Director of Policy and Government Relations for United to End Genocide, Daniel Sullivan, testified yesterday in a hearing before Members of Congress on the increasingly dire situation in Sudan. The hearing titled “First Hand Accounts of Violence and IDP/Refugee Problem in South Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions”, was held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and included testimony by independent journalist, Ryan Boyette, and Director of Communications for the Enough Project Jonathan Hutson, who spoke on the work the Satellite Sentinel Project is doing in Sudan.
Mr. Sullivan discussed conversations he had with Sudanese displaced by fighting in South Kordofan and testified on the looming food crisis in South Kodofan and Blue Nile. Denial of access to humanitarian aid organizations combined with a failed harvest due to combat and government bombings will put over one million people at risk of famine in the next two to three months. Mr. Sullivan laid out steps that the US government can take to stop the attacks in Sudan and emphasized that the time to act to avert a major famine is now.
Mr. Sullivan also spoke about the President of Sudan’s trip to Malawi yesterday. President Omer El-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for charges of genocide, and should have been arrested by Malawi’s government, which is a signatory of the Rome Statute and therefore obligated to uphold ICC rulings. He asked that Congress take further action to pressure countries to uphold their commitments to the International Criminal Court.
Chairmen Frank Wolf and Jim McGovern hosted the hearing and reiterated their continued commitment to making civilian protection in Sudan a political priority in US foreign policy.
You can read the rest of his testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission below:
Daniel P. Sullivan
United to End Genocide, Director of Policy and Government Relations
Briefing for Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
“First-hand Accounts of Violence and Growing IDP/Refugee Problem in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions”
October 13, 2011
Thank you Chairman Wolf and members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for holding this briefing and for everyone here for their interest. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today on the escalation of violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. So many members of this Commission have been long-time champions of justice, accountability and peace in Sudan. Your leadership has been and continues to be critical.
I am here on behalf of United to End Genocide the merged entity that was previously the Save Darfur Coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network. I was in Sudan a couple of months prior to South Sudan’s official independence and again with United to End Genocide’s President Tom Andrew’s for South Sudan’s independence. Sadly, the warning signs in Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile were clear even months before independence. The popular consultations stipulated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South of Sudan were delayed and have not taken place. Several months before Southern independence in July, I met with Yasir Arman, head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and with Malik Agar, the now deposed governor of Blue Nile. Both warned even then about Bashir’s designs for the three areas (Abyei, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan).
When I returned to Sudan in July the worst fears had already come true. Bashir’s Sudanese Armed Forces and allied militias displaced 110,000 people from Abyei and began attacks in South Kordofan which have now spread to Blue Nile. While in Juba, Tom Andrews and I met with several people displaced from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan.
A pair of priests from Kadugli told about house to house searches and targeting of people based on their political affiliation with the SPLM-N as well as religion and ethnicity.
One man told me how a church had been looted and turned into a base of military operations. Other churches were burned and looted. One church was struck by a bomb.
A one-time member of the Sudanese Air Force explained how Khartoum was using Antanov aircraft to roll out bombs indiscriminately over civilian areas in violation of international law and to devastating effect on the civilian population of South Kordofan.
A woman who works for a local humanitarian organization told about desperate efforts to secure remaining World Food Program food stores as international groups were kicked out and denied further access. The fighting further prevented the planting of crops meaning that food scarcity would be even greater. At that time she estimated that as many as a million people could be affected by food shortage. More recently, I have heard from international humanitarian groups that a million is a conservative estimate. With fighting and displacement spread to Blue Nile and the harvesting season arriving with little planted food, the next couple months will be particularly dire.
The access has been minimal but the evidence actually quite abundant. The UN released a report of abuses taking place in June. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released a report last month based on visits to bombed sites. Mr. Boyette has provided new fresh evidence. And next week Pax Christi and Julie Flint who was recently in South Kordofan will release a report which will show that the crimes of the Bashir regime continue.
Omar al-Bashir, the man responsible for genocide in Darfur, is the common link to this suffering. It is essential that he be stopped and held accountable for his crimes. Just yesterday United to End Genocide launched a campaign to urge Secretary Clinton and the U.S. government to stop talk of normalizing relations with Bashir, the war criminal, and to take tougher measures to protect civilians and end the crimes that continue to take place in Sudan. Today came the disturbing news that Malawi, a signatory to the International Criminal Court, will allow Bashir to visit. It will join Chad, Kenya, and Djibouti as ICC signatories that have allowed Bashir to visit without arrest. Bashir has also visited non-ICC members including Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and China. Such a visit must be condemned.
What can be done? United to End Genocide’s president Tom Andrews when testifying before this Commission a couple of weeks ago laid out some steps that can be taken. I will repeat them briefly now and encourage everyone to pick up his testimony which is available in the back.
First, expand sanctions on individuals responsible for atrocities throughout Sudan. Current individual sanctions of atrocities are specific 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 who can exert the most leverage on Bashir and his regime. We need 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 Sudan. 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 President Obama and other world leaders. And while China and Russia are the obvious and sadly expected roadblocks to multilateral action, countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa have also stood in the way. It is important for the United States to clearly express to these countries that saving lives in Sudan is a high priority.
Third, leverage with individual countries must be used to catalyze action in the United Nations Security Council. Even simple condemnation has been difficult to achieve, let alone steps that can truly protect civilians. That must change. Efforts should be made to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution that expands individual sanctions for perpetrators, expands the existing arms embargo on Darfur to 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 mandate and capacity to protect civilians.
Congress also has an important role to play. First, the American people need to know the truth about Omar al Bashir and the atrocities he continues to commit. The attention brought by this Commission and the African Sub-Committee is an important step in that direction and, again, I commend you for your leadership. The American people have shown in their response to Darfur that they care about the people of Sudan, but many are unaware of what is happening right now. Very little information is coming out of places like South Kordofan. Your help is needed to raise the alarm. Congress should consider legislation that would mandate increased United States sanctions and push the Administration to advance the policies I’ve laid out here today.
I’d like to end with a final recognition of just how dire the situation is in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Food aid continues to be blocked. The end to the rainy season means likely increased ground attacks. And the harvest season without crops will only exacerbate the dire humanitarian conditions. Time is running short and action must be taken. Thank you.