Most of us know all too well by now that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. In response, he expelled 13 international and 3 domestic life-sustaining aid organizations. While this current crisis is undoubtedly dire and deserves the world’s attention, I want to make sure that the international community doesn’t forget about Southern Sudan, which is facing a crisis of its own.
I recently met with a delegation of several representatives from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the party that directs the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). They told me about the effect the current financial crisis is having on their government. Due to increasingly tough economic times and more specifically to falling oil prices, the GoSS has lost nearly 70 percent of its expected revenue. This is crippling the GoSS, which was created in 2005 by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the North-South civil war. The new government faces enormous challenges in infrastructure and capacity building if it is to become a viable, autonomous regime capable of meeting the needs of its people.
The GoSS has been a good friend to the United States, and we have been consistent in providing some of the necessary support, but the crisis in Darfur threatens to overshadow this crucial moment for the South. Nascent institutions must be further developed to sustain a stable democratic government in the South. With the referendum on independence for Southern Sudan scheduled to take place by March 2011, there is an urgent need to strengthen the region’s capacity for self-government.
For this reason, I joined several of my House colleagues in requesting increased funding for the GoSS in the FY 2010 appropriations. We asked that attention be given to building government institutions, training GoSS officials, strengthening the judiciary and rule of law, and promoting professionalism and commitment to human rights among law enforcement and security officials. This capacity building also should be focused on assisting the GoSS and civil society leaders in the South to strengthen health, basic education, agriculture, economic growth, and poverty alleviation programs.
Bashir, from his perch in Khartoum, must be made to recognize that the GoSS is a government wanted and welcomed by the people of Southern Sudan. A strong counterweight in the South will go far to convince Bashir that he must promulgate more inclusive and responsive policies to prevent the South from opting for secession in the 2011 referendum. Our role in that process must be to ensure that international attention is paid to the CPA and essential support is given to Southern Sudan.
The author is a Member of Congress from Massachusetts and co-chairs the Sudan Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the final post in a five-part series. We’re very grateful to the Congressman for his contribution to Enough Said.