The fragile and deteriorating state of affairs between the nations of Sudan and South Sudan was the focus of a hearing Thursday held by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights and African issues. Testifying were senior officials from the U.S. State Department.
"As we meet here today, the two countries move ever closer to all-out war, and some strategy to avert this eventuality must be devised soon if it is not created already," Smith said. "Our hearing should reveal what such a strategy is or will be. The United States is one of the guarantors of the peace process that ended the second North-South civil war in 2005, but it is not our responsibility alone to prevent what everyone believes would be disaster for two nations and their populations and likely for the welfare of their neighbors. The United Nations and the African Union certainly bear some responsibility for working to restore peace. However, no lasting peace will be likely if other interested parties fail to play a positive role in this crisis." Click here to read Smith's opening remarks.
"The North-South Sudan Conflict 2012," is the title of the hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, part of the Foreign Affairs Committee. With the threat of the collapse of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement negotiations brokered by the United States, Sudan and South Sudan have moved closer to all-out war over the sharing of oil revenue, the still-unresolved border areas between the two countries, and other issues.
"A previous flare up of border fighting--with South Sudanese troops entering Sudan and Sudan bombing South Sudan--had scuttled what appeared to be a promising new approach to negotiations over oil between the two countries," said Princeton Lyman, Special Envoy for Sudan, U.S. Department of State. "Our efforts are focused on bringing an end to this cycle of violence and retaliation, and getting both parties back to the table for serious negotiations on all of the issues that divide them." Click here to read Lyman's statement.
The other witnesses were Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of State.
"We are deeply concerned by the actions, including aerial bombardments and ground attacks, and incendiary rhetoric of both the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments and urge leaders on both sides to deescalate. The situation we face is indeed urgent," Lindborg said. "The potential for war threatens to exacerbate the two countries' already grave humanitarian needs and undermine nascent development gains in South Sudan."
"There are always refugee assistance challenges in an emergency," said Richard. "In this case, new camps have had to be built for the influx of Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Finding adequate clean water supplies for over 90,000 refugees in South Sudan's Upper Nile State has paradoxically been quite difficult in a country that is known for being widely flooded for much of the year. Humanitarian agencies are racing against the clock with the rainy season beginning in earnest this month . The greatest challenge, however, has been protecting refugees -- maintaining the security and the neutrality of refugee camps, ensuring that refugees are safely moved away from volatile borders and out of the potential line of fire, that any combatants are disarmed and/or separated, and that women and girls are safe from sexual assault and other violence."