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|December 16, 2009|
WOLF STATEMENT ON DIRECTION OF U.S. POLICY IN SUDAN
Washington, D.C. - At a press conference today with Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) made remarks on the direction of U.S. policy in Sudan. He prepared the following longer statement for insertion in the Congressional Record:
Madam Speaker earlier today a news conference was held with Congressmen Donald Payne, Chris Smith and myself along with representatives from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), to draw attention to the desperate situation in Sudan. We heard compelling firsthand accounts of what transpired in Khartoum last week. Arrests, detention, tear gas and beatings of peaceful Sudanese protestors including several high-ranking Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) officials. These protestors had gathered in the streets to press Sudan’s President Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) to demand passage of important laws by the National Assembly.
Khartoum’s actions are inexcusable, but why should we be surprised, given the head of state is an accused war criminal. We also know from widely reported information that the National Congress Party (NCP) is obstructing the establishment of conditions for free and fair elections. The world also still awaits reform of the national security law.
Against this backdrop of violence and intimidation by Khartoum, the NCP and the SPLM entered into intense negotiations over the weekend. While reports indicate that a tentative compromise has been reached, the outcome is still far from assured. And if the coming weeks don’t yield the necessary results, the long-suffering people of Sudan will watch any real prospect of lasting peace and justice slip away. Will the U.S. stand by and allow this to happen?
For years the U.S. has been a leader on the world stage in advocating for the marginalized people of Sudan. This is an issue, unlike many in Washington, which has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. In January 2005, after two and half years of negotiations, the North and the South signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) bringing about an end to the 21-year-old civil war during which nearly two million people died, most of whom were civilians. I was at the signing of the CPA in Kenya along with Congressman Payne. Hopes were high for a new Sudan.
Sadly those hopes are quickly dimming as President Bashir becomes further entrenched and principled U.S. leadership on Sudan wanes. On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the signing, the CPA hangs in the balance as does Sudan’s future.
President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, General Scott Gration, was appointed in March of this year. Many in Congress, myself included, had pressed for a special envoy in the hope of elevating the issue of Sudan particularly at this critical juncture in the implementation of the CPA and with genocide in Darfur still ongoing.
While there have been times in the months following that I have been concerned by the direction that this administration appeared to be taking in Sudan, I refrained from any public criticism, not wanting to do anything that could jeopardize peace or progress on these critical issues. But I can be silent no longer.
The time has come for Secretary Clinton and President Obama to personally and actively engage on Sudan.
During the campaign, then candidate Obama said, "Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences." He went on to say, "The Bush administration should be holding Sudan accountable for failing to implement significant aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), imperiling the prospects for scheduled multiparty elections in 2009."
I could not agree more. Accountability is imperative. The CPA is not up for re-negotiation. But the burden for action, the weight of leadership, now rests with this president and this president alone.
I have consistently received reports from people on the ground that this administration’s posture toward Sudan has only emboldened Bashir and the NCP.
The December 12 Wall Street Journal editorial page put it this way, "As a candidate, Mr. Obama stood with the human rights champions of Darfur and pledged tougher sanctions and a possible no-fly zone if a Sudanese regime infamous for genocide didn't shape up. His tone has changed in office....the preference for diplomacy over pressure has encouraged the hard men in Khartoum to stoke the flames in Darfur, ignoring an arms embargo and challenging the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force there."
Khartoum is savvy in the ways of Washington. This softening in the U.S. posture has not gone unnoticed.
In recent written testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, the top UN investigator said, "In contrast to that leadership of 2004 and 2005, the United States appears to have now joined the group of influential states who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions protect Darfurians."
This administration’s engagement with Sudan to date has failed to recognize the true nature of Bashir and the NCP.
Having been to Sudan five times, I’ve seen the work of their hands with my own eyes. In June 2004 I was part of the first congressional delegation with Senator Sam Brownback to Darfur, soon after the world began hearing about the atrocities being committed against the people of that region. I witnessed the nightmare. I saw the scorched villages and overflowing camps. I heard the stories of murder, rape and displacement. In the summer of 2004, the Congress spoke with one voice in calling what was happening in Darfur genocide.
In addition to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the Sudanese government against its own people, it is also important to note that Sudan remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is well known that the same people currently in control in Khartoum gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990’s. I was troubled by Special Envoy Gration’s comments this summer at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that "there is no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism list..." despite the findings of the 2008 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism that "there have been open source reports that arms were purchased in Sudan's black market and allegedly smuggled northward to Hamas."
Last week marked the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 Genocide Convention. In the aftermath of the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust the world pledged "Never Again." But these words ring hollow for the woman in the camp in Darfur who has been brutally raped by government-backed janjaweed so that they might, in their own words, make lighter skinned babies. Were these horrors taking place in Europe would the world stand by and watch?
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which sits just blocks from here, bears witness to genocide and related crimes against humanity around the world. The museum’s warning for Sudan stems from "(t)he Sudanese government’s established capacity and willingness to commit genocide and related crimes against humanity. This is evidenced by actions the government has taken in the western region of Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and the South that include:
Use of mass starvation and mass forcible displacement as a weapon of destruction;
Pattern of obstructing humanitarian aid;
Harassment of internally displaced persons;
Bombing of hospitals, clinics, schools, and other civilian sites;
Use of rape as a weapon against targeted groups;
Employing a divide-to-destroy strategy of pitting ethnic groups against each other, with enormous loss of civilian life;
Training and supporting ethnic militias who commit atrocities;
Destroying indigenous cultures;
Enslavement of women and children by government-support militias;
Impeding and failing to fully implement peace agreements.”
These are hardly our partners in peace. And yet, we cannot claim that Khartoum has been unpredictable, that we did not know what they were capable of. Tragically, they have been utterly consistent for nearly 20 years. They have consistently brutalized their own people. They have consistently failed to live up to agreements. And they have consistently responded only to strength and pressure.
And so I say once again, time is running out. The urgency of the situation calls for intervention at the highest levels of the U.S. Government-specifically the secretary of State and the president of the United States. The people of Sudan cry out for nothing less.
Elyse Bauer Anderson
Appropriations Legislative Assistant
Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10)