The war in Sudan: More than two million men, women and children have died as a result of the 18-year war being waged by the radical fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum against the minority Africans, Christians, and practitioners of traditional religions in southern Sudan, Nuba Mountains, and other marginalized areas. The discovery and development of oil and gas reserves located principally in the south are providing the government additional revenues of nearly $1 billion (2001 estimates) with which to prosecute the war. The government continues to use helicopter gun ships, local militias, and the Sudanese army to attack unarmed civilians, destroy villages and fields, and abduct and enslave women and children, opening new areas for further oil development. The government has recently purchased Russian MIG fighters to conduct a more sophisticated air campaign in the south. Despite increasing military capacity in the north, and the reunification of the Sudan People's Liberation Army and the Sudan Popular Defense Force in the south, few analysts believe that the war can be won militarily.
The Catholic Church and other Christian communities have no legal status in Sudan. They cannot obtain building permits to expand pastoral activities (churches, schools, dispensaries) to serve the more than 2 million increasingly Christian southerners living in and around Khartoum. Opposition members are subject to harassment, beatings, arrest and detention. Non-Muslims are subjected to shari'a (Islamic law) as demonstrated in the most recent case of a southern Christian African Sudanese woman condemned to death by stoning for having conceived out of wedlock.
In March/April 2001 a delegation of bishops from the USCCB visited Khartoum and southern Sudan to strenghen bonds of solidarity with the Church and the peoples of Sudan and to deepen its knowledge of the issues surrounding the conflict. A second delegation of U.S. bishops met with the bishops of Sudan in August/September 2001 in Nairobi to strengthen advocacy and partnernship between the two conferences. The USCCB actively lobbied President Bush to appoint a special envoy for Sudan.
Developments in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Sudan:
Retired Senator John Danforth, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, presented a set of confidence-building measures to the two main parties to the conflict (the government and the SPLA) to determine the seriousness of their commitment to ending the war and the likelihood of any future involvement of the United States in the peace process. Among the measures are: 1) a cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains to allow for delivery of humanitarian assistance; 2) an end to aerial bombardments against civilian targets; 3) an end to support for slave-raiding; and 4) the creation of zones/days of tranquility for delivery of relief assistance and vaccinations. Danforth is expected to submit a report to President Bush in March 2002.
Sudan Peace Act:
The Senate and House have eached passed versions of the Sudan Peace Act but neither house has appointed conferees to resolve the differences between the bills. Major disagreements remain on two sensitive issues: financial disclosure requirements (HR 2052, section 8) and capital markets sanctions (HR 2052, section 9). The Bush administration has expressed its opposition to the use of capital markets sanctions. There is fear that its passage could undermine current U.S. initiatives, and lead to the politicization of U.S. capital markets. Supporters argue that the blocking of access to U.S. capital makets for companies involved in oil and gas development in Sudan is one of the strongest sticks' that the United States can employ to force the government to pursue a just peace. The Sudanese Catholic Bishops and other Christian leaders have called on foreign oil companies to withdraw from Sudan until such time as a just peace can be negotiated and conditions for an equitable sharing of oil proceeds might be established.
- The government of Khartoum must stop its targeting of innocent civilian populations and open access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people most affected by the war. It also must stop its practice of, and support for, the enslavement of women and children.
- Religious freedom, human rights and respect for the non-Arab and non-Muslim populations in Sudan must be guaranteed by the Sudanese government. The government must recognize the legal rights of the Catholic Church and other Christian communities and allow them to carry out their work unimpeded.
- Current initiatives by the United States to help bring a just end to the war and to provide additional humanitarian and development assistance to Sudan must continue to be supported by the administration and by Congress.
- Oil exploration and development has led to the forcible displacement of large numbers of people and is fueling the government's cruel war against the south, Nuba Mountains, and other marginalized areas. Both the government and oil companies involved in oil development in Sudan have a moral responsibility to ensure that the otherwise legitimate development of oil does not contribute directly or indirectly to conflict and repression.
In any contact with your Senators or Representative, encourage them to:
- Ensure that Sudan remains a major priority in U.S. foreign policy;
- Applaud the time and attention that the Bush administration has given to the issue, particularly with the appointment of Sen. John Danforth as Special Envoy. The United States must demonstrate to the Sudanese people and the world its willingness to stay the course until a just peace in Sudan can be negotiated;
- Urge the Bush administration to hold the government of Khartoum responsible for gross human rights violations, including the bombing of innocent civilian populations; the enslavement of women and children; the repression of opposition members; the failure to respect religious freedom; and the use of oil revenues to kill its own citizens;
- Urge the U.S. government to increase funding for processes of reconciliation and promotion of civil society in Southern Sudan.
USCCB statements on Sudan: A Call to Solidarity with Africa (November 2002); Findings and Policy Recommendations (March 24 - April 6, 2001); Sudan's Cry for Peace (November 2000); Statement by the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference (September 2000); Sudan Update (May 2001); Background on Sudan (February 2001): /sdwp/international/africa.shtml
For More Information:
Fr. Michael Perry, OFM 202-541-3149 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); email@example.com