“A man-made humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in Sudan and addressing it requires consequences for the party with primary responsibility for the suffering taking place, the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir.” That was the message United to End Genocide President, Tom Andrews, and I delivered in a briefing to Congress on July 24.
Our message was amplified by remarks from Gavin Gramstad, a humanitarian worker stationed in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan who later set up a refugee camp for Nuba refugees in South Sudan. It was further fortified by the presence and comments of Representatives Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf and Jim Moran as well as by Sudanese Bishop Macram Max Gassis. Tom Andrews moderated the event.
United to End Genocide’s recent report, Sudan’s Man-Made Catastrophe, was a key focus of the briefing. I spoke about my recent trip to refugee camps in South Sudan and emphasized the report conclusions. The findings include recognition of the three main tactics that have been used by the Sudanese government against innocent civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile: direct ground attacks, aerial bombardment, and the use of food as a weapon through blockade of humanitarian aid.
The state of affairs is far worse for those trapped in Sudan, but—even for those who reach the safety of South Sudan—challenges remain. Conditions in the refugee camps continue to worsen, particularly given the intensification of the rainy season and the threat of waterborne disease. What this means is that right now, the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are being forced to make an impossible choice between continued attacks and starvation in their homeland, or disease and malnutrition in flooded camps across the border.
Gavin, who had worked in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan digging wells before the violence forced him to leave, described the Nuba as a hard-working people of differing religions who lived together in peace. He asked why the tragedy befalling them was not garnering more attention, adding his own on the ground experience finding the first large collection of refugees and setting up the Yida camp that now houses some 65,000 people.
Tell your congressperson to stand up for the people of Sudan by co-sponsoring the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act.
The central problem, of course, is the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Thus far, Bashir has been free to act with impunity underscoring the need for consequences, including an arms embargo, harsher economic sanctions, and accountability at the International Criminal Court. Above all, there is an immediate need for the bombing of civilians to stop and for humanitarian aid to be allowed in to those who need it.
The briefing was an important opportunity to educate congressional offices that are unaware of the plight of the people in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and offer them an opportunity to take action. As moderator, Tom Andrews began and ended the event with a call for further attention and pressure, thanking the near 100 co-sponsors of the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act, and urging the members of the House of Representatives who have not yet supported it to sign on.
If you haven’t asked your member of Congress to support the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act yet, I strongly urge you to take action today.