The horrors in Sudan have troubled me since 2002, when the Boston Anti-Slavery Group informed me about the persistence of slavery. I will never forget meeting a fellow human being who had been, for some years, the property of another person. Since that day, I have worked to end such atrocity. On July 16, 2003, my resolution condemning slavery in Sudan passed unanimously in the House.
I have been concerned for years also about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, home to an estimated 7 million people. The crisis in Darfur began in February 2003, when two rebel groups emerged to challenge the National Congress Party (NCP) government on the grounds that the Government of Sudan discriminates against Muslim African ethnic groups in Darfur and has systematically targeted them for years. In 2004, the Sudanese government began a major military campaign against the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). These attacks were carried out by the Government of Sudan and its militia, the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed terrorized citizens of Darfur by burning villages, contaminating the water supply, and murdering and raping civilians. On July 22, 2004, Congress declared that the actions of the Sudanese government constituted genocide. On September 9th, 2004, the Bush administration also declared it genocide. Since 2003 over 350,000 civilians have died, 2.5 million have been internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. Over half of the population of Darfur has been affected by the genocide.
In October 2005, I co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Sudan, and I have since traveled to the region. I went to Khartoum and personally confronted President Omar al-Bashir, now under indictment by the International Criminal Court. In March of 2006, I secured an additional $50 million for the African Union Mission in Sudan through a House emergency appropriations bill.
I have been doing everything I can to both end the suffering and encourage peace in the North-South process. Sudan has been plagued with conflict throughout its history and a bloody civil war between its Northern and Southern regions ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The CPA mandated that South Sudan have the opportunity to vote for either unity with all of Sudan or secession in a referendum on January 9, 2011. In the lead up to the vote in the fall of 2010, I sponsored a resolution that successfully passed the House calling attention to the need for dedicated resources to avoid a return to civil war. The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for secession, and South Sudan became the world’s newest country on July 9, 2011.
Separation of the two countries has been far from easy. As we know too well, independence does not insure either peace of democracy. In late 2013 violence again broke out in South Sudan; political and tribal rivalries threatened the newly formed government. Loss of life and displacement continues. The United States must continue to be a key partner moving forward. I am committed to our country’s role in helping to stem violence and bring stability to the region.