The State Department recently took one of our Act for Sudan questions during the #AskState Twitter discussion. We would like to thank the State Department for frequently hosting similar events and discussions to help keep the public aware of their government’s efforts abroad.
@OBSilence asks: Why does the State Department not support regime change in Sudan where government-led genocide continues? Why Syria and Libya, but not Sudan?
@StateDept answers: Well, first of all, ObSilence, each country and each situation is different. Each country, each situation has to be dealt with differently. But I will say that in Sudan, for many years, we have continued to press for concrete, meaningful, democratic reforms and accountability and an end to the violence. We have pushed hard for an end to the fighting in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and a full resolution of the Darfur conflict. Those responsible for crimes and crimes against humanity have to be held accountable.
We’ve also made clear that it’s going to be impossible for the United States to move forward in improving its relationship with the Government of Sudan and to implement some of the key elements of the roadmap for normalization that we have together until the violence ends there. This includes our ability to take steps like lifting Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism designation or the easing of sanctions as long as the deplorable human rights conditions and unacceptable practices of bombing innocent civilians and denying humanitarian access continue in Blue Nile and in Southern Kordofan.
There is no military solution to these problems. Full resolution of the crisis of governance in Sudan will only come when the parties sit down and talk to each other. We have a special envoy for Sudan, Princeton Lyman, who coordinates very closely with the AU’s high-level implementation panel to continue to work hard to bring peace, bring security, bring reform to Sudan and to settle their issues together, and we remain deeply focused on trying to finally bring peace and security to all the people of Sudan.
We respectfully disagree with the State Department’s current Sudan policy. While every conflict and country is different and certainly requires a tailored response, Sudan has remained in a constant state of civil war, genocide, and war crimes for more than two decades. While diplomacy and economic measures have made short term gains in the past, the status quo of massacred villages, raped women, and destroyed lives remains largely unchanged.
The results of the violence is truly shocking: over two million dead and millions more displaced from their homes. A rape epidemic in Darfur remains not dealt with, while aerial bombardments and ground offenses by northern troops and militias in southern border provinces are increasing. The beginning stages of starvation have already begun in the Nuba Mountains, and the UN estimates that by March the stricken area will bear witness to a mass famine due to the genocide by attrition.
The U.S. government’s action in Sudan over the past several years has seen both major victories and major failures. The referendum on southern succession was achieved with heavy support from the White House and State Department. U.S. pressure at the United Nations has assisted that organization in deploying over 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur. Unfortunately, U.S. action has nearly always been too little too late. Over two million graves across the peripheral areas of the country remain a testament to this.
The State Department and White House have pushed for concrete, meaningful, democratic reforms and accountability in Sudan on and off for years. While Special Ambassador to Sudan Princeton Lyman is working hard to end the killings in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, he has been given little leverage to make that goal a reality. The results are clear today in the still-forming refugee camps along the disputed Sudan/South Sudan border, where one can hear story after story of the horrors defenseless civilians have faced since June of 2011, when the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) began their current campaign of war crimes and genocide in Kadugli.
Indeed, those responsible for crimes and crimes against humanity have to be held accountable. Period.
A positive step Spokesperson Nuland did mention in her response to us is that the State Department has:
“made clear that it’s going to be impossible for the United States to move forward in improving its relationship with the Government of Sudan and to implement some of the key elements of the roadmap for normalization that we have together until the violence ends there. This includes our ability to take steps like lifting Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism designation or the easing of sanctions as long as the deplorable human rights conditions and unacceptable practices of bombing innocent civilians and denying humanitarian access continue in Blue Nile and in Southern Kordofan.”
The State Department should continue to withhold normalization of relations as long as civilians are under siege. Sudan should remain on the list of state sponsors of terror due to the regime’s genocides in Darfur and border states. Genocide is the ultimate form of terrorism, and the U.S. should continue to recognize this.
Mrs. Nuland is correct in that there is no military solution to the problem, but that does not mean military action should not be taken to expedite the process towards a transition to a new government that brings the nation’s war criminals to justice. The regime’s war planes continue to terrorize hundreds of thousands of civilians from the air. Wherever the government’s militias and troops can punch through rebel lines, they rape and slaughter innocents. The people in the periphery regions of Sudan continue to call for urgent, and long overdue, protection from their own illegitimate government, which is not responding to all other peaceful means.
Bashir and his cronies will lose their distinct advantage of air power if a no-fly zone is enforced. While a military solution such as no-fly zone is not the ultimate solution to the problem, it stands a better chance at propelling the regime towards the negotiating table, or toppling the regime from within, as well as protecting civilians. At that table, the regime will have to agree to a new government and the immediate arrest of all war criminals. Until the broken government is gone, there will be no peace in Sudan.
As for the African Union (AU), their peace process is dead. The Sudanese regime has shown no interest in pursuing a permanent solution in Darfur, the border states, or with South Sudan minus obliterating the opposition and maintaining a warmongering presence. The regime has a long history of breaking promise after promise of peace that has been witnessed both by the Sudanese people and the international community. Where is the accountability?
While the people of Sudan and Libya may be different and while the politics of Sudan and Syria may be different, one common binder is that large people groups in all three suffered or are suffering from regimes that are killing innocents en masse to stay in power. The U.S. acted forcefully to protect civilians in Libya and has changed it’s Syria policy to support the opposition and democratic change. Negotiation with the former Gaddafi regime and the Syria regime were and are minimal as the United States has made it clear that democratic transition and civilian protection is the only doorway to reaching a solution.
Rather than calling for peace talks and encouraging all sides to meet at the negotiating table, the U.S. should recreate it’s Sudan strategy to be in sync with the same higher standard that has been set in Libya and Syria. The U.S. should express support for peaceful political protestors, rather than calling for them to stop, and apply harsher pressures on the regime to meet their demands. The U.S. should also begin working towards assisting the new rebel alliance Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in preparing for governing the country as the regime continues to inch closer to implosion. While the U.S. should avoid direct monetary or military support to the (SRF) for now, it should work to create a stronger unity among the factions within it so that the alliance does not implode if ever it must fill the power vacuum when the current regime collapses. And the regime will eventually collapse.
The approach may be different, but no one is seeing the higher standard policy that Syria and Libya received in the U.S. policy towards Sudan. And that policy is killing people. We witnessed lives saved in Libya, and we are seeing restrained killing in Syria because of a stronger, more robust policy. The people of Sudan deserve a stronger, more robust policy as well. Evil prevails when good men do nothing, and that is the reality of the current situation on the ground.
Operation Broken Silence and the Act for Sudan alliance request that the State Department reexamine it’s faltering Sudan strategy before Bashir’s genocidal regime gets away with mass murder…again.
Photo courtesy of the State Department on Flickr.