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A Comprehensive Assessment of US Policy Toward Sudan

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, which I chair, held a hearing that examined a wide range of issues involving U.S. policy toward Sudan, including the ongoing attacks on Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the continuing negotiations with the Republic of South Sudan on challenges such as the demarcation of the border, the fate of the Abyei region, citizenship in both countries and oil revenue sharing. Additionally, this hearing provided opportunities to receive an update on the U.S. response to the enduring stalemate on Darfur and to examine U.S. policy on the release of Sudanese still held in bondage throughout Sudan.

* Two months ago, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights held an emergency hearing on the attacks by the Republic of the Sudan on its own Southern Kordofan state. The crisis first arose in June, shortly after the military forces of the Khartoum government attacked the disputed Abyei area. This was apparently a provocation to the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, or SPLM, government in what is now South Sudan just before that new country's independence.

* This vicious attack didn't provoke the SPLM into retaliation, which could have derailed its independence. Nevertheless, dozens of people were killed and more than 200,000 were displaced in the immediate aftermath of the northern attack on its own territory. This violence was a tragic resumption of a prior war by the Khartoum government on the Nuba of Southern Kordofan. Beginning in the 1980s, Islamist elements in the North began an eradication campaign against the Nuba--pitting Northern Arabs against Africans to the South.

* Earlier this month, the Sudanese military bombed its own Blue Nile state, including attacks on the governor's residence. Nearly half a million people were affected by the air and ground assault on Blue Nile. It seems the so-called cease-fire in Southern Kordofan was only a pretext to facilitate preparations for the assault on Blue Nile.

* The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the North-South civil war was supposed to provide for consultations for both states so residents could determine their political future. However, Khartoum didn't want to risk their desire to break away and lose them as it has South Sudan. The promised consultations were held in Blue Nile, but postponed in Southern Kordofan.

* When the SPLM-North members in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile didn't lay down their arms in advance of South Sudan's independence, Khartoum used that as an excuse to eliminate those who had supported the South in the long civil war. A preemptive strike in Southern Kordofan evidently was meant to chase out those who had opposed Khartoum. Members of SPLM-North were stalked by the Sudanese military, who went door-to-door to eliminate them. The similar attack in Blue Nile was intended to purge that state of the supposed opponents of the Khartoum government living there as well. In fact, the Sudan People's Liberation Army--North governor of Blue Nile has been chased out of the capital by northern military forces.

* As the world was focused on the January referendum in which Southerners voted for an independent South Sudan, human right organizations reported rising violence in Darfur. There was a resumption of conflict in several locations in North and South Darfur between Sudanese government military forces and Sudan Liberation Army rebels loyal to Mini Minawi, a signatory of the now-defunct 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement. Recently, the Sudanese army clashed with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in the remote area of North Darfur near Sudan's triangle border with Chad and Libya. Darfur rebels had attacked Omdurman and Khartoum in northern Sudan in 2008, which resulted in a massive crackdown on dissidents.

* The brutality by the Sudanese military will not crush the desire for freedom in Abyei, Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile or Darfur. In seeking to prevent the secession of these states and the special administrative area of Abyei, Bashir's government may be sowing the seeds for Sudan's eventual dissolution. Until that time, however, the international community must continue to press for an end to the attacks on Sudanese, using all of our available diplomatic and economic resources. The human rights of people in the North must be every bit as important to us as the rights of those in the South have been.

* Meanwhile, we have known that raiders from the North were killing southern men and taking women and children into slavery for decades. Reports from human rights groups and the U.S. Department of State on Sudanese slavery gained the attention of Members of Congress such as myself as early as the 1980s because of the serious human rights implications of modern-day slavery.

* I chaired the first Congressional hearing on slavery in Sudan on March 13, 1996. Our witnesses included then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Twadell; Samuel Cotton of the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan; Dr. Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group; Baroness Caroline Cox, the Deputy Speaker of the British House of Lords, testifying on behalf of Christian Solidarity International, and Dr. Gaspar Biro, Human Rights Rapporteur of the United Nations. Fifteen years ago, these witnesses cited the gross human rights violations committed by the Government of the Sudan and their failure to cooperate in addressing slavery. Special Rapporteur Biro referred to it as the ``manifest passivity of the government of Sudan.'' Deputy Assistant Secretary Twadell said the Clinton Administration acknowledged then that slavery was an ugly reality in Sudan.

* Following a visit to the Sudan People's Liberation Army-held portion of Sudan in November 2000, then-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice said that neither the Clinton Administration nor its successor would cease working to end slavery in Sudan. Why have we not kept that promise?

* When former Assistant Secretary Rice made that pledge, the United Nations estimated that there were as many as 15,000 southern Sudanese held in bondage after being abducted in raids by Arab militiamen on southern villages. While the current exact number of Sudanese slaves is unknown, too many people remain in slavery in Sudan and more continue to join them each day. The State Department's 2011 Trafficking in Persons report lists Sudan as a Tier III country that is a continuing source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Slavery remains a pervasive and deeply disturbing reality in Sudan, and we cannot in good conscience allow this to continue.

* 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 to 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. To facilitate such a policy consolidation, civil society also must support a coordinated policy no matter their particular area of concern. Therefore, I call on our civil society organizations concerned about the people of Sudan to work together and demonstrate to our government the wisdom and effectiveness of a coordinated American policy on Sudan.

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