Sudanese children in Yida camp, South Sudan

The call about our recent trip to Ethiopia and South Sudan generated many questions. Unfortunately, we cannot answer them all, but we’ve responded to the five most frequently asked questions below. You can also check out the call recording, which is now available online, and stay tuned for future blogs.

1.  What steps can the U.S. Government take to address what is happening in Sudan?

The Obama Administration should respond to the Sudanese government’s atrocities against civilians by expanding sanctions and prioritizing Sudan in its bilateral relations by pushing for:

– Full and unimpeded access for international humanitarian organizations to Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, and immediate preparation of alternative means of distributing emergency assistance to civilians wherever denial of aid is being used as a weapon of war;

– A demand by the UN Security Council that the Government of Sudan immediately cease conducting offensive military flights in and over South Kordofan and Blue Nile;

– A peacekeeping force for South Kordofan and Blue Nile that contains a human rights monitoring component along with the appropriate resources and mandate necessary to protect civilians;

– Expansion of the existing United Nations arms embargo for Darfur to all of Sudan;

– Holding perpetrators of violence accountable by strengthening and expanding US and UN sanctions against those responsible for violence in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei; and

– An independent international investigation into crimes committed against civilians in Abyei, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan, preferably through the International Criminal Court.

2.  I was hoping to hear a little more about the inter-tribal fighting that has been going on in South Sudan and get your take on what if anything the government of South Sudan is doing to alleviate the conflicts.  

The inter-tribal fighting in South Sudan, most recently highlighted by fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes in Jonglei, is greatly troubling and at the top of South Sudan’s challenges. When we were in South Sudan, we spoke with humanitarian groups responsible for food security efforts in the area and with a military adviser who had just returned from an assessment of the fighting.

While there is a long history of tribal tensions and cattle raids, the most recent violence has several troubling new elements including the level of hate rhetoric (calls for wiping out the other side), the abundance and sophistication of weapons, and a generational divide in which youth-led movements seem less willing to listen to elders and church leaders that have traditionally mediated such disputes. The government of South Sudan did react to the violence sending in extra police, but there is clearly room for improvement. On a general level, the government should allow church groups to lead in the mediations, but with significant support. The same goes for the United Nations which could play a much greater role if sufficient resources like helicopters are provided for rapid response and early warning. See Shannon’s blog for more information.

3.  There is a lot of outcry from the Sudanese community in the Diaspora, especially in the U.S., and it seems no one is listening to them. How can Sudanese/South Sudanese in the Diaspora influence the U.S. to do more? What can they (Sudanese) do?

Members of the Sudanese Diaspora have been among the loudest voices in raising awareness and pressure for action on Sudan. United to End Genocide’s very own Niemat Ahmadi is a member of the Diaspora from Darfur and heads up our coordination with Diaspora groups across the country. We have joined meetings with Diaspora representatives with U.S. government officials and joined with them at rallies in front of the White House.

United to End Genocide’s President Tom Andrews recently joined a Diaspora event in Maine. Diaspora can enhance their influence by reaching out to other networks. If Diaspora groups are hosting a local event, they can feel free to reach out to us. We can help spread the word and connect them to other activist groups — like students, faith communities — who share the same concerns about the Sudanese people.

4. Given China’s interests and close economic ties to the region, what is the possibility of leveraging Chinese officials to put pressure on Khartoum to change its foreign aid policies?  

China has a huge amount of leverage with Khartoum both through buying of oil and selling of weapons. In the past this relationship has held up international action and pressure on Khartoum. However, with the newly independent South Sudan, China’s relationship with Sudan has become more complicated, forcing it to deal with both sides. China was described as playing a generally positive role in ensuring that Southern independence was realized without a renewal of civil war and it has been putting pressure on both sides to resolve an ongoing dispute over oil.

The latest news is that South Sudan is threatening to expel Chinese oil companies. The negative effects of ongoing conflict have also been highlighted with the detainment of 29 Chinese oil workers by the SPLM-N, which happened while we were in South Sudan and gained great attention within China. While China has been less helpful in allowing action or even statements to come through on Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, a clear economic and security interest in stability, leaves room for the United States to urge China to play a more positive role in urging humanitarian access and stopping aerial bombardments.

Pressuring China is not easy, but the fact that they allowed the recent UN Security Council statement on the humanitarian situation in Sudan to go through, even if very belatedly, shows that there is hope. In any case, if the problems in Sudan are to be truly addressed, China will have to be part of the solution. Click here to read more about China’s role in Sudan.

5.  How can I help you and your organization?

First, thank you for your interest in the important issues that United to End Genocide seeks to tackle. The quest to end genocide and mass atrocities begins with individuals like you who take notice and spread the word. Here are three things that you can do right now:

Sign-up for our regular email updates.

Join us in a day of action on March 16 to bring attention to the humanitarian emergency in Sudan by organizing an event in your community. Email [email protected] if you would like to participate.

Donate to United to End Genocide. Your contributions allow us to continue to raise awareness and mobilize support to stop genocide and mass atrocities.

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