Congressman Mike Capuano (D-MA) and a bipartisan group of representatives recently introduced H.Res. 1588, a House resolution aimed at renewing U.S. commitment to Sudan during what will likely be five of the most critical months in the country’s recent history. A bipartisan group that included Congressmen McCaul (R-TX), Payne (D-NJ), Smith (R-NJ), and Wolf (R-VA) co-sponsored the bill.
H.Res.1588 calls on the U.S. government to reinvigorate its efforts to ensure peace and stability in Sudan—a challenge first undertaken when the Bush administration helped draft the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, which ended the civil war between North and South Sudan.
Yet, as the House resolution points out, more than five years after the signing of the CPA, human rights abuses continue in the Darfur region where more than 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2,000,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Also at issue are the referenda on whether South Sudan will separate from the North and whether the oil-rich Abyei region will be a part of the North or the South, if secession occurs. These votes are scheduled to be held in January—only five short months from today. However, critical deadlines have not been met, voter registration for a sprawling Sudanese community has not fully begun, and North-South border demarcation is not complete.
Aware of these obstacles, members of the House have pledged to “unequivocally stand, during this period of preparation and possible transition, with those people of southern Sudan who share aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.” The resolution also emphasized the importance of a viable Darfur peace process and humanitarian relief efforts for Darfuris. Among the most immediate proposals is for the U.S. to work with the international community to ensure that the flaws of Sudan’s recent elections do not similarly afflict the referenda in the South and Abyei. The resolution calls for the referenda to be “free, fair, and credible” without political intimidation, violence, or human rights violations. Many Sudan watchers have noted that the credibility of the referenda could make or break Sudan—sending the country back to the violent civil war of its past or ushering the nation into a new future.
While affirming support of the Obama administration’s policy of both incentives and pressures for Sudan, the resolution makes clear that the U.S. must be part of concerted international efforts to hold the ruling National Congress Party, or NCP, accountable for any efforts to disrupt the final stages of CPA implementation. The NCP has repeatedly stalled on fulfilling key CPA commitments and now many fear the party will derail or discredit the upcoming referenda. President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all vocalized U.S. support for Sudan in the past. At this critical time, this resolution brings to the forefront the need for the U.S. to make good on those promises.