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In January 2008, President Bush selected Richard Williamson, a Chicago native, to serve as presidential envoy to Sudan. Williamson has had a wide-ranging career in the State Department and served in senior posts for Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

President-elect Barack Obama is very likely to appoint new personnel to execute his Sudan strategy, but key Democrats have supported President Bush's policies, including international peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region, economic sanctions on the regime in Khartoum, and ongoing support to undergird peace in southern Sudan. In late November, Williamson spoke at length with Timothy C. Morgan, CT's deputy managing editor.

Southern Sudanese say they don't see many fruits from the 2005 peace agreement. Is that true?

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was an enormous historic step for Sudan. The agreement ended a devastating war. The bad news is that you ended up with an imperfect peace. The agreement is implemented over five years, ending in 2011 with an opportunity for southern Sudan to have a referendum on whether they want to stay part of Sudan or gain independence.

It's still a rocky road. People are suffering. Furthermore, if war happens again in the South, any chance of progress in Darfur, where the situation is more acute, becomes impossible. The potential downside is enormous.

Are race and religion genuine factors in feeding ongoing conflict in Sudan?

Like most genocide and mass murder, the crimes in Sudan have been driven mostly by powerful people trying to stay in power. But there is an element of race in this that should disturb anyone. There is an element of religion in this that should disturb anyone. If you are non-Arab and non-Muslim, you are a target.

After genocide ...

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January 2009

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