was fiercely loyal to then-President Daniel arap Moi. During a 1982 coup attempt, he'd raced to Mr. Moi's home to protect him. Off and on since 1987, he had sometimes been involved with the Sudan negotiations. But the president's order caught him off guard.

"I want you to find peace in Sudan," Moi said.

The general was dumbstruck. This was Africa's longest civil war - a seemingly intractable 18-year conflict between Muslim Arab northerners and mostly Christian black southerners. Some 2 million people had died. Four million had been forced to flee their homes. And at least five major peacemaking efforts over 13 years had failed. Yet if peace could be found in oil-rich and populous Sudan, it could usher in a new era of trade and prosperity in neighboring Kenya and across northeast Africa.

After stammering something, Sumbeiywo hung up. Then, he phoned back to try to reject the assignment. But Moi wouldn't take the call. So, Sumbeiywo did the only thing he could think of: He started a three-day fast "to get very close to God."

It was not the last time he would seek divine help. Over the next 3-1/2 grueling years of peace talks, he would muster the persistence of the biblical Joseph, the wisdom of an African chief, and the ingenuity of a modern mediator. And eventually the process he led would become what many now see as a gold standard for making peace in Africa.

"General Sumbeiywo should win the Nobel Peace Prize," says former Sen. John Danforth, who was President Bush's special envoy to Sudan from 2001 to 2004. "His ability to stay there in the talks and be an honest broker - and to listen to all the back and forth over such a long period of time - was essential, and was very largely responsible for the result," says Senator Danforth by phone from St. Louis. [...]

The two sides were achingly close to a breakthrough late in 2004. But Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha was threatening to walk out of the talks. There was nothing left to discuss, he insisted. The wily rebel leader John Garang - who had led the fight against the Sudanese government for nearly two decades - was being completely unreasonable, he said.

Sumbeiywo had seen this kind of brinkmanship before. One side or the other would pack their bags and send them to the hotel lobby - only to return to the table. But this time Mr. Taha seemed to mean it. His personal plane was en route and had been cleared to land at the airport near the Kenyan resort town of Naivasha. Sumbeiywo and his staff were desperate. They started using every "back channel and front channel" they could think of, Page recalls.

And Sumbeiywo played his strongest ace: Colin Powell.

He phoned Washington, asking the US secretary of State to help.

Mr. Powell was soon working the phones, calling Messrs Taha and Garang, as he often did, within an hour of each other. "We can't miss this opportunity," Powell recalls telling them, in a recent phone interview.

Powell had leverage because ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Sudan's government was desperate to please the US. Back in the 1990s it had hosted Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. It now feared its "terrorist haven" label and economic pariah status would continue. Or worse, that the US might invade.

Powell's pressure worked. After "a few really tense moments," Page says, Taha agreed to stay.

That moment in the process was emblematic of how the US and other outside players acted as force-multipliers to Sumbeiywo's efforts. Although they sometimes pushed too hard, Sumbeiywo says, having Powell, Danforth, and President Bush backing him was crucial. [...]

The moment-by-moment midwifing of a peace process by a single mediator - like Sumbeiywo and Betty Bigombe in Uganda - represents a shift away from the old pattern of peacemaking in Africa, experts say. It used to be that high-profile heads of state would swoop in to a troubled country and try to knock heads to get a deal. That's what Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, did in Burundi in the 1990s. The trouble is that "you've got eight minutes to make peace" before the big man gets back on the plane, says Peter Kagwanja of the International Crisis Group in Pretoria, South Africa. By contrast, he says, "the Sumbeiywos have nothing else to do but negotiate."

But these peace seekers need lots of support.

And Sumbeiywo had it from global players like the US. But he was actually employed by a regional group of seven nations called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Increasingly, observers say, it's groups like IGAD, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union that are stepping up to solve Africa's conflicts. The African Union, for instance, is sponsoring peace talks to end the Darfur crisis. And it's the only outside organization with troops on the ground in Darfur.

"Having a strong African leader, with the confidence of regional governments, who's backed by high-level envoys from countries that matter" - like the US - is "the model for conflict resolution in Africa," says John Prendergast in the International Crisis Group's Washington office. "You've got to get the process right." And, he says, Sumbeiywo did.

Just one of the many ways that 9-11 blew up in the al Qaedists' faces. The NY Times Magazine is just one of the Left/MSM publications that ran stories today claiming that al Qaeda was winning the WoT, which just demonstrates how little attention they've paid to ought but their own navels. Meanwhile, al Qaeda itself knows it's losing, New Al Qaeda tape hints at frustration: In the tape, 'Azam the American' threatens attacks against Melbourne, Los Angeles. (Gretchen Peters and Howard LaFranchi, 9/12/05, CS Monitor)
Al Qaeda has marked the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington with a warning of future strikes in Los Angeles and Melbourne, and this rebuke to the American people: You don't get what we're fighting for. [...]

For some US analysts, the frustration expressed in the most recent tape is more a reflection of the failings of Al Qaeda since the success of their Sept. 11 attacks than of the world's inability to understand their cause.

"Once again this expresses Al Qaeda's complete naivete about the real impact of their actions," says Michael O'Hanlon, a military affairs analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. [...]

For O'Hanlon, the expectation that a group can go around the world "targeting innocent people, and then expect those same people to see the rightness of its cause is just absurd thinking." What that suggests to him, is that "Osama bin Laden is not the mastermind of hearts-and-minds warfare that he is often portrayed to be."

Others say the frustration expressed in the tape probably reflects more than anything the reality of an Al Qaeda that is unable, four years after Sept. 11, to mount a terrorist action in the US at will.

"Had the terrorists had any residual ability to strike in the US they would have done it in the wake of Katrina and with the 9/11 anniversary, but all they could do was make a tape," says Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence office and terrorism expert.

The real source of frustration for the Al Qaeda leadership, Mr. Peters says, is that "9/11 has backfired horribly on them. What's infuriating them is that they have failed to gain traction in the Muslim regions where they thought they would."

Just back from a swing through east Africa, Peters says he saw repeated signs of Al Qaeda's failure to raise anything beyond occasional individual interest.

"Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has not been able to excite a mass international movement," Peters says. "Their frustration, despite their occasional success at mounting a dramatic operation or inspiring other groups to do one, is that no matter what they do, on the broader scale they are unable to make progress."

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2005 7:38 PM

Paging General Gordon!

Posted by: obc at September 11, 2005 8:04 PM

I'm starting to love these crazy mugs.

Let's see, hmmm, we gotta scare these imperialists again, remind 'em we're here.

I know.... let's threaten.... specifically, mind you..... the one place in America loaded to the rafters with rich, self-indugent, Bush-loathers, who do in fact have enormous clout in spreading globally their relentless hostility to anything and everything connected with Western efforts on the War on Islamofascism. The ones who fawn over Michael "There is no terrorist threat, it is all a lie" Moore.

Yeah... THOSE guys. THOSE are the ones we should be attacking!

That'll show Bush!

(Good God, has Karl Rove struck again??)

Posted by: Andrew X at September 11, 2005 11:14 PM