After months of demanding to be heard, United to End Genocide has secured a Congressional Hearing “Sudan: The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in South Kordofan and Continuing Human Rights Violations in Darfur” which began today at 10am. Below is the testimony by our President Tom Andrews. You can also follow live tweets of the hearing here.
Testimony of the Hon. Thomas H. Andrews
President of United to End Genocide
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
“Sudan: The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in South Kordofan and Continuing Human Rights Violations in Darfur”
September 22, 2011
Thank you Chairman Wolf, Chairman McGovern and members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for holding this hearing. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on the escalation of attacks against civilians in Sudan. So many members of this Commission have been long-time champions of peace and accountability in Sudan. Your leadership on Sudan is critical.
I was in the region a little over two months ago visiting Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan, and in Juba just weeks after violence broke out in South Kordofan. Everywhere I went I heard story after story of the horror that continues to be inflicted. Two refugees from Darfur told me about their harrowing experience of being awakened at dawn by the sound of hooves and gunfire as the Janjaweed raided their village. They fled to South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains and described how the people there welcomed them. They expressed their alarm and horror that the same regime that had forced them to flee their homes in Darfur was now attacking the very people who provided them refuge.
The common denominator in the devastating attacks on civilians in both Darfur and South Kordofan is Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. Let me be clear – Bashir is a genocidal monster who is already wanted by the International Criminal Court for directing atrocities in Darfur. Since Bashir came to power in a military coup in 1989 he has murdered, starved and destroyed the lives of millions of innocent civilians in South Sudan, Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
I have provided additional details on the violence being perpetrated across Sudan by Bashir’s forces in my written testimony. But my focus today is on what is happening now in South Kordofan and the stories that were told to me by the people I met.
I spoke to several people displaced from South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains when I was in Juba in early July. The numbers of displaced have only increased since then. Two priests who had just arrived after a narrow escape told me that the Sudanese Armed Forces and allied militias had gone door to door, targeting people based on their religion and the color of their skin. They spoke of churches being burned and looted. One church was hit by a bomb as Antanov planes, the same used to terrorize the people of Darfur, launched indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas. That was in July. The attacks continue.
But it doesn’t stop there: Bashir has also refused to let in desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel. International aid NGOs have been tossed out. One of the displaced priests I met with had heard just that morning from a colleague still in the Nuba Mountains that food stocks were running low, trade routes were blocked, and no new aid was being allowed in. He told me that at least one million innocent people are at risk in South Kordofan.
This year alone, more than half a million people have been displaced by fighting throughout Sudan. United Nations reports indicate the likelihood of ethnic cleansing in Abyei, and war crimes and crimes against humanity in South Kordofan. We suspect similar atrocities have occurred in Blue Nile.
Recent violence directed by Bashir makes it very clear, when left unchecked this genocidal monster will simply continue to do what he has always done: commit unspeakable atrocities.
So what can the United States do? Past experience demonstrates that the Bashir regime only responds to consequences. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is failing in the face of these ongoing atrocities. Recent statements by the State Department do not place appropriate emphasis on the Government of Sudan as the party overwhelmingly responsible for violence against civilians. Even more importantly, action from the Administration is severely lacking. Accountability is not being demanded. Civilians are not being protected. Bashir is being allowed to commit atrocities with impunity. Again. Unless this policy course is corrected, many more civilians will lose their lives.
In my view the Obama Administration needs to do three things:
First, expand sanctions on individuals responsible for atrocities throughout Sudan. Current individual sanctions for atrocities are specific only to Darfur. Anyone who commits heinous crimes must be held accountable regardless of where in Sudan these atrocities take place.
Second, make saving lives in Sudan a high priority in our dealings with other nations – particularly those that can exert the most leverage on Bashir. We need increased and coordinated sanctions by the international community starting with our European allies. Maybe even more importantly, the United States must work to move China in a new direction. The Chinese have a great deal of leverage with the Government of Sudan. Their significant monetary investment makes it in their interest to have a peaceful and stable region. But their actions belie their interest and denigrate values that we have a moral obligation to defend and advance. The red carpet that the Chinese government literally unfolded for Bashir just months ago in Beijing was an outrage. We need to hear that outrage spoken loudly and clearly by our leaders.
Finally, weapons must be stopped from flowing into Sudan and innocent people must be protected. The U.S. must spend political capital to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution that expands individual sanctions for perpetrators, expands the existing arms embargo on Darfur to incorporate all of Sudan, expands the mandate of the International Criminal Court to cover the entire country, demands unfettered humanitarian access, and authorizes an international civilian protection force with the resources and mandate to accomplish its mission.
Congress also has an important role to play. First, the American people need to know the truth about Omar al-Bashir and his atrocities. This hearing is an important step in that direction and, again, I commend you for your leadership. American citizens have shown they care about the people of Sudan, but many are unaware of what is happening there now. Your help is needed to raise the alarm. Congress should also consider and pass legislation that would mandate increased United States sanctions and push the Administration to advance the policies I’ve laid out here today.
I know this is not as easy as it may sound. I know about all the distractions that Members of Congress face. I was serving in the House during the Rwandan genocide. I visited the graves of hundreds of thousands of victims when I visited Rwanda in July and asked myself – “Where was I?” Why did we do nothing to prevent or stop this horror?” Well, in retrospect, the political climate here in the U.S. was intense in 1994. There were fresh memories of Mogadishu, Somalia and “Black Hawk Down”. There was the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The economy was struggling and a heated election was looming. When you think about it, the political climate today is not at all dissimilar. But, the bottom line then is the bottom line now: We cannot stand quietly aside while genocidal monsters inflict unspeakable crimes against untold numbers of innocent people. The cost of doing nothing is too great. We must not look back years from now on this moment and think: “If only we had done something.”
We must have the courage to act now.
Thank you again for your time and for this opportunity. I look forward to answering your questions.