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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2002: African Affairs Remarks

U.S. Policy Towards Sudan

Walter H. Kansteiner, III, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations
Washington, DC
June 5, 2002

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am honored to have the opportunity to appear before this Committee to discuss what the Secretary has characterized as one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies in the world. The oft-quoted statistics on Sudan -- 36 years of civil war in 46 years of independence, two million dead, four million internally displaced, 500,000 refugees -- are numbing in their magnitude. Slave raiding, aerial bombing of civilians, attacks on relief centers, pillaging of aid supplies, use of food as a weapon of war, forced displacement of populations, interference with religious freedom, any of these would guarantee a country a prominent spot on the dismal map of human suffering, but in Sudan we see all these horrors together enacted and reenacted.

Those who have seen the misery of that country's people know that the United States of America cannot ignore what is going on there. Sudan must be a priority in America's foreign policy. I can assure this Committee that it is.

The Administration's Sudan policy is multifaceted in its approach to key U.S. strategic interests and its support for the ideals and compassion of the American people. We will seek to deny Sudan as a base of operations for international terrorism even as we work to bring about a just and lasting peace, push for unhindered humanitarian access, and improved human rights and religious freedom. These goals represent a complex balancing act which I will try to make a bit clearer through my remarks. What I hope is immediately clear is the need for your continued support as we aggressively pursue an end to the suffering which has tragically marked the lives of too many Sudanese people.

Protecting the American people from any and all threats that may emanate from Africa must be a primary policy focus. The events of September 11 and Africa's own sad experience with the terrorist attacks against our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania necessitate that counter-terrorism concerns remain front and center as an issue in our diplomatic relations with the Government of Sudan. The Department's recent release of the Patterns of Global Terrorism report points to our sustained vigilance. While the report does refer to a measurable increase in counter-terrorism cooperation with Sudan, we remain concerned by the government's ongoing tolerance of and support for groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, due to the sensitive nature of this subject and ongoing discussions, I recommend a different forum for detailed briefings on this matter.

As important as our counter-terrorism efforts remain in Sudan, our quest for a just peace, sustained humanitarian access, and dramatic improvements in human rights are a direct reflection of the principles embraced by the American people and pursued through the leadership of President Bush. In September 2001, President Bush named Senator John Danforth the Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan. In fulfilling his mandate, Senator Danforth has advised that the parties to the conflict have shown sufficient will to engage in a peace process. We must now work diligently to demand deeds rather than mere words, and in this regard the government in Khartoum will have much to prove. President Bush has asked Senator Danforth to continue on as his envoy for peace in Sudan as we push for a just peace. The United States considers the onus of ending the civil war squarely on the shoulders of the government.

The road to peace will be arduous and long, and President Bush has clearly articulated an immediate need for relief for the millions of Sudanese who suffer needlessly. In support of that effort, the President appointed USAID Administrator, Andrew Natsios, Special Humanitarian Coordinator and tasked him with developing and implementing strategies that would alleviate the dire humanitarian situation at hand. In this vein, I will add that USAID, particularly OFDA under the leadership of Roger Winter, has played a critical and outstanding role in moving forward on Sudan. His value as a partner in our efforts cannot be overstated.

There is an inextricable link between our search for peace and more proximate gains in the areas of humanitarian access and respect for human rights. These gains will be incremental but represent an essential operationalization of our overall efforts. We seek sustained and measurable achievements in pursuing: 1. A cease-fire and humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains area; 2. Zones and periods of tranquility for humanitarian access; 3. The introduction of an international commission to investigate slavery, abductions and forced servitude; and 4. The cessation of attacks on civilians. The commitments that the parties have made to implement these agreements will necessarily represent ongoing tests of their will to cooperate in good faith. While not perfect, these tests represent unprecedented progress which, most importantly, continues to save lives.

The United States remains the leading donor of humanitarian relief to Sudan and we will continue to take this lead -- including to northern victims of drought -- whenever and wherever possible. We are working to move through barriers to our relief efforts, whether imposed by Khartoum or other parties to the conflict. I note again the Administration's clear view that cooperation on humanitarian delivery cannot be de-linked from our overall understanding of the parties' commitment to work with the United States and others to advance peace. My colleague, Roger Winter, will address this issue in greater detail, but I would like to highlight an important accomplishment in our engagement so far. We have secured access to areas that have been previously "off limits," like the Nuba Mountains. This area has not seen significant humanitarian relief in more than eight years. The cease-fire, coupled with scaled-up humanitarian access, has breathed life into a devastated area and allowed the people of Nuba to reach some measure of equilibrium.

Maintaining our commitment to those that suffer at the hands of the government in Khartoum also means forthrightly denouncing the egregious human rights violations that occur in Sudan. The practice of slavery in the Sudan cannot be denounced strongly enough and the Sudanese Government's tolerance for the practice is simply unacceptable. The recently completed findings by the U.S.-led International Commission to Investigate Slavery, Abductions and Forced Servitude demonstrate that there is no question that slavery continues to occur in Sudan today and that it is perpetrated by people who, when not acting in concert with government forces, at least enjoy government forbearance. No one has been arrested, much less prosecuted, for this crime. The message of the Sudanese government is not that this horror must end, but that Sudan's critics fail to appreciate the unique cultural circumstances that give rise to "abductions." We do not, nor will we ever, accept this argument. The findings of the Commission address this cynical and unacceptable response and deny the government semantic latitude when answering for their actions in international fora. The report also lays out a series of recommendations that the Sudanese government must take to stop the attacks, free the victims, and punish the guilty.

This is merely one example of the pervasive violations of human rights that typify Sudan. All the belligerents, to one degree or another, have made civilians targets in this war, but no party bears a heavier responsibility than the Sudanese government. The most contentious of the Danforth initiatives addressed this issue specifically. In February 2002, the government and the SPLA agreed to cease attacks on civilians in accordance with the rules of war as outlined in the Geneva Convention. We are in the process of installing an on-the-ground monitoring mechanism to determine the belligerents' commitment to this agreement. Although reported violations of this agreement by both sides have been cataloged, we will persist in establishing the monitoring mechanism simply because it allows the international community unprecedented access and a clearer picture of the situation. We thank you for your cooperation and participation in making funding available to implement these mechanisms and will keep Congress informed as this process evolves.

The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Sudan has its basis in the ongoing civil war. The environment in which the humanitarian crises, the religious persecution, and the disregard for human rights exist results from government and opposition resolve to settle their differences militarily. The duration and nature of the civil war, however, make it clear that neither the government nor the opposition can win militarily. Without a strong international role, it is doubtful the parties to the conflict possess the initiative necessary to resolve the differences of their own accord. This is where we have focused our diplomatic efforts.

We appreciate that none of Sudan's problems exist in a vacuum. So long as the civil war goes on, the suffering of the civilians will continue. I cannot put it more directly or forcefully than has Deputy Secretary Armitage: we have got to try to stop the war.

The release of Senator Danforth's report a few weeks ago marks the initial step to determine if we can indeed stop the war. His initial mandate, as I mentioned earlier, was to determine if the parties to the conflict are earnest in their stated desire for peace. Senator Danforth found that while the parties have demonstrated an ability to reach agreement on contentious issues, the difficulty of achieving these agreements underscores the necessity of outside intermediaries. Specifically, and in short, he notes that the time is right for the United States to participate and act as a catalyst in a peace process. The Administration agrees with his conclusion.

In charting a course for a peace process, the United States is closely coordinating with Kenya, the United Kingdom, Norway Switzerland, Egypt and others. The consensus among the parties to the conflict and countries coordinating with the United States is that instead of introducing an entirely new proposal, peace negotiations will only develop momentum and succeed if they are undertaken through an existing framework to which both parties are agreed in principle. The nascent Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) framework is the only vehicle for peace that fits this need at this time. Having stalled in the past due to a lack of broad participation, both the parties to the conflict and the coordinating partners agree that the IGAD framework, with several key points of the Egyptian-Libyan Initiative (ELI) included, is the strongest and most viable forum for peace discussions. More importantly, the IGAD framework is the only agreement signed by both parties to the conflict that resolves and acknowledges critical issues like self-determination for the south, religion and state, and governance.

When we talk about the prospects for peace in Sudan, we must be realistic, and we must be prepared for a long-term commitment. The latest iteration of this war is 19 years old. Achieving a just peace will require resolution of difficult questions such as the role of religion in the state, boundaries, sharing of oil revenue, and guaranteeing respect for the south's legitimate right to self-determination. Peace negotiations will require sustained effort and the demonstration of a will to peace that appears so far to be less than enthusiastic. Although a comprehensive cease-fire would be an important milestone on the way to a just peace, it must be a viable, negotiated cease-fire that advances the search for a comprehensive settlement. The Sudanese government's frequent calls for a cease-fire appear to be tactical posturing rather than indications of a move toward a just peace. A serious cease-fire would, first and foremost, be integrated into a peace process. It would also address the military issues on the ground such as re-supply of troops, importation of arms, and monitoring of troop movements. A cease-fire that does not speak to those sorts of issues will be as short-lived as the various humanitarian cease-fires or bombing halts that have come and quickly gone over the years.

Humanitarian relief, human rights, and peace are three critical keys to our Sudan policy. We must work on all three simultaneously, but we must insist on concrete progress by all the parties. To achieve our goals, we must be prepared to aggressively advocate our positions in Khartoum. We have been looking at re-staffing our Embassy in Khartoum to provide the presence we need to advance our interests there and to support an engagement on the issue of peace. Our efforts to do so have been with our eyes wide open. The Sudanese conflict has gone on too long. Along with key allies -- the United Kingdom, Norway, Kenya, Switzerland, and others -- we are committed to pushing all of the key actors to a serious, comprehensive and hopefully lasting, peace process.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



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