Old and young alike overflowed a basement room in Myron Taylor Hall to hear Former Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations Lakhdar Brahimi speak about the situation in Darfur last Tuesday. In his speech entitled “May We Please Listen to the Darfurians Themselves? Sudan’s Lost Voices,” Brahimi talked about the need for an organized political process in resolving the Darfur conflict.
The Ambassador criticized those in power for not helping to resolve the situation.
He drew attention to the Sudanese government, saying “it is fairly well established that [their] response to the rebellion was cruel.”
Brahimi also called the rebels stubborn in their reluctance to “adopt a conciliatory position.”
While the Ambassador commended the international community for “taking interest in the situation,” he said that they have not been very helpful.
He also said that the U.N. Security Council “used to speak softly and carry a big stick. Now it talks loudly and carries no stick at all.”
However, he said that the Security Council does have the ability to demand responsibility from others.
While he admitted that he did not have too much optimism to share, the most recent meetings about the Darfur situation have given him hope.
“For the first time, the government of Sudan and other interested parties have worked together and agreed to a constructive declaration,” Brahimi said.
Brahimi conveyed that one key to resolving the conflict is conducting meetings about a peace process behind closed doors. Thus, interested parties would not be speaking directly to their respective audiences and would be more open to compromise.
The Ambassador ended his speech by saying that “a lot of patience, hard work and solidarity is needed for Darfur to be saved from its situation and for the people of Darfur to recover their identities.”
Brahimi told The Sun that it is extremely important for Cornell students to stay interested in the conflict because it will inevitably lead to material support for the cause as well as political pressure on interested parties to solve the problem.
He added that it is commendable that Cornell divested its assets from oil companies operating in Sudan and obligations of the Sudanese government. President David Skorton made the decision to divest in August.
In a press release, Skorton said, “it is impossible for us to stand by idly and tolerate the complicity of the Sudanese government in this human tragedy.”
Although Brahimi claimed not to be an expert on the Darfur conflict, he has a wide range of experience in the region.
In May 2006, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent Brahimi to Khartoum to discuss the U.N.’s role in a possible peace agreement. He was also ambassador to Sudan from 1963 to 1970. He told The Sun that he knows the political processes that work and those that do not.
Brahimi was the special advisor to the Secretary-General of the U.N. through December 2005. During that time, he was a top official in the United Nations’ delegations to Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies brought Brahimi to Cornell as part of their Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series.
The Ambassador also spoke at Cornell in March of this year, discussing the crisis in Iraq.
According to Prof. David Wippman, vice provost for international relations, Cornell hopes to bring Brahimi back to the University to speak again soon.