The Sudanese government’s use of aerial bombing campaigns to assert control over disputed territory and target civilians and humanitarian relief efforts prompted the Enough Project to come out today with a statement outlining some steps the United States and allies could take to balance out Khartoum’s currently unrivaled air capabilities and potentially change its calculations.
[T]he Obama administration should ramp up an array of new financial sanctions aimed at the heart of the Sudanese regime's military-industrial complex, and immediately begin preparations to provide air defense capabilities to the Government of South Sudan when it becomes independent. … [I]n the absence of international support for robust measures to protect civilians from conflict, it is imperative that the United States and its allies uphold the international responsibility to protect.
Continued support for the army of the new Republic of Southern Sudan must be contingent on the southern government’s demonstrable effort to improve the human rights record of its military and compliance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Enough’s Executive Director John C. Bradshaw described conditions the U.S. government should require before moving forward with preparations to provide South Sudan with additional military capabilities, as well as characteristics of the type of support the U.S. should offer:
"Rigorous vetting of South Sudanese units for human rights concerns should be a precondition for this support. Air defense systems, such as medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, should be closely monitored to ensure they are used for protection of civilian populations, and should exclude man-portable systems that could be used against civilians or be diverted to non-state actors. As part of a wider package of security assistance, this equipment and training should provide leverage to improve the human rights record of the southern security forces. Further support should be carefully conditioned upon progress toward the professionalization of South Sudan’s security forces and respect for human rights."
In a subcommittee meeting in the U.S. House of Representatives today on preparations for the independence of South Sudan, Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ) raised the possibility of the U.S. ramping up its military assistance to the southern government. He noted that President Bush approved a request by the South for an air defense system in 2008 that has not been met. “We cannot stand by idly as Bashir continues his aggression,” Payne said.
Photo: SPLA soldiers and a woman carry their belongings along the road from Agok to Turalei (Enough/Tim Freccia)