Sudan Peace ActWalter H. Kansteiner, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Testimony Before the House Subcommittee on Africa
May 13, 2003
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am honored to have the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee to discuss the President’s determination consistent with the Sudan Peace Act, the reports mandated by the Act, and our government's efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace settlement in Sudan.
Today I am pleased to be able to report that substantial progress has been made towards such an accord. Much remains to be accomplished, however, and I want to take this opportunity to ask for the Subcommittee's continuing support as we intensify efforts to end the war and suffering in Sudan. The people of Sudan need to hear a clear message that the Congress wants to see a just and comprehensive peace, that the United States will remain engaged -- but that the window of opportunity is now -- and that we stand ready to support reconstruction and development in post-war Sudan. As the Secretary has stated, the situation in Sudan remains one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies in the world. In 36 years of conflict, two million persons have died, four million are internally displaced, and 500,000 are refugees. Our focus on Sudan sends a positive message to the leadership and people of that country that we are serious in wanting to help.
President Bush, the Secretary, and I have established as one of our highest priorities ending this appalling situation, and we are convinced that the only viable means to do that is through a peace accord that addresses the legitimate grievances of southerners. I believe that the possibility to achieve a lasting peace is better than it has ever been in the long history of this conflict.
That is why on April 21 the President sent his determination to the Congress, pursuant to the Sudan Peace Act, that the parties are negotiating in good faith and that the United States should remain engaged. That determination reflects three overriding considerations:
First, the parties have made significant progress in the negotiations. The Machakos Protocol laid out an unprecedented framework for the negotiations by addressing the issues of religion and the state, and the south’s right to self-determination. The parties have now had substantial discussions of all the outstanding issues, including power and wealth sharing, security issues, and the status of the three marginalized areas of southern Blue Nile, Abyei, and the Nuba Mountains. On February 6 the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that attached thirty pages of agreed text on power and wealth sharing. This includes language on the structure of the government and the economy. Most important, the text contains provisions to ensure a democratic framework for post-war Sudan and respect for human rights – in effect a bill of rights for the new Sudan. The language delineates the structures of the government of national unity during the six and-a-half-year interim period and the constitutional review process. The agreed text on wealth sharing lays out in general terms a framework for sharing resources with the south and addresses the issue of how petroleum revenues will be used and monitored. In a report to the President prior to the determination, Presidential Special Envoy Danforth also concluded that significant progress has been made and recommended that the United States remain engaged.
Second, General Sumbeiywo, the Kenyan mediator of the peace talks being sponsored by the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), wrote to Secretary Powell to request that the United States remain engaged. I want to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to General Sumbeiywo for the superb job he is doing to push forward the negotiations.
Third, the peace process represents the best opportunity to end the violence and suffering in Sudan, and to address the legitimate grievances of southerners. President Bashir and the Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Dr. Garang, recognized this in their early April summit when they reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process and made an unprecedented pledge to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion by the end of June. The alternative to a peace accord is a protracted conflict that neither side can win and that will result in unimaginable suffering for the Sudanese people.
Picking up on the commitment made by President Bashir and Chairman Garang at their summit, General Sumbeiywo has laid out a timetable for concluding the negotiations by the end of June. We are working closely with our Troika partners, the United Kingdom and Norway, and with General Sumbeiywo to support these intensified efforts to reach an accord. These efforts are wide-ranging and include, among other steps, high-level engagement with both parties and development of ideas that may be useful to Sumbeiywo as he leads the mediation. Now that the parties have moved into the end game, we have sent a more senior team to the peace talks to work closely with General Sumbeiywo. As part of this intensified engagement, ten days ago I met in London with Sudanese Vice President Taha. Many observers consider Taha hostile to the peace process and to improved relations with the United States, and I wanted to talk directly with him about these issues. Taha told me that he wants to achieve a peace settlement, and looks forward to normalized relations with the United States. I reminded him that normalization was contingent on irreversible cooperation on peace, counter-terrorism and humanitarian access issues. Separately, in a telephone discussion with Special Envoy Danforth following the Sudan Peace Act determination, President Bashir emphasized his desire to reach a peace settlement by the end of June. The coming weeks will test the credibility of both Taha’s and Bashir’s statements. I called Chairman Garang to brief him on the Taha meeting and to invite him to Washington. I talked with General Sumbeiywo to brief him, to ensure close coordination as we move forward, and to invite him for a separate visit to Washington. I also held a meeting in South Africa with President Museveni to discuss the next steps in the peace process.
At the same time, we are holding both sides to the commitments they have already made, particularly the cessation of hostilities agreed to in a Memorandum of Understanding last October. When the government and its allied militias mounted military actions in the Western Upper Nile late last year, we, our Troika partners, and General Sumbeiywo insisted that the fighting cease. We publicly condemned these attacks. As a result of this pressure, the government and the SPLM signed an addendum providing for the pullback of forces to their pre-MOU locations. Never before has this happened in the history of this conflict.
The fighting late last year should put into perspective how difficult this process is, but also how far we have come. Serious fighting has broken out at various times during the negotiations but this time, with outside assistance, the parties themselves have found a way to get the peace process back on track quickly and to develop a mechanism to prevent future hostilities. The cessation of hostilities agreement provides for the establishment of a Verification Monitoring Team (VMT) to monitor the agreement. Disagreements over the modalities to do so have delayed the foundation of the VMT, but General Sumbeiywo is holding both parties to their commitment, and expects to have the VMT up and running soon. In the meantime, the parties agreed that the U.S.-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) would help monitor the cessation of hostilities while at the same time carrying out their responsibilities to investigate attacks against civilians. As the Secretary’s report documents, there has been no aerial bombardment since the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
The CPMT, which has been operating since last October, has helped deter attacks against civilians by casting a spotlight on those responsible, as it did in its February report definitively documenting the responsibility of the government and its allied militias for the military actions in the Western Upper Nile. Again, this is unprecedented in the history of this conflict.
I would like to point out, Mr. Chairman, that the United States has continued to speak out on the government’s unacceptable violations of human rights. The Department’s Human Rights Report documents Sudan’s record of denying fundamental freedoms. The Secretary, other senior officials, and I intervened directly to try to obtain a resolution condemning Sudan’s human rights shortcomings at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. We made it clear that the defeat of the Sudan resolution sends the wrong message to Khartoum. Unfortunately, the Commission failed to live up to its mandate and pass the resolution and renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Regardless, we will work hard to maintain the international spotlight on human rights violations in Sudan. In addition, the Secretary’s report on war crimes pursuant to the Sudan Peace Act calls attention to terrible abuses that have been committed by both sides, but particularly the government, during the course of the conflict. The report will be widely utilized in the coming UN General Assembly and subsequent Commission on Human Rights sessions.
The CPMT, together with the three other tests for peace launched last year as a result of the efforts of Special Envoy Danforth, have contributed to a significant reduction in violence and atrocities, and have helped build a positive climate for the negotiations. The cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains has held, and the population is beginning to see the benefits of peace. The report of the Eminent Persons Group on slavery called world attention to this longstanding problem and, in doing so, helped to focus attention and discussion on a heinous and abhorrent activity. In addition, thousands of people and animals have been vaccinated as a result of the "days of tranquility" initiative.
At the same time, we have worked closely with the President’s Special Humanitarian Coordinator on Sudan, USAID Administrator Natsios, to ensure that all needy populations receive vitally needed humanitarian assistance. I know Administrator Natsios will go into greater detail on the humanitarian situation. But I want to mention some significant improvement in assistance delivery over the last few months. Last fall, when the Sudanese government reacted to the SPLM’s capture of Torit by greatly restricting access, the United States led an initiative to mobilize international pressure to force the government to honor its commitment to unrestricted humanitarian access. As the Secretary’s report on humanitarian access stated, the situation has substantially improved. While some procedural obstacles must still be overcome on a day-to-day basis, humanitarian assistance is generally flowing to needy populations. For the first time, the United Nations is providing humanitarian assistance to Southern Blue Nile. Efforts are continuing to open up access into war-affected areas in eastern Sudan.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, we are under no illusions regarding the challenges, which must still be overcome in order to achieve a peace settlement. A great deal of mistrust remains between the two sides. Yet, there are grounds for cautious optimism. Both sides are war-weary and realize that they cannot win the conflict. The peace process has fueled a growing constituency for peace through the country that crosses ethnic, religious, and political affiliations. The leadership of both sides appears to be reaching out to other parties and groups to position themselves for coalition building in a post-peace democratic Sudan, and that is a good sign.
There is unprecedented international engagement with the parties to encourage a settlement. At the urging of the United States and our Troika partners, the international community has come together to spell out to each side the tangible benefits of peace. Both sides know that there will be a large peace dividend for reconstruction and development if, but only if there is peace. At the same time, we have reiterated to the Sudanese government that normalization of our relationship is dependent upon their cooperation to achieve a just and comprehensive peace agreement and to implement it in good faith; to allow unrestricted humanitarian access; and to cooperate fully against terrorism.
At their summit a month ago in Nairobi, President Bashir and Chairman Garang acknowledged these growing international expectations, and the desire of their constituencies for peace, by setting their goal of an agreement by the end of June. This also reflects their realization that the United States will not remain engaged indefinitely. We have made clear to both sides that we want to see results, that we will not support an open-ended process. That is the clear message both sides heard in the President's determination pursuant to the Sudan Peace Act.
Mr. Chairman, there is much hard work ahead if we are to grasp what I truly believe is an historic opportunity to achieve peace. The Sudan Peace Act is serving as important leverage with both sides. I cannot guarantee you that peace will be achieved, but I can assure you that we will do our utmost to help the parties work out a just and comprehensive agreement. They now realize, I believe, that doing so is in their own best interest. The leadership of both sides and the people of Sudan need our engagement and our prayers.