Charged with the message of urging U.S. senators to keep a close eye on what happens in Sudan in the final months before the January 2011 referendum, members of the Sudanese diaspora took to Capitol Hill this week to appeal to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold regular hearings on U.S. policy in Sudan.
“We believe this is a critical time in raising awareness about the referendum so that it can move forward as planned on January 9, 2011,” said Samuel Juma, a Sudanese pastor from the D.C. area.
The group of diaspora leaders has launched an advocacy push that they’re calling Referendum Ready, which aims to highlight the needs of Sudan’s marginalized populations as the country prepares for a series of processes that will fundamentally shape its future. In their meetings this week, diaspora leaders called on members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to increase its oversight over the U.S. government’s implementation of its Sudan policy. In particular, the group urged U.S. leaders to work with international mediators to ensure that efforts by either Sudanese party to obstruct the South Sudan and Abyei referenda processes are not tolerated.
In a statement received by Enough, the group said it is concerned that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his ruling party will “delay or sabotage” the processes mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. “The NCP appears to be doing so, not so much through overtly hostile actions, but rather through delays and stalling tactics,” the statement said.
At its last full-committee Sudan hearing on May 10 (the Africa subcommittee met on Sudan on May 26), Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) said, “It is time for Congress to re-engage on Sudan as the CPA nears its final act.” He mentioned that he was developing legislation to "help shape our Sudan policy and ensure that our policies maximize the chances of peace.” Nearly three months later, and with just five months to go until the historic referenda are slated to take place, committee members should see this week’s visits by representatives of the diaspora as a reminder of this pledge to stay engaged.