Posted on April 12, 2005
Good afternoon. We're here today to examine the complex and difficult choices confronting the United States in Sudan as we struggle to solidify a fragile peace in the South and mitigate the impact of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today in the West of that country. Civil war has consumed the southern part of Sudan for more than two decades. The heart of the conflict is a clash between the Muslim government in Khartoum, which identifies more with the Arab world, and the Christian rebels in the South, which identify more with sub-Saharan Africa. President Bush and Congress responded to this ongoing conflict. Prior to my joining this body, in 2002 our Majority Leader, Senator Frist, led the charge to pass the Sudan Peace Act. He was the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa at the time, and was joined in that effort by Senator Feingold, then the Chairman of the Subcommittee (as well as the former Chairman, Senator Helms, Senators Lugar, Biden, Brownback and others). That legislation provided a framework for the peace negotiations in Sudan. Since that time, progress on the peace talks - moderated by the U.S., Great Britain, Norway, and Kenya - has been slow, but the talks have finally yielded results. Senator John Danforth has served as President Bush's Special Envoy in this effort. Just a few weeks ago, on May 26, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed three protocols to finally end that conflict. The difficulties of implementation are still ahead, but I am hopeful that conflict is finally at an end. This is a tremendous success story. But it has been obscured by a growing tragedy in another part of Sudan. At the same time peace was being negotiated between the North and the South, a new campaign of terror erupted in the western region of Darfur. The prospect of a just peace with the South apparently provoked rebel bands in the west to try to get their "piece of the pie." The government of Sudan responded to rebel raids swiftly and brutally, beginning a campaign designed not just to root out the rebels among the population, but to systematically uproot and destroy the people of Darfur. It's worth noting that this western conflict has nothing to do with religion - both sides are Muslim; the conflict is about ethnic rivalry and control of territory. The scope and results of this rampage are only now becoming clear. Somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 natives to Darfur have been killed. Two hundred thousand refugees have fled across the border into neighboring Chad. Over 1 million are estimated to be displaced in Darfur. And 1.2 million are at risk of starvation if sufficient food assistance isn't provided. Many now believe the government of Sudan, through its "janjaweed" militias in Darfur, has been engaged in an active campaign of ethnic cleansing. Some have called it genocide. I expect our witnesses will have more to say on that point. The international community has failed to respond to the crisis. The United Nations Human Rights Commission, which is supposed to confront flagrant abuses of human rights, especially when they occur on such a mass scale, failed to adopt a U.S. resolution condemning the actions of the government of Sudan. That body has become a travesty, condoning the very activity it was intended to prevent - largely because human rights abusing member governments outnumber those who are eager to prevent such abuse, and vote accordingly. President Bush and his administration have stated clearly and repeatedly that what's been happening in Darfur is wholly unacceptable and must be dealt with quickly. At the same time, it's not clear how ready we are to push that principle with the Sudanese government. Some of our friends are reportedly concerned that confronting Khartoum too directly about atrocities in Darfur will jeopardize any prospect for lasting peace in southern Sudan. They may be right. But if hundreds of thousands of lives are the price of peace in southern Sudan, the price is too high. Today we are fortunate to have two distinguished panels to testify before the committee on this topic. The first panel from the administration will share the actions taken by our government in Sudan and what we hope to accomplish as we move forward. The second panel will provide expert advice on U.S. strategy as well as an in-depth look at the atrocities in Darfur.