Wednesday, February 26th’s hearing in the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was a review of U.S. policy toward Sudan and South Sudan. Witnesses were Sudan Special Envoy Ambassador Donald Booth, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast, Counter-Terrorism expert Walid Phares, and Amnesty International Government Relations Manager Adotei Akwei.
In light of the recent crisis in South Sudan, and the ongoing genocidal conflicts in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile State, and Darfur, it was natural that the witnesses would focus on responding to these critical situations. But for what was perhaps the first time in a congressional hearing on Sudan, testimony also highlighted Khartoum’s more stealthy jihad against the Beja people of eastern Sudan and the Nubians in the far north. Witness Dr. Walid Phares declared that Darfur, Nuba/Blue Nile State, Beja-land, and Nubia constitute “four Darfurs” in Sudan.
In his opening statement at the hearing, Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) observed how two years earlier he had held a meeting in his office with representatives from Sudan’s Nubian, Darfuri, Beja, and Nuba communities, who all believe that Khartoum is engaged in a long-term effort to exterminate non-Arab Sudanese. “Have we missed such a pernicious campaign while hopping from one crisis to another as each appeared?” he demanded.
The meeting to which Congressman Smith referred was actually organized by the IRD. Around 2007, our Church Alliance for a New Sudan began broadening our advocacy work beyond our Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan and South Sudan to more intentionally include all of Sudan’s marginalized and oppressed peoples. Since that time we have worked together with Darfuri, Nubian, Beja, and other friends, and introduced them to people who understand the reality of global jihad as it applies to Sudan, like Dr. Phares.
Writing about the meeting with Congressman Smith back in April 2012, I said that the marginalized African people groups of Sudan were coming together to work for the transformation of their country. We were “working on ways to make information about Sudan’s many ancient and varied people groups, and their marginalization by the small minority of Islamists in power in Khartoum, more widely known,” I wrote. Now, in Wednesday’s hearing, Phares helped to do just that.
Phares titled his testimony “Sudan’s Five Crises and U.S. Policy.” He informed, “At this point, the Islamist regime of Bashir is meddling in the security and stability of the independent Republic of South Sudan, suppressing four African uprisings, and clamping down on its own political opposition, all while granting facilities to the Iranian regime and its terror-connected organizations.
Reporting that Sudanese opposition leaders and Beja leaders have warned about increasing activity in and around Port Sudan by Iranian operatives and envoys, Phares continued to say that Beja NGO’s had revealed “an increasing network of Iranian backed terror groups in eastern Sudan.” This route is used by parties shipping weapons to Hamas and other jihadists.
But the Khartoum regime is not just passively allowing jihadists to work in Sudan, they themselves are jihadists. Phares explained that in the 1990’s, “the Khartoum regime hosted a number of jihadist organizations and leaders, including Osama bin Laden.” And, he continued, in 1992-93, the regime “gathered an international conference of Jihadists . . . including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Algerian FIS, and many other groups who would later form the Taliban and al Qaeda.” Key to understanding Sudan, Phares said that “the conference, among other goals, decided to support the campaign by the Sudanese regime against the southern rebels as they were seen as an obstruction to the erection of the Caliphate in Africa.”
Phares also stated for the record a truth that needed to be told and has not been told very often due to either political correctness or a state of denial/wishful thinking. He said that although the Khartoum regime “has accepted the secession of the South in the legal sense, they have not yet accepted the loss ideologically and theoretically. . . The Jihadi ideology ruling the north refuses to concede that a land that was ruled by an Islamist state, and thus potentially part of a future Caliphate, could break away from the center.”
“Only a new democratic regime in the north, willing to opt for a pluralist and secular government, would truly recognize South Sudan as a legitimate entity,” Phares said. And if Sudan’s marginalized people continue to come together and to work together for the same goal and not just the issues affecting their own areas, there is hope for such a democratic regime in Sudan.
What is also necessary is the type of U.S. Sudan policy that Congressman Smith described in his opening statement. We need a comprehensive, action-oriented approach to end the suffering of the marginalized people of Sudan and to support those courageous opposition members who fight for peace, freedom, and equality for all Sudanese.