By Faith McDonnell (@Cuchulain09)
Yesterday, representing both IRD’s Church Alliance for a New Sudan and Act for Sudan, the broad-based alliance of activists, I went to the White House for a Sudan briefing. Ambassador Princeton Lyman recently returned from the region. He had offered to report on what had taken place to a group of us who work on Sudan policy and advocacy.
Ambassador Lyman, the most recent in the long line of Sudan Special Envoys that began with former Senator John Danforth, is the first to now be called the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. He will be completing his service as Special Envoy “as soon as they name a replacement.” I am sure he is eager for that day. Being the Sudan Special Envoy is often difficult and frustrating.
I do hope that they have created a support group for recovering Sudan Special Envoys. The group would ideally include therapy sessions such as “Saying Exactly What You Think Because You are No Longer a Diplomat” and . . . well, really, that’s all they need, except maybe a handwashing ritual to provide closure. The handwashing ritual would symbolize washing one’s hands of any Administration policies with which a Sudan Special Envoy disagreed but was obligated to promote. It would also be nice to have a punching bag with interchangeble covers with the faces of President Bashir, mass-murderer Haroun, Vice President Taha, former Speaker Turabi, and, for those Sudan Special Envoys with true discernment in the ways of Arab-Islamist supremacism, the faces of D.U.P.’s Mirghani and Umma Party head al-Mahdi, as well.
Grant Harris, the Senior Director for African Affairs of the White House’s National Security Staff, was also part of the briefing. Lyman told the eight of us who were present at the meeting about what took place at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa and about other issues of concern regarding Sudan and South Sudan. He and Harris reported on the ongoing humanitarian disaster in South Kordofan (the Nuba Mountains, to the non-diplomat) and Blue Nile State and on the north/south border issues, such as Abyei.
Both Lyman and Harris expressed concern about the continuing economic crisis since South Sudan stopped oil production in January 2012. At an IRD briefing with senior Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) minister, Pagan Amum, in May 2012 we learned more about the background of this drastic move. The National Congress Party (NCP) regime in Khartoum was not only demanding outlandish pipeline transit fees of $32 per barrel (international standards range around $0.50-$2.00 per barrel), but was pilfering oil, diverting it to refineries in the north.
Most of what was said at the meeting was just the usual reporting in a situation where the United States wants to be of help in a humanitarian disaster, but does not want to identify the ruling NCP as the racists that they are, much less open the “genocide, or at least the eradication of a people group, is taking place” can of worms. There was one statement that raised a red flag, though. That was when Ambassador Lyman revealed that new Secretary of State John Kerry had indicated that he would like to “rethink Sudan sanctions.”
A range of sanctions, including economic and trade sanctions, were imposed in 1997 because of Khartoum regime’s connection to terrorist networks and its human rights abuses. There have been moves by some within the U.S. government and by Khartoum’s well-paid lobbyists to get rid of the sanctions. These sanctions do NOT apply to South Sudan, and at least at one point in U.S. policy, a distinction was also made between NCP-controlled areas and SPLM-controlled areas of Sudan.
Most recently, the Act for Sudan alliance became aware that the United States may be planning to ease U.S. sanctions that apply to educational institutions in Sudan. Act for Sudan has acted quickly to mobilize a strong and clear response to this proposal, saying that we object to any easing of sanctions while genocide is ongoing.
“Such easing sends the wrong message to the brutal regime in Khartoum and to other countries around the world that may be considering renewing financial ties with the government of Sudan,” declared Act for Sudan co-founder, Susan Morgan. It would also send a message to Secretary of State Kerry that he can go ahead and “rethink” all of Sudan’s sanctions, a move that would be bad for both the victims of Islamist jihad and genocide in Sudan as well as for us. Act for Sudan suggests that you send the following tweets to your followers and to the U.S. State Department:
Watch this space for other actions you can take for Sudan.