This is a guest post by Representative Christopher H. Smith, of New Jersey’s 4th District. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.
As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have learned about the severe human rights abuses and atrocities committed in Sudan directly from the victims, including those in the Mukjar and Kalma displaced-persons camps. Just about everyone I spoke with, especially the women, told me personal stories of rape, senseless beatings, and massacres by the Janjaweed and Sudanese militias.
I also have met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan El-Bashir at his Presidential suite in Khartoum. The only thing Bashir wanted to talk about was ending United States trade sanctions—not the horrific loss of life in Darfur. For me, the exchange was eerily reminiscent of a conversation I had in Serbia with the late Slobodan Milosevic after he invaded Croatia, then Bosnia, and unleashed the Balkan genocide. He, too, was unmoved by the plight of suffering people for whom he was responsible.
The Africa Subcommittee on which I serve as Ranking Member has focused significant attention on both Darfur and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, between the North and the South of Sudan. Our most recent hearing on Dec. 3, 2009 highlighted the extremely urgent nature of the situation and raised issues of alarming concern. I will mention here just two of those issues.
As John Prendergast from the Enough Project succinctly pointed out, the Government of Sudan has only cooperated in peace processes when subjected to coordinated international pressure. There is general agreement that in order for the CPA to move forward, the United States must make it clear to the ruling National Congress Party, headed by Bashir, that there are serious repercussions for failure to cooperate. The Obama administration seemed to agree with this assessment when it issued its new Sudan policy on October 19, 2009. Secretary of State Clinton underscored that both incentives and disincentives based on changes in conditions on the ground are what the administration intends to employ going forward, but added that these benchmarks were contained in a classified annex to the strategy.
The Special Envoy to Sudan, Gen. Scott Gration, was present at this public release and expressed his full support for the comments made by the Secretary. However, when I asked the Special Envoy during the hearing when members of Congress could have a classified briefing about the annex, he responded that he knew nothing about an annex. I am following up with the Special Envoy to clarify this confusion, but the apparent absence of a set of benchmarks calls into serious question the entire efficacy of the Administration’s strategy. It is also important to consider whether the benchmarks – if and when they are determined – should be kept classified. I know from my three decades of working on human rights issues that human rights suffer when they are allegedly dealt with only behind closed doors.
Witnesses at the hearing also conveyed new information that confirmed what we already knew – that the Chinese Government not only is failing to use its leverage with the Government of Sudan to end the violence, but actually is contributing to it. The former coordinator of the U.N. Panel of Experts on Sudan, Enrico Carisch, testified that ammunition found in Darfur originated from Chinese manufacturers, but Chinese authorities did not cooperate with the Panel in identifying those in China who are violating the U.N. arms embargo. Despite this and other issues of concern with respect to China’s involvement in Sudan, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have ignored requests from me and other members of Congress to raise these concerns publicly with their Chinese counterparts.
Americans who care about the people of Sudan can make a difference by letting the Obama Administration know that more can and must be done to bring peace to that country. Contact the President as well as your own member of Congress and urge them to hold the Government of Sudan accountable to the administration’s pre-determined benchmarks, for strict compliance with the CPA, and for establishing peace in Darfur. Also urge the President to convey publicly to the Chinese Government that its actions and inactions with respect to Sudan are a matter of extreme importance to the United States, and to make the enforcement and strengthening of U.N. sanctions a priority of our government at the United Nations.
The people of Sudan are depending on us all to take action now.
Photo: Representative Chris Smith. (Office of Representative Chris Smith)