U.S. policy dealing with the violence, new humanitarian crises and ongoing slavery in Sudan were the focus of a congressional hearing Tuesday held by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights and African issues.
Smith's Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights heard testimony from the top official on U.S. government Sudan policy, Sudan experts and an emancipated slave. The hearing, entitled "A Comprehensive Assessment of U.S. Policy Toward Sudan," examined America's strategies for addressing the recurring crises in the Darfur, Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile areas of Sudan.
"From a time I can't remember until very recently, I slept with cattle and goats," said Ker Deng, now 18 but a slave since he was a toddler when he and his mother were captured during a raid on their village. "I ate the grain that was fed to horses. I was treated worse than the animals I slept with. Like them, I was property. I was a slave held in Northern Sudan. But the animals weren't beaten every day. I was." Click here to read Ker's testimony.
His mother remains a forced concubine by her captor. Blinded by his captor, Deng is in the U.S. to receive treatment to restore his eyesight and to testify to his own story as a slave, which remains the plight of thousands of other captives in Sudan.
"Slavery remains a pervasive and deeply disturbing reality in Sudan, and we cannot in good conscience allow this to continue," Smith said. "We have had active campaigns to end Sudanese slavery, to end genocide in Darfur, to end the north-South civil war and now to end the attacks on Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Unfortunately, these campaigns have been conducted in isolation from one another. If we are to have a successful policy to stop the suffering of Sudan's people, our government must devise a comprehensive policy for addressing all of Sudan's challenges."
Smith, a longtime advocate in fighting human trafficking and author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the reauthorization of which will be considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee tomorrow, said the State Department's 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report mandated by the TVPA lists Sudan as a Tier 3 country. That is, Sudan is listed as a continuing source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
* Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Special Envoy to Sudan
* Gerard Prunier, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Michael Ansari Africa Center, Atlantic Council
* John Prendergast, Co-Founder, ENOUGH Campaign
* Ker Aleu Deng, emancipated slave, Republic of South Sudan
At a press conference earlier in the day, Smith was joined by Ellen Ratner, a White House correspondent and nationally known radio & TV journalist for Talk Radio News Service and Fox News Channel and Sudan human rights advocate, New Jersey newspaper publisher and human rights activist Diane Gooch, Deng and Dr. Julia A. Haller, M.D. Mark Ackermann from Lighthouse International and John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International also participated. Both groups have assisted Deng.
Haller, an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, is the lead doctor and lead surgeon on the medical team caring for Deng. Deng has undergone multiple surgeries to try to restore his sight, resulting in significant improvement. Future progress is anticipated.