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Testimony on Sudan Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Andrew Natsios, President's Special Envoy to Sudan
Washington, DC
February 8, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I am very pleased to be here with you today to discuss the United States' (U.S.) role, in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) and our international partners, in addressing the violence and suffering taking place in Darfur.

The current crisis in Darfur has deep roots and stems from multiple layers of conflict that have become more and more complex over time. This is the third war in Darfur in the past twenty years, and by far the most devastating in terms of the numbers of people killed and displaced. The terrible destructiveness of this war is a result of several factors including a rapidly expanding population that has pitted nomads and herders against each other in disputes over land rights in an ecology made fragile by successive droughts and increasing desertification; longstanding economic and developmental neglect of the entire Darfur region by successive Sudanese central governments; and the central government's disastrous decision to arm with modern weaponry, to equip, to direct, and to pay Northern Arab tribes, now called the Janjiweed militias, as their proxies in the war. Arming the Janjiweed led to the launching of genocide in 2003 and 2004, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of their villages and livelihoods. In addition, regional political agendas are being played out in Darfur and the consequences have reached beyond the Sudanese border into both Chad and the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). The Darfur conflict must be resolved to end the virtual war between Chad and Sudan; it is in the interest of both governments to cooperate in pursuing a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The United States Government provided more than $2.7 billion in FY 2005 and FY 2006 in Sudan and on Darfur related relief programs in eastern Chad. Along with other governments, the United States has provided life-saving and life-sustaining food and non-food assistance, and has supported the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) force by building and maintaining thirty-four base camps for over 7,000 peacekeepers. The U.S. is the leading humanitarian donor, providing support for the more than 2.2 million internally displaced persons and refugees.

The Bush Administration's ultimate objective in Darfur is the development of a lasting structure of peace in order to end the humanitarian crisis and avoid a fourth war in the future. While we have had continuing cooperation with the Sudanese government on counter-terrorism issues, this relationship has not prevented elevation, to a pre-eminent position, of the humanitarian and human rights imperative in U.S. policy towards Sudan. United States interests in Darfur are primarily humanitarian, to reduce human suffering, protect human rights, and support a just peace. In order to meet humanitarian needs, we must have regional stability. We have no military or economic interests in Darfur. The United States opposes any effort by any group, country or movement to separate Darfur from Sudan. As a country and as a government we are appalled by the atrocities of the war, particularly those against civilians; and since 2004, when some of the worst violence occurred, the United States has made solving conflict in this region a priority. Both President Bush and Secretary Rice have told the Government of Sudan very clearly that they must cooperate with the international community or face the consequences.

Throughout 2006 we saw an increase in the number of violence-related deaths taking place in Darfur in comparison to 2005, and the number of security incidents against humanitarian aid agencies also significantly increased. Both sides in the conflict bear responsibility for the security incidents against aid agencies. If these incidents continue, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have stated that they will be forced to withdraw humanitarian assistance and end their programs. This action would result in disastrous consequences for the internally displaced persons who are dependent upon assistance after the Arab militias, allied with the Sudanese government, destroyed their homes and farms.

Though we're here today to discuss the urgent issue of Darfur, I want to highlight the importance of the two year old Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that has created a fragile peace in Sudan between the north and the south after two decades of conflict during which more than 2.5 million died and four million were displaced. The CPA, the keystone of U.S. policy toward Sudan, is vulnerable. The death of the south's charismatic leader, Dr. John Garang complicated the immediate implementation of the CPA. Armed militias still threaten the security of southern Sudan, and the withdrawal of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) from certain areas of the south is falling behind schedule. The southern economy is finally growing, but north-south boundary disputes and lack of access to northern oil contracts keep the south from getting its full share of oil revenues. Plans for a national census followed by elections no later than July 2009 are behind schedule. Without international action to energize implementation of the CPA, the most likely outcome will be two Sudans, not John Garang's vision of a united "New Sudan".

Should the CPA collapse it will likely be security issues that will be the cause. At ceremonies to celebrate the CPA's second anniversary on January 9th, Salva Kiir, the first Vice President of the Government of National Unity and the President of the Government of southern Sudan, accused the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of deliberately violating the security provisions in the CPA. South of Juba and along the border between northern and southern Sudan, other armed groups associated with the central government remain a serious and destabilizing problem in the South. In Malakal, a state capital on the Nile, such tension led to combat on December 4, 2006; only the aggressive and timely intervention of United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) troops prevented the violence from spreading. I visited Malakal just after the incident to show the support of the U.S. government for the UN's efforts to stabilize the situation.

Reform of the security sector in Sudan is proceeding slowly. As required by the CPA, Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) units have all withdrawn south of the 1 January 1956 north/south border, but the SAF has largely stopped its withdrawal from the south, maintaining concentrations of troops in the oil-producing areas. Joint Integrated Units, equally composed of SAF and SPLA troops, have been assigned locations in the main towns, but are without proper training or support. Contrary to the provisions of the CPA, companies in these battalions remain in separate units for both housing and training. The SPLA is gradually downsizing into a professional army, but still needs proper training, facilities and administration for the downsized force. The U.S. government is supporting SPLA military reform, though should relations with Khartoum deteriorate this program would be more difficult to implement. CPA security provisions need to be implemented now or conflict is likely to erupt in several areas around oil rich Abeyi and near Juba.

Economic issues divide the north and south. While the Sudanese economy is growing at a rate of 12% per year (the GDP will double in the next six years if current growth rates are maintained, after the dollar value doubled over the last five years through a combination of growth and currency appreciation.). Wealth is concentrated in greater Khartoum (in the Arab triangle between Dongola, El Obeid, and Kasala) while other regions of the country remain impoverished and neglected. Little progress has been made on the mechanisms set up in the CPA to resolve contentious issues such as distribution of oil revenues and boundary disputes.

The U.S. is a major partner for aid, but not for trade. Unilateral economic sanctions are the central element in the U.S. economic policy toward Sudan. As a result, the United States has negligible trade with Sudan and minimal investment in the country. At the same time, Sudan has built stronger economic ties with China, India Malaysia and Gulf Arab states and substantial trade continues with Japan and Europe. In view of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (DPAA), the President's Executive Order 13412 modified the U.S. comprehensive sanctions regime against Sudan under Executive Order 13067, particularly by removing many restrictions with respect to Southern Sudan, as well as Darfur and the three areas, though Sudan as a whole, and specifically the Government of Sudan, is still subject to significant sanctions under U.S. law. Many within the GOS and GOSS believe that U.S. sanctions are detrimental to CPA progress.

On the surface, Sudan's political reform has moved forward. The National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) formed the Government of National Unity (GNU), organized the parliament and distributed positions at senior levels of government as they had agreed in the CPA (though civil service reform is still outstanding). The SPLM established the Government of southern Sudan in Juba, with a limited number of positions for its NCP partners, and likewise set up the ten state governments in the south. The new government in Juba is still, however, a very weak institution in its infancy, especially in such areas as service delivery, financial management and human resource development.

Below the surface, there has been little political transformation. Whether in Khartoum or in Juba, military officers are in charge. Elections have had no role in deciding who rules. The NCP uses the instruments of state power, particularly the security services, to limit the scope for opposition parties and to manipulate the public agenda. It would be seriously challenged in a genuinely free and fair election. The SPLM, which has broad popular support in southern Sudan, has made impressive first steps to establish itself in the north but has never faced elections itself.
There remains a major risk that elections will not be held on time. The CPA specifies that before elections, a census will be conducted throughout Sudan, but arrangements for the census are falling behind schedule. Both the NCP and SPLM appear more eager to consolidate their positions in power than to hold elections. If the elections are to be held as scheduled, the census must be expedited. The Sudanese government has delayed providing the $1 million needed to fund the creation of the machinery essential to managing the election process.

Despite these serious shortcomings, there has been some progress under the CPA. Peace is holding in the south for the first time in twenty-four years. The GOS has transferred over $1 billion in oil revenues to the new GOSS, with an average of $73 million being transferred each month. A new government has been created in the south, commerce is thriving, the economy is growing, displaced people are returning to their ancestral homes and farms, and 75% of the 40,000 militias (most created by the GOS during the war) have been demobilized or merged into either the northern or southern armies. There is no famine in southern Sudan. We should not underestimate these achievements or the benefits of peace and increased economic growth for the average southern family. These are not insignificant achievements, but these achievements are fragile and at risk because of a failure to carry out all of the provisions of the CPA.

Overall, the situation has more cause for alarm than for reassurance. U.S. policy intended the CPA to be a turning point for Sudan's transformation from a failing state to a more just and democratic state that can be a partner for stability and security in a dangerous part of the world. Sudan is now at the halfway mark between signature of the peace accord and its first major turning point, national elections. The south is on a consistent trend line toward separation, which unfairly presumes voter intentions before they have had a chance to express them. The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC), set up to monitor CPA implementation, has only a muffled voice because both the NCP and SPLM must agree to any of its decisions. If nothing is done, a difficult and potentially disruptive separation of the south from the north is likely within five years, followed by other problems. The ruling National Congress Party, which has been alarmed by this trend, has done little to create the atmosphere for Southerners to want to remain in Sudan: the continuing conflict in Darfur and the tactics used by the central government there only confirm Southern fears that nothing has really changed in Khartoum. The CPA needs renewed, high level international political attention. Along these lines, the United States strongly support the proposal being considered for an East African summit through the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to re-assemble the heads of state in the region involved in supporting the initial CPA agreement, to review progress to date and define steps needed to accelerate implementation.

The Government of Sudan is using strategies against Darfur that were first used against the south for many years. By manipulating pre-existing tribal divisions, the Government has played a major role in splintering the opposition movements into factions and has attempted to buy off one small group at a time rather than pursuing a broader peace through transparent negotiation with all parties. This tactic of divide and conquer creates inequality, dissatisfaction and mistrust between the rebel factions, delaying or preventing the creation of a unified political opposition. Surrounding countries have exacerbated these divisions by providing support for rebel groups in pursuit of their own geopolitical agendas. As a result, we now confront a confusing array of rebel factions, the number of which fluctuates up to as many as 15 at any given time. Rebel leaders frequently appear more focused on their own ambitions than on the wellbeing of the people of Darfur. No peace agreement would have been achieved in Southern Sudan had there been multiple rebel factions each with a different political agenda.

Despite numerous ceasefires and the signing of the DPA by the Government of Sudan and one of the rebel groups, there has been no peace, and in fact the humanitarian situation has seriously deteriorated since this agreement was signed in May of 2006. African Union (AU) troops that were put on the ground to prevent further conflict have shown mixed results. The AU forces are fine troops. In the past they have carried out protection details for women who go in search of firewood, in order to protect them from rape and other forms of violence. These activities were effective in preventing violence against women, but these missions have ended due to security fears. The AU desperately needs logistical and command and control support of the UN in order to function effectively and minimize atrocities in the future.

Due to the continued problems encountered in Darfur the United Nation's Security Council passed Resolution 1706 in August of last year, calling for a robust force of approximately 17,000 UN Peacekeeping troops and 3,000 police to take over the peacekeeping responsibilities from the AU. The Sudanese government rejected outright the idea of UN troops replacing AU troops in Darfur. It was only through broad, consistent and strong international pressure on Khartoum that we have seen an adjustment in their public position on these UN troops. We have been working very hard over the past several months with our international partners to sustain this pressure. I have made several visits to Sudan, and I have traveled to Chad, Egypt, China, Ethiopia, and European capitals to explain the U.S. policy towards Sudan and express U.S. support for the UN/AU process.

During my October trip to Khartoum, Juba and Darfur, I met with first Vice President Kiir and Vice President Taha of the Government of National Unity, Senior Assistant to the President Minni Minawi, two advisors of President Bashir, Foreign Minister Lam Akol, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor, Minister the Director of National Security and Intelligence, Salah Ghosh, as well as UN and NGO officials. President Bashir was not willing to meet with me on my first trip. They appeared to believe that if left alone, they could solve their Darfur problem through a military solution. This policy has proven to be a disaster as government troops have continued to lose more battles and the rebels continue to acquire additional weapons and equipment by defeating GOS troops. The United States believes that military victory by either the Sudanese government or the rebel movements is unlikely, if not impossible. During this trip, I also made a stop in Egypt where I met with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Abul Gheit and Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. Mr. Moussa and the Arab league have been helpful in urging the Sudanese government to take a more constructive approach to the Darfur crisis.

In November, while the Sudanese and the international community were at a standstill over acceptance and implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1706, Kofi Annan invited the Sudanese government and a broad spectrum of international players-including the African Union, the Arab League, and the 5 Permanent Representatives to the UN Security Council (the U.S., France, the U.K., China and Russia) and the EU-to meet in Addis Ababa to discuss UNSCR 1706 and a potential compromise that would allow UN troops to be deployed on the ground to assist in peacekeeping. Mr. Annan took a very active and positive leadership role in negotiating and uniting the world around a plan to end the conflict and atrocities in Darfur. All parties in attendance in Addis, including the Sudanese Foreign Minister, agreed to a three-phase plan to allow the UN to support the AU troops initially with technical support and equipment, and ultimately with additional UN troops. Now called the Addis agreement, this way out of the deadlock over UNSCR 1706 calls for a hybrid UN/AU force of 20,000 troops and police. The force commander is to be an African, and jointly appointed by the UN and AU. A senior political leader in charge of the non-security mission including promotion of dialogue will also be appointed by both the UN and AU. The package would include UN funding of the entire force as well as UN operational command and control.

On my most recent trip to Sudan, I spent two hours with President Bashir. He expressed a willingness to engage with the international community on Darfur. During this meeting I requested three things from President Bashir including:

  • resumption of the ceasefire commission using a two party chamber so that both signatories of the DPA as well as non-signatories would be at the table;
  • a ceasefire between Chad and Sudan and political negotiations to end the conflict;
  • swift implementation of the three phase Kofi Annan plan as agreed to in Addis (and later affirmed by the AU in Abuja), including UN light and heavy assistance packages and approval of the deployment of a joint UN/AU hybrid force to Darfur to protect non-combatants and implement a final peace settlement between the GOS and the rebels. Included in this requirement was GOS approval of blue helmeted UN troops deploying immediately under Phase I of the Addis agreement.
In January I made a visit to China where I had positive meetings with several key officials, including China's highest-ranking foreign affairs official, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, and Assistant Foreign Ministers, Cui Tiankai and Zhai Jun. The Chinese have been largely supportive of our efforts to resolve the Darfur situation through peaceful means and have been publicly encouraging Khartoum to allow the UN/AU hybrid force as agreed to in Addis. We confirmed with them our position that our interests in Darfur are solely humanitarian and we have no economic or military interests behind our policies. We also made it clear that we are not pursuing regime change in Sudan unless the people vote for a new government in free and fair elections agreed to under the CPA framework. China's Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya played a vital and constructive role in helping to broker the Addis compromise and has been active in subsequent Security Council deliberations designed to accelerate the introduction of the hybrid force into Darfur. Chinese President Hu Jintao just completed a visit to Khartoum, where he again encouraged Bashir to show flexibility and allow the UN/AU hybrid force to be deployed. I should emphasize, however, that while we welcome and encourage China's efforts to apply diplomatic pressure on the Government of Sudan, we will look to Beijing to join with the international community in applying more forceful measures, should Khartoum remain intransigent. China's substantial economic investment in Sudan gives it considerable potential leverage, and we have made clear to Beijing that the international community will expect China to be part of the solution.

Finally, in January I visited Chad where I met with President Deby, Foreign Minister Allam-Mi, international diplomatic representatives and UN and international aid agencies. My primary purpose, however, was to meet with Sudanese rebel leaders who I had invited to Chad to provide me with their perspective on the current prospects for settlement of the Darfur conflict and where I could deliver some messages from the U.S. government. Though I was not able to meet with all rebel parties jointly, I delivered a consistent message to each group:
  • They must unify politically in order to negotiate effectively a political settlement with the Khartoum government.
  • While the people of the United States are appalled by the atrocities committed against the people of Darfur, the rebels should not translate that into support for their political movements, many of which are personality based and the goals of which are obscure.
  • I urged them to renounce the violent overthrow of the government of Sudan, which many of them have been publicly advocating, and which is an impediment to peace negotiations.
  • The United States believes that the United Nations and the African Union, under Jan Eliasson and Salim Salim, should take the lead in mediating a political agreement between the rebels and the Sudanese government, and that the United States will do everything possible to support them in this process. Use of more than one track for negotiation in this case would be damaging and confusing for all parties; we support the joint UN/AU leadership in this regard.
  • Attacks on international aid agencies have increased in recent months with more than a dozen local Sudanese staff killed, one expatriate woman sexually assaulted, and approximately 113 aid vehicles stolen in 2006. We also know that the rebel movements have been responsible for at least some of this theft and violence and we insist that it stop now. The United States government pays for much of the assistance and we view this as tantamount to stealing taxpayer-funded U.S. government resources. Moreover, if the abuse on aid agencies continues, they will leave and the people of Darfur will suffer on an even greater scale. The rebels are as responsible as the Government of Sudan in ensuring the security of those delivering humanitarian assistance.
  • I urged them to be flexible and practical about their demands in any upcoming negotiations; they will not get everything they ask for. They must be willing to compromise.
  • While the DPA has weaknesses, it can not be abandoned; it should be the basis of future negotiations; and addendums to address some of the DPA's weaknesses should be offered, not a negotiation of a new agreement.
  • Finally, the U.S. will support the implementation of a peace agreement, along with other international donors, by providing significant reconstruction assistance to both African and Arab tribes in Darfur so that people are able to return home and re-establish their lives and livelihoods successfully.
In return, we heard several consistent messages from the rebels:
  • They agreed on the need to unify politically and all wanted a peaceful end to the conflict. They are skeptical that the Government of Sudan will seek a negotiated peace and that it can it be trusted to implement what it signs. They are prepared to continue fighting if unable to negotiate a just peace.
  • While none of the rebels took responsibility for the vehicle hijackings, this message was clearly heard.
  • The rebels welcome UN participation in a new process to negotiate peace once they have unified politically. They seem to be making some progress in forming a coalition or umbrella group from which they would choose a leader to represent them in negotiations with the central government.
  • While not a strong declaration, the group agreed verbally to consider putting aside their objective of regime change in favor of a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. They understand that the Khartoum government will ultimately not concede to regime change in any negotiations. Their primary objectives seem to be to ensure their own representation in the national government, to achieve and maintain security for their people through the dismantling of the institutions of violence that have oppressed them for too long, and to share in the benefits of the country's economic growth.
Having covered the recent past, I now want to focus on the present and future and the Administration's policy on a solution to the Darfur crisis:
  • Our first objective in Darfur is to achieve a durable peace through a political settlement that is agreed to by all parties voluntarily, and then actually implemented. If we achieve an agreement that is not supported by all sides, we will see war again in a few years. Each recurrence of war puts civilian lives in danger and causes a decline in the already chaotic economic situation in Darfur, further destabilizing the vulnerable populations. The Sudanese government policy of divide and conquer can not succeed, and will only prolong the war. The strategy of the Khartoum government to negotiate individually with each rebel leader to buy their support will not create a cohesive and lasting peace.
  • The second objective of the U.S. Government is to ensure the protection of non-combatants as well as the protection of the humanitarian aid effort managed by thousands of aid workers for more than two and a half million people. Both the Sudanese government and the rebel factions that are not observing the cease-fire bear responsibility for the deteriorating security situation. Efforts by the Sudanese government to target civilians militarily or shut down the refugee camps in Chad or the IDP camps in Darfur using the Janjiweed militias will result in heavy political and economic consequences for Sudan by the U.S. government.
  • And finally, we must see the full implementation of the November 16, 2006 Addis Ababa three-phase plan for Darfur mentioned earlier and endorsed in Abuja by the AU. Approximately twenty-nine of 33 civilian police agreed to under the light support package have deployed to Darfur, as has much of the equipment. However, less than 40 percent of the military personnel stipulated in the light support package have arrived because of a dearth of troop contributors, and just three of the 48 civilian personnel are now on the ground due to recruitment lags resulting from security concerns, the harsh conditions in the region, and the bureaucratic processes at the UN.

These are our objectives: we are using all diplomatic means at our disposal to achieve them. Our view remains that a negotiated way out of the crisis in Darfur and the paralysis in the implementation of the CPA is the most desirable alternative and the option most likely to yield success. However, if we find the Sudanese government is obstructing progress on these objectives, the United States government will change its policy of negotiation and will pursue more coercive measures. The burden is on the Sudanese government to show the world that it can meet the commitments it has already made and negotiate rather than fight its way to a resolution of the political crisis facing the country. The Sudan Armed Forces and the Janjaweed militias that they support must stop attacking civilians, burning villages, and intimidating and expelling NGOs and UN agencies.

I would like to add a word about international pressure on Khartoum. We are pleased with the emergence of broad international support for the humanitarian needs of citizens in Darfur. Many countries in Africa and around the world have echoed UNSCR 1706 and called publicly for Khartoum to admit UN peacekeepers and abandon its futile effort to impose a solution on Darfur by force. Despite all this, the regime in Khartoum continues to find the weapons it needs for conflict, to find markets for its products, and to find investors. So while I have conveyed a real appreciation here today for many international efforts to push Sudan in the right direction, I also want to be quite clear: the world needs to do more. Congress, individual activists, and the huge array of committed non-governmental organizations can and should continue to shine a spotlight on Khartoum's enablers.

We expect the Government of Sudan and neighboring countries to create an enabling environment for non-signatory rebel groups to organize politically. Bombing locations used for the political unification of the rebels, which the Sudanese government has done twice now, is not acceptable. The rebels must be allowed to reach a political consensus without interference or intimidation, and the international community must remind the rebels that they cannot achieve their objectives of a secure and prosperous Darfur through violence and continued factionalism.

Finally, we are pleased that the Government of Sudan has accepted the three phases of the Addis agreement. We expect that they will move expeditiously to implement all three phases of this agreement, including facilitation of the establishment of a vigorous joint AU-UN peacekeeping force. Failure to implement the Addis framework will send a message that they are not serious about resolving the situation in Darfur peacefully and will force us to move to a more confrontational approach.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee for your time and interest in this important matter.

Released on February 8, 2007

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