Barack Obama came to power promising to help Sudan, and he's been scrambling in recent days to do just that, as the country threatens to backslide into civil war: The US is beefing up its presence in the war-torn country ahead of January's crucial independence referendum, and has doubled America's diplomatic presence of late. But many worry the focus comes too late, and criticize a US effort that's been handicapped by infighting and an absence of high-level attention.
A 2005 peace agreement gave religious and political autonomy to the Christian south until the 2011 referendum, and while polls indicate the south will vote to secede from the Arab Muslim-dominated north, the government and South Sudan have yet to agree on issues like borders and oil revenues—and a delay in the referendum could spark a fresh civil war, reports the Washington Post. The president may become the one who "lost Sudan and the opportunities for peace," says a veteran negotiator. "We're really getting close to the drop-dead date," warns another specialist. Today, at least, there was a bit of good news: An American aid worker was freed after 100 days in captivity in Darfur.