Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

U.S. Policy Toward Sudan and South Sudan

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, last week, I chaired a subcommittee hearing on U.S. policy toward Sudan and South Sudan. The hearing was very important, and not only because the United States Government has been involved in Sudan and its various crises for the past three decades. Many of us first became interested in Sudan in the 1980s because of the persistent reports of modern-day slavery, in which northern Arabs enslaved African southerners. My office helped to bring one of these unfortunate people to America for medical treatment after he was freed, and his story affected me deeply.

Ker Deng had been kidnapped into slavery while still a child, and while he was an adolescent, the man who held him in bondage rubbed peppers in his eyes, blinded him and later abandoned him. Ker is studying here in the United States thanks to his benefactor, Ellen Ratner, and is awaiting a second operation to help him recover at least some of his eyesight. How many other Sudanese will never have that opportunity or even achieve their freedom? For example, Ker's mother has never been freed from bondage.

We began supporting southern Sudanese efforts to end the oppression from the North in the mid-1990s. In 2005, we helped both North and South achieve the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA, to end the long civil war and provide the steps for a mutually beneficial peace and productive coexistence. Unfortunately, the rebellion in the Darfur region distracted from efforts to fulfill that agreement.

Khartoum's alliance with the Janjaweed Arabs resulted in mass killings and displacement in Darfur. An estimated 1.9 million people were displaced, more than 240,000 people were forced into neighboring Chad, and an estimated 450,000 people were killed. At the time, Congress insisted that this was genocide. Eventually, the Bush administration concurred, but the United Nations declined to go so far in their terminology, calling what happened in Darfur ``crimes against humanity.''

A peace agreement between the main rebel force in Darfur and the Government of Sudan was signed in May 2006, but it did not last. In fact, no sustained agreement has been reached between the government and Darfur rebel groups--partly because these groups have continued to split and form offshoots, but also because the Khartoum government has not appeared willing to resolve the Darfur situation constructively. In June 2005, the International Criminal Court initiated an investigation that resulted in arrest warrants for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and three other government officials and militia leaders. None of these warrants has been served, none of the four have been taken into custody and the Government of Sudan has refused to cooperate with the ICC.

Meanwhile, the CPA remained unimplemented. In January 2011, South Sudan, which had been a semiautonomous region of the country since the signing of the CPA, voted in a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or become independent. Having been marginalized and mistreated for decades, it was not surprising that southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly--at the level of 98.8 percent--to become an independent nation. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became the world's newest nation. However, these unimplemented elements of the CPA would bedevil the new country from its birth.

A referendum in the disputed Abyei region and consultations on the status of Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states were never completed. In May 2011, Sudanese armed forces assumed control of towns in Abyei, quickly forcing at least 40,000 residents to flee. Within weeks, fighting spread to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, as Khartoum sought to crush the Sudan People's Liberation Army--North, which had fought with southerners in the North-South civil war. Northern attacks on residents in those three areas continue unabated.

Last year, Sudan and South Sudan engaged in a conflict over oil supplies from the South, involving allegations that Khartoum was undercounting the level of oil flow to cheat South Sudan, as well as the southern seizure of the oil town of Heglig. Again, this dispute was largely the result of unresolved issues from the CPA.

South Sudan continues to be engaged in a conflict that began last December, despite a cessation of hostilities agreement. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced. Exact figures are constantly shifting because this conflict continues. I will soon introduce a resolution offering a sequenced approach to reaching a lasting resolution to this newest crisis. This conflict also is the result of too little attention paid to the warning signs because of preoccupation with one of the many crises in the two Sudans.

Over the last three decades, I and other committee and subcommittee chairs have held numerous hearings on Sudan--from the North-South civil war to the Darfur conflict to the fighting in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile to the current conflict in South Sudan. All this attention is more than justified, but our approach to addressing them has been intermittent. Too often, each crisis is seen as a problem unto itself, unrelated to other issues in these two countries.

In fact, successive administrations and Congresses, advocacy groups and humanitarian organizations have focused so much on individual crises and issues that no one has created a panoramic view which shows how all these individual crises interrelate with each other. This ``stovepiping'' of government policy and public attention has meant that long-term solutions have been neglected while short-term eruptions have had to be dealt with. In reality, the two Sudans are inexorably linked and no crisis in either can be resolved successfully without taking into account the entire Sudan-South Sudan panorama.

We must end this cycle of myopic policy formulation based on the crisis of the moment and adopt a long-term, holistic vision of what the best interest of the people of Sudan and South Sudan demands--indeed, what would be in the best interest of the entire region.

As we learned in our subcommittee hearing on the Sahel crisis last May, Islamic extremists have their sights set on making inroads wherever there is conflict, across the belt of Central Africa stretching from Senegal to Sudan and beyond. Continuing unrest in the two Sudans only serves to provide training grounds or bases of operation for terrorists. Hardened ethnic conflict can spread to long-term enmity that no peace agreement alone can resolve. Hopefully, this will not be the case in South Sudan, but that conflict is headed in that ominous direction.
Two years ago, I held a meeting in my office with representatives from Sudan's Nubian, Darfuri, Beja and Nuba communities, who all believe that Khartoum is engaged in a long-term effort to exterminate non-Arab Sudanese. Have we missed such a pernicious campaign while hopping from one crisis to another as each appeared?

The purpose of last week's hearing was to examine current U.S. policy toward Sudan and South Sudan to see how we can unify our policy in order to more effectively end long-running tragedies that appear get worse despite all the busy attention to which we pay them. This involves more than what the Department of State and other executive agencies do, or even what support Congress can provide. Advocacy and humanitarian organizations also must join government in seeing the forest and not just the trees, so to speak.

We must develop, support and implement policies toward Sudan and South Sudan that make sense in the long term and not just produce temporarily satisfying peace accords that have no sustainability. Peace and prosperity for both countries are linked, and we must act accordingly. The hearing, we hope, will serve to highlight what must be done.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top