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Mike on Sudan
I am deeply concerned about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and am doing everything I can to both end the suffering there and encourage peace in the North-South process. The horrors in Sudan have troubled me since 2002, when the Boston Anti-Slavery Group met with me to inform 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.
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 or simple, and the international community must do everything possible to ensure that the ongoing transition is peaceful and responsible. This includes encouraging the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to continue negotiations over key issues like border demarcation and treatment of oil resources. The likelihood of violence remains, and the United States will continue to be a key partner moving forward. I am committed to our country’s role in helping to stem violence and advocate for the completion of necessary agreements as Sudan and South Sudan navigate this new relationship.
The serious problems between Sudan and South Sudan are only exacerbated by an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Fighting broke out in the region between rebels and government forces in June 2011, leading to incessant bombing attacks by Sudanese Armed Forces and violent conflict that has impacted nearly one million people through food insecurity and displacement. The U.S. has been an important champion for the people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, but they continue to suffer unspeakable tragedy and we must do more to help.
In the early 2000’s, dire conflict arose in Darfur, the western part 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.
Currently, the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) is authorized to operate on the ground in Darfur, a region the size of France. Unfortunately, the deployment of this force has been plagued by a lack of international resources and stymied by the Government of Sudan, leaving it largely unable to bring security or stability. In the 110th Congress, I introduced a resolution calling on the President to encourage the international community to donate much-needed resources to UNAMID, including essential helicopter assets. But the peacekeepers remain hampered, the peace process between the government and Darfur rebels is foundering, and unspeakable civilian suffering continues, and regrettably, international attention is focused elsewhere.
I do believe that President Obama is committed to achieving peace in the Sudans. I am encouraged by his diplomatic efforts there and have urged him to maintain them at a high level through the office of a U.S. Special Envoy. I continue to closely monitor the situation, and I sincerely hope that a dedicated Congressional focus will speed the end of horrors in Darfur and ensure a full transition to democracy for all the peoples of Sudan and South Sudan.
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