This is a guest post from Esther Sprague. Esther has been a Sudan activist since 2003 after meeting Mamer Kuer Ajak, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. She is a co-founder of Act for Sudan, an alliance of American citizen activists and Sudanese U.S. residents who advocate for an end to genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan; and she serves as the Director of Sudan Unlimited, which seeks to inform policy and to promote and develop projects, primarily initiated by the Diaspora, for the benefit of Sudanese and Southern Sudanese.
On Friday, December 16, 2011, Act for Sudan joined by representatives from United to End Genocide, the Enough Project, American Jewish World Service, the Washington-based Darfur Interfaith Network, and Sudanese Diaspora, protested Bart Fisher’s representation of the Government of Sudan in the United States. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) joined the protest saying that Mr. Fisher’s actions are offensive and that the Obama Administration should not have granted him permission to represent the Government of Sudan. In conjunction with the protest, Act for Sudan sent an open letter to President Obama explaining why we hope that the U.S. is not about to reward the Government of Sudan by removing it from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List. Such removal is the objective of Mr. Fisher’s contract with Sudan.
Rep. Wolf has asked Treasury to revoke Fisher’s license, and spoke passionately on the floor of the House of Representatives:
“Martin Luther King famously said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” What must the people of Sudan be thinking at this particular juncture when the administration struggles to find its voice on their behalf, while at the same time seemingly empowering the voice of their oppressors.”
As indicated below, these actions represent just the latest effort by activists and Congress to work together to oppose any measures that would reward the Khartoum regime.
Timeline of Opposition to Previous Sudan Lobbying Efforts:
OCTOBER 2005 – Robert J. Cabelly
“Dear Neighbor, I want to let you know about a man who is living among us. Robert J. Cabelly…is getting paid to do public relations work for a genocidal regime. There Goes the Neighborhood!”
“The United State government and the United States Congress stands united with the people of Sudan and any lobbyist who walks these halls on behalf of the Government of Sudan is not welcome.” Wolf Critical of Lobbyist Representing Government of Sudan
SEPTEMBER 2009 – Robert “Bud” McFarlane
STAND demonstration: Is Bud McFarlane that desperate for cash?
Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition … “The expose in The Washington Post makes clear that the Sudanese government thinks it can normalize relations with Washington through buying influence rather than actually changing its behavior on the ground – all the more reason for an approach to Khartoum that is a sensible balance of pressures and incentives, rather than just incentives alone.” Sudan Advocacy Groups Call on National Security Adviser to Release Names
OCTOBER 2009 – Robert B. Crowe
“They are on our sanctions list and have been for some time, and I see no reason to allow them to have a lobbyist,” said Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.)
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.)…agreed. “Would you represent Hitler? Would you represent Mao?” Wolf asked. “Anybody who does that ought to be blackballed in this town.”
“Most importantly, I urge you [President Obama] to make it clear in no uncertain terms, to both the State Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, that under your administration the genocidal government in Khartoum will not be granted the necessary waiver to hire a lobbyist.
“It is unconscionable that any government with blood on its hands be permitted the privilege of having a Washington lobbyist on retainer. As you consider these matters, I implore you to remember the woman in Darfur who fears rape and brutalization every time she leaves the confines of her camp to collect firewood.
“Who speaks for her in our nation’s capital?” Rep. Frank Wolf
DECEMBER 2011 – Bart S. Fisher, Esq.
Demonstration: “Hey Bart Fisher You Can’t Hide, Stop Supporting Genocide”
“As hundreds of thousands of civilians in Sudan face assault, famine and displacement at the hands of their own government, Mr. Fisher should be ashamed to argue that the United States should reduce sanctions on this genocidal regime.” Eric Cohen, Act for Sudan, Activists, Congressman Protest Lawyer’s Lobbying for Sudan.
“I don’t know how Mr. Fisher sleeps at night.” Influence Industry: Sudan hires its first U.S. lawyer in years, prompting protests
The criticism of Treasury’s decision has come from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), co-chairman of the House’s Sudan Caucus, wants the license pulled back.
“The license should be revoked and it should not be reissued until Sudan has done everything it is required to do in South Sudan and at the U.N. The government of Sudan has tried this approach before and it didn’t work,” Capuano said in a statement to The Hill.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the U.S. has allowed a murderer like [Sudan President] Omar Hassan Bashir to hire a Washington emissary to do his bidding,” Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Africa, Global Health and Human Rights subcommittee, said in a statement last week.
“Now is not the time to appease a warlord by dangling carrots and rewarding bad behavior,” Payne said.Obama Administration defends license to lawyer representing Sudan.
The Administration needs to send a clear message to Khartoum that a lawyer in Washington won’t help – stopping the violence against innocent civilians is the only path that will lead to better relations with Washington. Until then, Sudan should remain on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and lobbyists like Fisher should find another client.