Sudan's President Wins Another Term

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The world's only leader wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity won a decisive election victory. But the U.S. says if Sudan's Omar al-Bashir thinks he can get any more legitimacy from the vote, he's wrong. Activists want the Obama administration to be much tougher with Bashir, and learn some lessons from the widespread allegations of fraud in the recent elections. The next big vote will be a referendum on whether the South will secede. It is all part of a peace deal the U.S. helped negotiate to end a war between the North and the South.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Two weeks after voters in Sudan went to the polls, the results are in. President Omar al-Bashir will stay in power. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, and the vote was marred by boycotts and allegations of fraud.

Activists want to see the U.S. get much tougher with Bashir, but that is not the approach the U.S. is taking, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Obama's special envoy, Scott Gration, says the election results were no surprise. But he's drawing some lessons from the voting process.

Major General SCOTT GRATION (Special Envoy, Sudan): We learned a lot. There were things that weren't good. There were restrictions to freedoms of assembly and freedoms of speech, and individual freedoms. And there was a bit of incompetence. All these things have to be fixed, and I believe they can.

KELEMEN: Gration, a retired Air Force general, has little time to help fix those problems. Next year, there's supposed to be a referendum on whether the mainly Christian and animist South will split from the Muslim-dominated North.

Gration says a referendum commission needs to set out the rules, and borders need to be agreed on in a way that keeps trade routes open.

Maj. Gen. GRATION: That would be the perfect world, where that border can be demarcated. But it's a civil divorce and not a civil war - where they can work together in an amicable way, where they can continue to be part of that region in a holistic way even though the South - if they choose - is independent.

KELEMEN: Many activists say the U.S. is not putting enough pressure on Bashir to implement the comprehensive peace agreement, which ended a 20-year civil war between the North and the South.

Roger Winter, a former U.S. official who worked on that peace deal, says the Obama administration needs to remember who it's dealing with.

Mr. ROGER WINTER (Former Executive Director, United States Committee for Refugees): Bashir has demonstrated himself to be a mass killer in terms of the loss of life since he came to power in 1989 by coup.

KELEMEN: Winter now advises the government of Southern Sudan and says the U.S. is not doing enough to prepare the region to be independent, and is sending the wrong signals in the way it deals with Bashir's government in Khartoum.

Mr. WINTER: We, the U.S. government, birthed the very peace agreement that is providing them this referendum. And to have our special envoy calling the people who have been indicted in Khartoum - not just the leaders of Sudan - but my friends, is very destabilizing. And because of the short time between now and the referendum, I also suggest it's very dangerous.

KELEMEN: Special Envoy Gration is used to that sort of criticism. But he argues that sanctions don't seem to be working to pressure Bashir's government to implement the North-South deal or make peace with rebels in Darfur. He says his approach is to remind Khartoum that governments have to take care of their people.

Maj. Gen. GRATION: And while I know this isn't perfect, and while it sounds naive and the rest of it, we are working both sides very hard to ensure that the people benefit. That was our focus in the election. That's going to be our focus in the future.

KELEMEN: He doesn't seem too ruffled by activists who took out ads in newspapers today, warning that U.S. policy on Sudan is faltering.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

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