Despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity, Omar al-Bashir remains comfortably in power as the president of Sudan. In an effort to boost international pressure to have him arrested, the House Appropriations Committee recently adopted an amendment which would cut off all non-humanitarian aid to countries that allow Bashir to travel within their borders. The amendment was offered by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) who has a longstanding history of championing Sudanese issues on the Hill.
“In a time when the foreign affairs budget is being squeezed, I believe our assistance should be a direct reflection of American values and priorities,” Wolf stated in support of the amendment. By threatening to cut off potentially huge amounts of financial assistance, the U.S. is warning countries that have a history of welcoming Bashir that this behavior is unacceptable and will now warrant consequences. The amendment allows the secretary of state to make an exception if he or she determines that the country in question is furthering the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan.
Bashir’s crimes span the spectrum of inhumanity. From Darfur to the Nuba Mountains and Abyei, he has an ongoing history of orchestrating and bankrolling violence against his own people. Despite South Sudan’s independence last year, the Khartoum government continues to terrorize South Sudanese civilians as well through indiscriminate aerial bombardments.
Rep. Wolf emphasized that apprehending Bashir would also be beneficial for American security interests, noting that “Bashir’s government gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s, and Khartoum was a revolving door for Hamas and other designated terrorist groups.”
The amendment is timely, as the African Union has invited Bashir to attend a summit in Malawi this June. Malawi also hosted Bashir at a trade summit last year—a move that prompted Representative Wolf and others to call on the Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, to discontinue its program in Malawi in light of allowing a wanted war criminal to travel freely within its borders. The MCC has since suspended its compact with Malawi and cited Bashir’s visit as one of the reasons behind this decision. The recently adopted House amendment will hopefully inspire similar action by the African Union, bolstering Malawi’s calls for Bashir’s invitation to the July summit to be rescinded.
The U.S. has significant economic influence globally, leverage that can be used to support bringing Bashir—and other wanted criminals—to justice. The humanitarian, economic, and political situation in Sudan is rapidly deteriorating and will continue to do so as long as its head of state enjoys impunity from crimes he has committed against the very people he is meant to serve and protect. Wolf’s amendment is an important component of a comprehensive strategy to address the complex situation in Sudan. Help make sure the U.S. makes this a priority by asking your representative to support the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012.
Photo: Congressman Frank Wolf (Roll Call)