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Fresh from South Sudan and Moved by the Urgent Need to Act Amid Bashir’s Ongoing Abuses
Editor's Note: Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime advocate for Sudan and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, just returned from a trip to South Sudan. In this guest blog post, he reflects on his visit, which he says reinforced his strong view that international action must be taken to curb Sudanese President Bashir.
I returned from South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, last week. The primary reason for the trip was to visit a refugee camp in Yida, which is just south of the border with Sudan. More than 25,000 people are living there—and that number is growing every day.
My interest and involvement in Sudan has spanned over two decades. I have traveled to Sudan six times since 1989, including in July 2004 when I was the first member of the House of Representatives to visit Darfur, the violence-ravaged western region of Sudan. The unfolding human rights crisis I witnessed with my own eyes would soon come to be recognized by the world as genocide.
Since last June, the situation in the Nuba Mountains has rapidly deteriorated—bearing many of the hallmarks of Khartoum’s murderous assault against its own people in Darfur. Thousands of civilians have fled the violence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. To make matters worse, food has been used as a weapon of war. The Sudanese Armed Forces intentionally disrupted the planting season for the Nuban people through both violence and sheer intimidation in the form of Antonov bombing raids. Further, the government has persisted in severely restricting or outright prohibiting humanitarian organizations from accessing these populations. These conditions served as the backdrop for my trip. I felt it was critical to see with my own eyes what was happening and then shine a bright light on this unfolding humanitarian crisis. I invite you to read my trip diaries and some recent resources I've compile about the situation.
Yida was one of the best run refugee camps I have ever visited. People have gathered there because of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s continued reign of terror in the North. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity. His modus operandi is well documented. We saw it in the civil war between the North and South, we saw it in Darfur and we are now seeing it in the Nuba Mountains. Mass murder. Rape. Ethnic cleansing. Soldiers rolling crude bombs out of the cargo bays of Antonov planes and onto villages. These are all trademarks of Bashir and the government in Khartoum.
As I heard stories of bombings, targeted killings, rapes and other brutal attacks on innocent men, women, and children, I could not help but marvel in disbelief at the fact that the Obama Administration’s Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department saw fit to provide a license to Washington lawyer Bart Fisher to provide legal representation for Khartoum—the very government presently engaged in terrorizing its own people. One of the policy recommendations upon my return was that the administration immediately revoke Mr. Fisher’s license.
In speaking with refugees at the camp, time and again they made a single request, namely that Omar Hassan al-Bashir be brought to justice—in the same way that those responsible for the genocide in Bosnia and Serbia in the 1990s were held to account, including Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia. Bashir, like Milosevic, is an international pariah and should be treated as such. No American tax dollars should be going to countries that welcome Bashir. I have zero hope or expectation that Bashir will ever change. He has been a constant in all of the conflicts and misery that have plagued this land. His is a history of murder, broken promises, and a shrewd manipulation of the international community.
If something doesn’t change soon, Sudan’s latest crisis will only escalate. How many have to die before the world takes action?
Congressman Frank Wolf represents the 10th district of Virginia. He is currently serving his 16th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.