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Over the past two weeks, Congress has held two high-level hearings on the ongoing crises in Sudan and South Sudan, continuing to spotlight the unresolved issues that are so crucial to improving stability and security. Both events drew packed rooms—Tuesday’s even filling an overflow room—highlighting the strong public interest in the increasingly dire humanitarian concerns in Sudan’s border region.
Seeking concrete advice and guidance for U.S. policy towards Sudan, members of Congress called for input Tuesday from several Sudan experts, including the Enough Project’s John Prendergast. The panel also included Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Special Envoy to Sudan, Gérard Prunier, academic expert on East Africa, Ker Deng, an emancipated slave from Sudan, and Ellen Ratner, a journalist involved in ending modern-day slavery.
Ambassador Lyman explained the U.S. objective of urging the Juba government to encourage concerned parties and Khartoum to reopen direct lines of communication and craft a “negotiated political solution” to the unresolved flashpoint issues between the two countries. Lyman said that the fundamental question of Sudan’s governance is “a decision for the people of Sudan, not for outsiders.”
Ker Deng, 18, followed Lyman’s policy discussion with a personalized account of his experience as a slave in northern Sudan. In a deeply moving testimony, Deng called for the members of Congress to use their power to help those still enslaved in Sudan.
Responding to Congress’s call for concrete policy recommendations, Prendergast outlined a nuanced combination of “taking the battering ram” to U.S. policymakers to urge for stronger sanctions, civilian protection, and cross-border humanitarian operation, while pursuing quiet, proactive diplomacy abroad with influential actors in Africa.
“If any of these things happen, it will only, I believe, be because Congress takes a leading role […] in crafting a meaningful U.S. policy and demanding meaningful U.S. action—action that in the case of Sudan can save millions of lives,” Prendergast said.
Yesterday’s hearing came on the heels of an impassioned discussion of U.S. policy toward Sudan on September 22 for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Omer Ismail of Enough spoke on the panel about the need for the U.S. government to support elements in Sudan calling for democratic change in the country, saying that the multiple conflicts springing up or continuing to broil within the country’s borders are rooted in the Sudanese government’s marginalization of groups it opposes.
Visibly frustrated by the lack of tangible U.S. action as human rights crimes unfold in Sudan, Congressman Wolf noted that part of the challenge of mobilizing the political will for the U.S. government to act is that the atrocities unfolding in Sudan are largely taking place without any media spotlight. Wolf said he would send all of the panelists’ testimonies to the main media networks, including ABC, FOX, NBC, and CNN, to stir up some needed media attention.