Thank-you Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our distinguished witnesses on today's panels, including Ambassador Lyman and Ms. Lindborg, who have both offered wise counsel to the Committee in the past. The Foreign Relations Committee has become very well informed about Sudan, and now South Sudan, over the past decade. This is, unfortunately, due to the inordinate amount of human suffering that has occurred there, including genocide, other crimes against humanity, deadly tribal conflicts and now border clashes. The extreme violence and deprivation that characterize much of the conflict in the central African region, including Sudan, has recently been brought home to millions in this country through the viral You Tube video that depicts the cruelty inflicted by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.
The impact of the bloody fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has been brought home in another way. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005, finally achieved the separation of South Sudan from the north last July, it was hoped that the petroleum wealth they share--oil from the south is exported through pipelines in the north--would be deemed too precious for either side to forego. Instead, however, oil exports have stopped, putting upward pressure on oil prices globally. Even though the United States imported no oil from Sudan, oil is traded on a world market, so in today's tight oil market, any major loss of supply affects all prices, from the crude that Americans import to the gasoline that they put in their cars.
This is why I have stressed the importance of U.S. and international efforts to improve transparency and governance in oil-rich countries. Stability in oil-producing regions leads to stability in gas prices here. Events in far-away lands can directly affect the U.S. economic and security situation. Besides influencing the cost of the fuel that heats our homes and powers our vehicles, conflicts in places like Sudan, Somalia or the Arabian Gulf can place strains on our humanitarian resources and require us to maintain civilian and military capacity to respond to crises that affect our national security interests. The administration should re-double its diplomatic efforts with the international community, including the African Union and the Arab League, to help bring about a stable and productive South Sudan and a more responsible and responsive Republic of Sudan.
Developments in the past eight months have only made those challenges greater. The most egregious violence and violations of international law again emanate from Khartoum, Sudan, as the Al Bashir government engages in its familiar pattern of crimes against humanity, including starvation as a method of war. I expect our witnesses today will describe the humanitarian and human rights atrocities that have occurred since the two countries separated in July.
I am particularly interested in learning about the displacement of more than 120,000 people from the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan and from Blue Nile State, along the new border between the two Sudans. I am also concerned about the genesis of dozens of violent conflicts that have erupted within the borders of the new South Sudan. This is a country where people fought for years to be free of subjugation by Khartoum. We had hoped that independence would lead them to set aside their tribal differences and work together to build a new nation.
The United States has played an important but carefully defined role, which it must continue, in seeking resolution of the conflicts that plague the region, from Senator Danforth's efforts at concluding the CPA to Secretary Powell's efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur, to Secretary Clinton's recent direct engagement at the U.N. on a peacekeeper agreement.
Famine looms in the Kordofan and Blue Nile areas of Sudan, thanks primarily to the actions of the government in Khartoum. This follows closely another man-made hunger crisis in Somalia that also threatened hundreds of thousands of families. The United States should work to galvanize an international response, in conjunction with the Arab League and the African Union, to preclude further catastrophe. In particular this means leveraging our diplomacy to press China, Sudan's major oil customer, to live up to its responsibilities as an important world power and use its influence to help bring about a reconciliation of the parties.