On Thursday afternoon the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights held a hearing regarding Africa's newest nation: The Republic of Southern Sudan. While being led to a "spill-over room" at the Rayburn building I was surprised by just how many people were attending the event. Once the hearing appeared on the television I realized that it was not just people spilling out of the committee room, it was also emotion, particularly passion and grave concern. Between the members of the subcommittee and the witnesses present there was a sense of urgency begging for attention for the Sudanese people. The congressmen opened the hearing by voicing just how fragile the Sudan region is.
The most outspoken representative on the subcommittee was undoubtedly Representative Wolf. He announced that we as an international superpower cannot ignore Sudan like we did Rwanda. He went on to say that the Obama administration knows exactly what is going on in Sudan and that it is doing nothing. The situation in Sudan is a mass humanitarian crisis and America needs to respond with sticks, not carrots.
Ms. Dana Lyons Wilkins, a Campaigner and Global Witness, raised some excellent points. She mentioned the fact that when Southern Sudan obtains its independence it will become the most oil dependent state in the world. This means that in order to prevent Southern Sudan from becoming another victim of the resource curse there will have to be legal framework put into place so that the government functions in a way which allows for constant transparency. Corruption and a lack of transparency in Sudan is what led to a total distrust in government there and this problem must be avoided in Southern Sudan. With the oil refineries in Northern Sudan and the actual oil in Southern Sudan there must be a decline in hostility and an agreement of respect between these two nations.
The Honorable Roger Winter spoke next. He spoke with great intensity about the severity of current conditions in Sudan. He focused on the fact that President Bashir has no history of maintaining any agreement he has made, but that he rather uses agreements to buy himself time to do what he wants. This is why Mr. Winter believes that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) holds no true relevance in Sudan. Winter's greatest fear and what he believes is very likely is that after July 9th when the border becomes closed between North and South Sudan Bashir will commit another genocide against the people of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile because of their sympathetic views towards the South.
The Honorable Princeton Lyman, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, was the next witness to speak and he began with the need to obtain international opinion on Sudan moving forces into Abyei. There needs to be pressure on Bashir to withdraw troops from that region in order to decrease the possibility of continued violence. We are trying to strengthen UN presence in Abyei by asking Ethiopian troops to go there, they are willing to uphold the UN mandate. There is also an agreement in the works for Southern Kordofan, which included the end of hostilities and the allowance of foreign aid, but it is not as far along as the Abyei agreement.
Ambassador Lyman was then asked by the subcommittee what possible consequences the Northern Sudan government will face for their actions against the people of Sudan. Ambassador Lyman explained that Sudan has an incredible amount of national debt and after July 9th they will be losing 60% of their revenue with the loss of southern oil fields. Without reaching out to the international community and acting peacefully towards Southern Sudan Northern Sudan will struggle tremendously. The hearing was powerful and brought attention to the fact that Sudan needs to remain a priority for American foreign policy and for multilateral organizations such as the U.N. We are at a point, less than a month before Southern Sudan reaches independence, where we can either work to prevent a possible genocide along the border of Sudan and Southern Sudan, or ignore the cries of people searching for a more peaceful way of life.