With primary season well underway, a hardened pack of Republican presidential hopefuls has been in the spotlight for months debating everything from health care reform to moon colonies. Despite the wide range of topics bouncing around the various discussion forums, the acute humanitarian crises in Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan is something the candidates have not felt compelled to comment on. However, Mitt Romney, the current frontrunners, has recently taken the initiative to respond to a questionnaire sent out to all the candidates by the advocacy group Act for Sudan at the beginning of December. This letter aimed to gain insight on what each candidate has in mind regarding the future U.S.-Sudan policy agenda, should they be elected.
The response from Romney is greatly appreciated by those who would like to see these issues moved up to the front burner of the primary debates. In his statement, Romney “recognizes that for too long far too many Sudanese have been victims of war crimes and other atrocities committed by the government in Khartoum and its proxies.” He goes on to acknowledge, “Since independence of the Republic of South Sudan, Khartoum has committed a range of atrocities in border regions that have claimed countless lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.”
As far as plans for what he would do as president, Romney insists that he is committed to “protecting innocents from war crimes and other atrocities, ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches those desperately in need, holding accountable those leaders who perpetrate atrocities, and achieving a sustainable peace for all who live in Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.”
While the statement fails to address the issues from a substantive or critical angle, it is encouraging to hear at least one candidate speak out about a crucial foreign policy issue in Africa, one where the humanitarian imperative is so great. Romney should be applauded for broaching this subject publicly, and will, without a doubt, be urged by groups like Enough and Act for Sudan to continue advancing in this positive direction.
The precarious situation unfolding between these two African nations is something that will undoubtedly be cause for concern for the U.S. in the coming years, regardless of who is elected in November. By explicitly addressing the inquiries made by Act for Sudan, Romney has not only lifted the shroud of silence surrounding this topic in the GOP debates, but he has set the precedent for other candidates to do the same. Romney’s message is also a testament to the growing influence of the Act for Sudan coalition, which will hopefully compel all presidential contenders between now and November to address the situation in Sudan and South Sudan as an important foreign objective. With luck, Gingrich and others will soon follow suit, sparking debate and eventually resulting in Sudan- and South Sudan-related issues becoming more salient in the current American political discourse.
Photo: Mitt Romney (AP)