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Urging The President To Appoint A Presidential Special Envoy For Sudan

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


URGING THE PRESIDENT TO APPOINT A PRESIDENTIAL SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SUDAN -- (House of Representatives - September 25, 2006)

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the challenges we face today in Sudan are perhaps among the most difficult of our time. The interminable war between Khartoum and the rebels in the south claimed the lives of over 2 million people and was punctuated by brutalities that strain our credulity. The United States poured hundreds of millions of dollars into humanitarian relief for Sudan, but never bothered to effectively engage in a high-level effort to resolve the conflict until 2001 when President Bush appointed Senator John Danforth to serve as a Special Envoy to Sudan.

With Senator Danforth's leadership, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan was signed in January of 2005, presenting a historic opportunity for peace, economic development, and democratic aspirations in southern Sudan. Unfortunately, implementation of the peace agreement has been slow and many difficult challenges lie ahead.

While the international community focused on resolving the war in the south, a genocidal campaign was unleashed by the government of Sudan in the Darfur region of western Sudan. As many as 400,000 people have died since 2004, and more than 2 million others have been forced from their homes. Once again, the U.S. Government provided millions of dollars to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of those most affected by the conflict, including more than $150 million to support the deployment and operations of the African Union peacekeepers in Darfur. This time, however, the U.S. immediately engaged at the highest levels to seek a resolution to the conflict.

Two years of intense negotiations, with significant engagement by President Bush himself, finally yielded a peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the largest rebel faction in Darfur, the SLA, in May of this year. Unfortunately, the agreement has not held and the Sudanese Government has launched military operations against its own civilian population in Darfur.

Mr. Speaker, the United States has significant human rights and security interests at stake in Sudan. Recall that in 1996 the Sudanese Government made Osama bin Laden available to American law enforcement officials, a point that Salah Gosh reiterated to me with a great deal of sarcasm when I met with him 14 months ago in Khartoum. That offer, as we know, was refused.

We cannot afford to repeat those mistakes of the past. The United States needs a rational, well coordinated policy towards Sudan that puts an end to the violence and terrorism and human rights abuses at the core of our relationship. It is in this context that I welcome, and we welcome as a body, the President's appointment of Andrew Natsios to serve as the Presidential Envoy for Sudan.

The resolution before us today, authored by our good friend and colleague, Chairman FRANK WOLF, H. Res. 992, strongly supports the appointment of the Special Envoy for Sudan and suggests a roadmap for the formation of a comprehensive responsible policy towards Sudan.

It states that the Special Envoy's mandate should include all efforts to consolidate peace throughout Sudan, including by ensuring full implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The mandate should also include helping to secure a just and equitable peace in eastern Sudan, supporting reconstruction efforts and the return of displaced persons to the Darfur and southern Sudan and addressing the inextricably linked conflict in northern Uganda.

In essence what will be the Special Envoy's responsibility to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past by focusing solely on the crisis in Darfur at the expense of solidifying the north-south peace accord and resolving the conflict in the east; by allowing the potential for peace in southern Sudan to blind us to the grave human rights tragedies continuing to unfold in Darfur; and by allowing the government of Sudan's reported cooperation in the war on terror to outweigh human rights concerns in the region. They must be paramount. And also to allow those same human rights concerns to compromise our ability to protect our own citizens.

Again, this is a good resolution. I would note parenthetically that originally it called for the creation, this resolution by Mr. Wolf, of a Special Envoy. Thankfully, events have overcome the resolution and now we are congratulating the administration for doing just that, creating a Special Envoy for Sudan.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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