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Panel: World needs to pressure Sudan

WASHINGTON (BP)–A solution to the crisis in Sudan depends on the United States and the international community pressuring that country’s militant Islamic regime to implement a peace treaty it agreed to, said experts at a recent Washington panel discussion.

The United States’ response to the continuing disaster has been “very inadequate,” said John Prendergast, co-chairman of the anti-genocidal ENOUGH Project.

Washington must partner with other countries -– such as China, Great Britain and France -– in order to work with Sudan’s neighbors to influence leaders in the capital of Khartoum, Prendergast said.

“Then you’ve got a chance,” he said. “Right now we don’t have a chance, frankly. There isn’t any leverage.”

The strife-torn, east African country has been crippled by two genocidal campaigns since the 1980s. Efforts by Khartoum-backed militias have produced about 2.4 million deaths and 7 million displaced people, according to estimates.

Darfur, in the western region of Sudan, has been the scene of a grave humanitarian crisis since 2003, when the militias, known as Janjaweed, began what President Bush has described as “genocide” in response to rebel attacks on government bases.

The crisis in Darfur is based on ethnic differences, with the Arab Muslim militias raping, kidnapping, bombing and murdering African Muslims. It has been estimated more than 400,000 people have died and at least 2 million have been left homeless in the area.

That conflict has differed from the one largely between the north and south that stretched more than 20 years before ending in 2005. That strife was based on religious differences, with the militant Islamic forces backed by Khartoum pillaging Christian, animist and moderate Muslim villages in the central and southern parts of the country.

A treaty, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was signed in 2005, ostensibly bringing an end to the conflict between the north and south. The CPA called for a census, local and national elections, and a 2011 vote by southern Sudanese on whether to separate from the country. The Khartoum regime, or National Congress Party (NCP), has not followed through on some agreements, however, including the census, which it has postponed indefinitely.

The problem in Sudan is the NCP, which “is a radical, Sudanese form of fascism,” said Roger Winter, former special representative of the deputy secretary of state for Sudan. “The guys who run it have become rich, and they are very powerful.”

The CPA’s signing brought “great hope” at first, said Angelos Agok, a Sudanese who works with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Baltimore. “We see disappointment every day. We see that the CPA is totally violated. The last chance of Sudan right now is the implementation of the CPA.”

Full enforcement of the CPA is the key not only for southern Sudan but for the entire country, panelists said at the Dec. 18 event at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

“The idea was to liberate the people of Sudan broadly,” Winter said of the CPA. It offers the only mechanism that presents the possibility of a “non-violent change of government” in Khartoum, he said.

The elections are to be held in about 15 months. Prendergast predicted the CPA “will actually be targeted for destruction” as the elections near.

If the elections are held, however, the vote could even strengthen the regime, Winter said. However, “if it is a free and fair election, I don’t know anybody who doubts that the people will vote against” the NCP, he told the audience.

The United States has only a part-time envoy dealing with Sudan, which is not enough, Prendergast said. The U.S. needs a full-time envoy, two deputies to work on the CPA and Darfur, and a diplomatic team in the field in order to “get in front [of], instead of continuously responding” to, Khartoum’s actions, he said.

The Senate approved legislation Dec. 13 to help in bringing economic pressure on Khartoum. The Sudan Divestment Authorization Act, S. 831, would permit state and local governments to ban public investments in companies that relate economically to Sudan.

In May, Bush announced increased sanctions against Sudan that included barring from the U.S. financial system 30 companies owned or controlled by the Khartoum regime. At the time, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, applauded the penalties but said they should have been more severe.

The State Department has designated Sudan as one of its eight “countries of particular concern,” a category reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious liberty.

Messengers to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution urging the disbanding of the Khartoum-supported militias in Darfur, international trials for “perpetrators of the atrocities” in the region and multi-national aid to the area.

The United States has contributed more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and other aid to Darfur, Bush said in May.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.