Smith Calls for Special Envoy for Sudan
A special U.S. envoy for Sudan is needed to help usher in peace and stability in that war-torn nation according to Africa Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith who met with the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, on Capitol Hill today.
"With all the problems remaining in Sudan - from the continuing violence in Darfur to the slow implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South conflict - a special envoy for Sudan is very much needed. Congress needs to push the Bush Administration until that becomes a reality," Smith said.
Chairman Smith and members of the House International Relations Committee met with Kiir, who also heads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), to discuss how the United States can push the peace process forward in Darfur. The genocide in Darfur began in 2003 has resulted in the deaths of as many as 400,000 people and the displacement of more than two million from their homes. Entire villages have been looted and destroyed, and countless men, women, and children have been murdered, abducted, abused, or raped. The United States has provided more than $617 million in assistance to help ease the suffering of those most affected by the conflict, and more than $150 million to support the African Union mission in Darfur.
In May, the Government of Sudan and the strongest faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of the Darfur rebel groups, signed a peace accord. However, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir's resistance to a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur and the rejection of the accord by smaller Darfur rebel groups threatens to derail the peace process.
"This peace accord is our best opportunity to achieve the lasting peace in Sudan. We cannot abandon it. Instead, we need to find ways to overcome remaining obstacles so that the millions of internally displaced persons in Sudanese camps and refugees living in Chad can safely return to their homes," Smith said.
Smith and Kiir also discussed issues arising from the slow implementation of the CPA, which was signed in 2005, including the issue of sharing oil revenues. Kiir told the members that Sudan's ruling National Congress Party was refusing to be transparent in the matter of oil revenues and is reporting less oil revenue at a time when the global price of oil has never been higher.
Finally, Smith discussed the SPLM's efforts to mediate a peace agreement between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has kidnapped thousands of children and forced them to become child soldiers over the last 20 years. The LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted for war crimes in Uganda and has been indicted along with his commanders by the International Criminal Court.
"I and many of my colleagues in Congress believe Kony should join former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor at The Hague for a war crimes trial, but the SPLM believes amnesty for Kony and his men at this point will help end the nightmare for so many women and children in that region of Africa. Time will tell whether that strategy is worth pursuing," Smith explained.
Kiir is the President of Southern Sudan and, under the terms of the CPA, one of two vice-presidents in the national government. Kiir replaced the late John Garang last summer when the former SPLM leader died in a helicopter crash while returning from a meeting in Uganda. He has been in Washington the last few days for high-level meetings with the Bush Administration and Congress.
"I appreciate President Kiir's time and candor. It clear that there are many outstanding issues that need to be resolved with both the crisis in Darfur and the implementation of the north-south peace agreement, and I will make sure that the U.S. remains involved in bringing a lasting end to the conflict throughout Sudan," Smith said.