MAY 5, 2010: It's Time For A Change In Dealing With Sudan - Congressman Wolf

It's Time For A Change In Dealing With Sudan - Congressman Wolf

SOURCE: AllAfrica.Com (United States Congress (Washington, DC))
By Office of Representative Frank Wolf

Washington, DC — Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long recognized in Congress for his work on Sudan, today called for a change in how the Obama Administration deals with Khartoum.

In a press conference on Capitol Hill, Wolf said it is time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to re-take control of U.S. policy involving Sudan.

Wolf joins a growing number of  roups calling for higher levels of engagement. Just last week, six respected NGOs ran ads in The Washington Post and Politico calling for Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to exercise "personal and sustained leadership on Sudan" in the face of a "stalemated policy" and waning U.S. credibility as a mediator.

"There is a pressing and immediate need for renewed, principled leadership at the highest levels," Wolf said.

Wolf also made a series of other recommendations, including calling on the administration to not recognize the outcome of the recent presidential elections in Sudan and to move forward with its stated aim of strengthening the capacity of the security sector in the South. In addition, he said priority must be given to ending the attacks in Darfur and completing restoration of humanitarian aid in region.

Below is a copy of a letter Wolf sent President Obama urging a change in course in dealing with Khartum. A copy of Wolf's statement at the press conference follows the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

"If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon." These were the closing words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof two weeks ago. I could not agree more with his assessment of Sudan today. Time is running short. Lives hang in the balance. Real leadership is needed.

Having first travelled to Sudan in 1989, my interest and involvement in this country has spanned the better part of 20 years. I've been there five times, most recently in July 2004 when Senator Sam Brownback and I were the first congressional delegation to go to Darfur.

Tragically, Darfur is hardly an anomaly. We saw the same scorched earth tactics from Khartoum in the brutal 20-year civil war with the South where more than 2 million perished, most of whom were civilians. In September 2001, President Bush appointed former Senator John Danforth as special envoy and his leadership was in fact instrumental in securing, after two and a half years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), thereby bringing about an end to the war. I was at the 2005 signing of this historic accord in Kenya, as was then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Congressman Donald Payne, among others. Hopes were high for a new Sudan. Sadly, what remains of that peace is in jeopardy today. What remains of that hope is quickly fading.

I was part of a bipartisan group in Congress who urged you to appoint a special envoy shortly after you came into office, in the hope of elevating the issue of Sudan. But what was once a successful model for Sudan policy is not having the desired effect today. I am not alone in this belief.

Just last week, six respected NGOs ran compelling ads in The Washington Post and Politico calling for Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to exercise "personal and sustained leadership on Sudan" in the face of a "stalemated policy" and waning U.S. credibility as a mediator.

In that same vein, today I join that growing chorus of voices in urging you to empower Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to take control of the languishing Sudan policy. They should oversee quarterly deputies' meetings to ensure options for consequences are on the table.

There is a pressing and immediate need for renewed, principled leadership at the highest levels – leadership which, while recognizing the reality of the challenges facing Sudan, is clear-eyed about the history and the record of the internationally indicted war criminal at the helm in Khartoum. We must not forget who we are dealing with in Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP). In addition to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the Sudanese government against its own people, Sudan remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is well known that the same people currently in control in Khartoum gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990's.

I believe that this administration's engagement with Sudan to date, under the leadership of General Gration, and with your apparent blessing, has failed to recognize the true nature of Bashir and the NCP. Any long-time Sudan follower will tell you that Bashir never keeps his promises.

The Washington Post editorial page echoed this sentiment this past weekend saying of Bashir: "He has frequently told Western governments what they wanted to hear, only to reverse himself when their attention drifted or it was time to deliver….the United States should refrain from prematurely recognizing Mr. Bashir's new claim to legitimacy. And it should be ready to respond when he breaks his word." Note that the word was "when" not "if" he breaks his word. While the hour is late, the administration can still chart a new course.

In addition to recommending that Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice take the helm in implementing your administration's Sudan policy, I propose the following policy recommendations:

* Move forward with the administration's stated aim of strengthening the capacity of the security sector in the South. A good starting point would be to provide the air defense system that the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) requested and President Bush approved in 2008. This defensive capability would help neutralize Khartoum's major tactical advantage and make peace and stability more likely following the referendum vote.

* Do not recognize the outcome of the recent presidential elections. While the elections were a necessary part of the implementation of the CPA and an important step before the referendum, they were inherently flawed and Bashir is attempting to use them to lend an air of legitimacy to his genocidal rule.

* Clearly and unequivocally state at the highest levels that the United States will honor the outcome of the referendum and will ensure its implementation.

* Begin assisting the South in building support for the outcome of the referendum.

* Appoint an ambassador or senior political appointee with the necessary experience in conflict and post-conflict settings to the U.S. consulate in Juba.

* Prioritize the need for a cessation of attacks in Darfur, complete restoration of humanitarian aid including "non-essential services," unfettered access for aid organizations to all vulnerable populations and increased diplomatic attention to a comprehensive peace process including a viable plan for the safe return of millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

When the administration released its Sudan policy last fall, Secretary Clinton indicated that benchmarks would be applied to Sudan and that progress would be assessed "based on verifiable changes in conditions on the ground. Backsliding by any party will be met with credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners." But in the face of national elections that were neither free nor fair, in the face of continued violations of the U.N. arms embargo, in the face of Bashir's failure to cooperate in any way with the International Criminal Court, we've seen no "disincentives" or "sticks" applied. This is a worst case scenario and guaranteed, if history is to be our guide, to fail.

Many in the NGO community and in Congress cautiously expressed support for the new policy when it was released, at the same time stressing that a policy on paper is only as effective as its implementation on the ground. More than six months have passed since the release of the strategy and implementation has been insufficient at best and altogether absent at worst.

During the campaign for the presidency, you said, regarding Sudan, "Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences." These words ring true still today. Accountability is imperative. But the burden for action, the weight of leadership, now rests with you and with this administration alone. With the referendum in the South quickly approaching, the stakes could not be higher.

The marginalized people of Sudan yearn for your administration to find its voice on Sudan – and to find it now.

Sincererly,

Frank Wolf, Member of Congress


TEXT OF REMARKS DELIVERED AT PRESS CONFERENCE

"If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon."

These were the closing words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in a piece two weeks ago. I could not agree more with his assessment of Sudan today. To put it bluntly, the status quo in terms of this administration's approach toward Sudan is unacceptable. Time is running short. Lives hang in the balance. Real leadership is needed.

Having first travelled to Sudan in 1989, my interest and involvement in this country has spanned the better part of 20 years. I've been there five times, most recently in July 2004 when Senator Sam Brownback and I were the first congressional delegation to go to Darfur. I witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes. I heard heart-breaking stories of rape and slaughter. Over 300,000 Darfuris have died and nearly 3 million have been displaced. Many of the women and children we met in the IDP camps remain in this desperate situation. Initially their plight attracted intense media and Hollywood attention—as it should. But the desperation of those in the camps, while in reality undiminished, seems to have faded from the public eye. Many of the household names that engaged on this issue have moved on to the next cause, while the refrain "Never Again" echoes faintly.

Tragically, Darfur is hardly an anomaly. We saw the same scorched earth tactics from Khartoum in the brutal 20-year civil war with the South where more than 2 million perished, most of whom were civilians.

In January 2001, after having returned from a trip to Central Africa which included Sudan, I wrote the Bush administration urging the appointment of a high-level, high-profile special envoy for Sudan. It was the first of many letters I would write with this request.

Eventually in September 2001, the president appointed former Senator John Danforth as special envoy and his leadership was in fact instrumental in securing, after two and a half years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), thereby bringing about an end to the war. I was at the 2005 signing of this historic accord, as was then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Congressman Donald Payne, among others. Hopes were high for a new Sudan.

I remain grateful for President Bush's leadership in helping to bring about an end to the bloodshed. There were many critics of the Bush administration's foreign policy. In fact, I did not hesitate to criticize the administration when I believed they were failing to prioritize human rights. But even the critics must agree that President Bush and Secretary Powell's leadership and Senator Danforth's tireless efforts paved the way for lasting peace in Sudan.

Sadly, what remains of that peace is in jeopardy today. What remains of that hope is quickly fading.

Fast forward to 2009. I was part of a bipartisan group in Congress who called for the appointment of a special envoy shortly after President Obama was elected, in the hope of elevating the issue of Sudan. But what was once a successful model for Sudan policy is not having the desired effect today.

I am not alone in this belief.

Just last week, six respected NGOs that are intimately involved in Sudan advocacy and genocide-prevention ran compelling ads in The Washington Post and Politico calling for Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to exercise "personal and sustained leadership on Sudan" in the face of a "stalemated policy" and waning U.S. credibility as a media

In that same vein, today I join that growing chorus of voices in calling on the president to empower Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Susan Rice to take control of the languishing Sudan policy. They should oversee quarterly deputies' meetings to ensure options for consequences are on the table. In fact, I call on the president himself to exercise leadership in this regard, consistent with the explicit campaign promises he made about Sudan…promises which to date ring hollow.

There is a pressing and immediate need for renewed, principled leadership at the highest levels—leadership which, while recognizing the reality of the challenges facing Sudan, is clear-eyed about the history and the record of the internationally indicted war criminal at the helm in Khartoum.

We must not forget who we are dealing with in Bashir and his National Congress Party. In addition to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the Sudanese government against its own people, Sudan remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is well known that the same people currently in control in Khartoum gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990's.

I was deeply troubled by Sudan Special Envoy Gration's comments last summer at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that "there is no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism list…" His astonishing statement came despite the findings of the 2008 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism that "…there have been open source reports that arms were purchased in Sudan's black market and allegedly smuggled northward to Hamas."

I believe that this administration's engagement with Sudan to date, under the leadership of General Gration, and with the apparent blessing of the president, has failed to recognize the true nature of Bashir and the NCP. As Sudan expert and former former State Department special representative on Sudan Roger Winter rightly pointed out in a November 2009 Sudan Tribune piece, "Both Bashir and his NCP have a perfect record insofar as agreements are concerned; they NEVER, EVER keep an agreement they sign."

The Washington Post editorial page echoed this sentiment this past weekend saying: "The problem, as always, is whether Mr. Bashir will deliver. He has frequently told Western governments what they wanted to hear, only to reverse himself when their attention drifted or it was time to deliver….the United States should refrain from prematurely recognizing Mr. Bashir's new claim to legitimacy. And it should be ready to respond when he breaks his word."

Let me repeat that last phrase: "when he breaks his word," not "if" he breaks his word.

While the hour is late, the administration can still chart a new course.

This past weekend on Meet the Press Secretary Clinton herself said she was "certainly not satisfied with where we are and what we're doing" about Sudan.

Ambassador Rice recently said, "We know that weapons continue to flow into Darfur, acts of sexual and gender-based violence continue unabated and with impunity, military over-flights and offensive actions continue. And though there has been the recent signing of the framework agreement, the fact is we continue to receive reports of offensive military actions by the Government of Sudan in Darfur. If these reports are true, this behavior does not suggest a new willingness on the part of Sudan to fully engage in the peace process."

These sorts of statements, which accurately reflect reality, are markedly different in tone and focus than the statements which continuously emerge from the Special Envoy's office. The secretary and the ambassador understand the reality and speak it. That's why it is critical that the president hand them the reigns. I have deep respect for Ambassador Rice, having worked with her on issues of common concern since the days of the Clinton administration. I am confident she would lend some much-needed gravity, pragmatism and toughness to the implementation of the administration's stated policy.

Second, I urge the Obama administration, without delay, to move forward with its stated aim of strengthening the capacity of the security sector in the South. A good starting point would be to provide the air defense system that the South requested and President Bush approved in 2008. This defensive capability would help neutralize Khartoum's major tactical advantage and make peace and stability more likely following the referendum vote.

Third, with regard to the elections, while they were a necessary part of the implementation of the CPA and an important step before the referendum, they were inherently flawed and I believe the Obama administration should not recognize the outcome of the presidential elections. I am concerned that the balance of power is shifting in favor of Bashir and that he has skillfully used the recent elections to lend an air of legitimacy to his rule.

Fourth, in looking ahead toward the referendum, the Obama administration should come out and clearly and unequivocally state at the highest level that the United States will honor the outcome of the referendum and will ensure its implementation.

Fifth, the U.S. should begin assisting the South in building support for the outcome of the referendum.

Sixth, the secretary of State should appoint an ambassador or senior political appointee with experience in conflict and post-conflict settings to the U.S. consulate in Juba.

Finally, the administration should prioritize the need for a cessation of attacks in Darfur, complete restoration of humanitarian aid, including "non-essential services," unfettered access for aid organizations to all vulnerable populations and increased diplomatic attention to a comprehensive peace process including a viable plan for the safe return of millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Today, I am sending a letter to President Obama outlining these seven recommendations and calling for urgent action on behalf of the marginalized people of Sudan.

When the Obama administration released its Sudan policy in fall 2009, Secretary Clinton indicated that benchmarks would be applied to Sudan and that progress would be assessed "based on verifiable changes in conditions on the ground. Backsliding by any party will be met with credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners." But in the face of national elections that were neither free nor fair, in the face of continued violations of the U.N. arms embargo, in the face of Bashir's failure to cooperate in any way with the International Criminal Court, we've seen no "disincentives" or "sticks" applied.

This is a worst case scenario and guaranteed, if history is to be our guide, to fail. At the time of the administration's release of the new policy, Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "As the administration moves forward with this new strategy, it must not ignore the substantial track record of evidence that sustained pressure leveraged by meaningful sticks is what has moved the NCP during the last 20 years of authoritarian rule. Only when there have been real consequences has the Sudanese regime altered its behavior, such as when it severed its ties with al Qaeda in the late 1990s, ended aerial bombing and support for slave-raiding militias in the South, and agreed to the North-South peace deal in 2005."

Many in the NGO community and in Congress cautiously expressed support for the new policy when it was released, at the same time stressing that a policy on paper is only as effective as its implementation on the ground. More than six months have passed since the release of the strategy and implementation has been insufficient at best and altogether absent at worst.

During the campaign, then candidate Obama said regarding Sudan, "Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences."

These words ring true still today. Accountability is imperative. But the burden for action, the weight of leadership, now rests with this president and this administration alone. With the referendum in the South quickly approaching, the stakes could not be higher.

I close with a slight variation on the words of Nicholas Kristof: If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be now.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201005051009.html
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