Mr. President, the people of the Darfur region of Sudan are crying out for help during their time of despair. It is time for the United States Government to exercise greater international leadership and take greater strides to stave off a humanitarian disaster.
Darfur has been identified as genocide and the international community is permitting it to continue. This is not acceptable.
It is not enough to posture and threaten the Government in Khartoum. It is time to exercise moral leadership and exercise more muscular diplomacy in an area where so little has been accomplished for so many.
Mr. President, the conflict in Darfur has been raging for four years. Since 2003, the Sudanese Government and its allied Janjaweed militia have been fighting the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The SLA and the JEM claimed their aim was to force the Sudanese government to address the underdevelopment and political marginalization in the region.
In response, the government and the Janjaweed targeted the region's civilian population and the ethnic groups from which the rebels draw their support.
Since the fighting began, over 200,000 people have been killed. Approximately 3 million people have fled to internal displacement camps within Darfur, or to neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). None of these options have shielded them from violence as the Janjaweed has patrolled outside the camps and Sudanese warplanes have attacked inside Chad and C.A.R.
Mr. President, in the face of these horrendous conditions, an estimated 14,000 aid workers risk their lives to provide basic human services and comfort to one-third of the population in Darfur. The majority of these aid workers are Sudanese nationals who have banded together to create an unprecedented relief operation.
For its part, the United States provides approximately $1 billion in food aid to the Darfur region. This contribution is one of the few positive developments for the people in Darfur as we have been able to increase the daily nutritional intake. Nonetheless, the violence rages and many aid agencies working in Darfur are unable to gain access to vast areas because of the fighting.
Mr. President, thus far only the African Union (AU) has responded to the call to protect civilians. Unfortunately, the AU troops have been deployed in a slow and limited manner.
The Darfur region is roughly 160,000 square miles, and the AU force is far too small to cover this vast territory. The AU should be commended for shouldering the burden this long.
In August 2006, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1706, to expand the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNIMIS) to include Darfur. The resolution “invites the consent of the Sudanese Government” to allow U.N. forces into Darfur and “authorizes use of 'all necessary means' to protect UN personnel and civilians under threat of physical violence.”
Resolution 1706 calls for a total of 27,000 armed personnel for Sudan. The breakdown includes the 7,000 AU soldiers, 17,000 U.N. blue helmets and 3,000 police officers. This is a significant mission by the United Nations and one that underscores significant international concern about Darfur.
Without question, UN Resolution 1706 caused concern and then foot dragging by the Khartoum government. Khartoum is wary of a robust UN troop presence on its soil for two reasons. First, it fears the investigators from the International Criminal Court (ICC) who will have greater latitude under a U.N. presence. Second, it fears the presence of the U.N. will force them to follow through on the oil revenue sharing agreement with the southern Sudanese
Khartoum views a UN presence as a surrender of sovereignty. However, what it really fears is the ICC investigators being able to gather evidence within its borders. Since the ICC accepted the responsibility of looking into genocide in Sudan, Khartoum has maneuvered mightily to keep its investigators away out of the country.
The ICC and the UN are correct to pursue Sudanese government officials and allied militias for war crimes. In the end, I believe they will find empirical evidence to substantiate trials and convictions for many. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has resisted the UN force since its inception. As he has done repeatedly throughout the Darfur crisis, the he commits and later reneges on commitments and pledges of cooperation in Darfur. For this reason, former U.N. General Secretary, Kofi Annan, gave us a viable Plan A to implement the U.N. force in Sudan.
In November 2006, shortly before his term expired as Secretary General, Kofi Annan proposed a three-phase plan for the implementation of a hybrid U.N.-AU force the Government of Sudan initially agreed to.
The first phase would provide the AU force with 185 of military officers, U.N. police, other international staff and military equipment. The second phase would deploy several hundred U.N. military, police and civilian personnel, along with substantial aviation and logistical assets. The third phase would deploy the remaining forces.
Plan A is a workable option and a win-win for everybody. Unfortunately, President al-Bashir has back pedaled from his initial embrace of Mr. Annan's plan. On November 18, 2006 it was reported Sudan's U.N. Ambassador declared “there will be no UN peacekeepers in Darfur.”
The Ambassador's comments came as Sudanese war planes and Sudanese-backed militias staged fresh attacks in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic.
Mr. President, it is imperative the United States and the international community reinvigorate diplomacy with Sudan in order to move Khartoum to reason. This is what I would describe as the Administration's potential Plan B.
The immediate next steps for Darfur are complex, yet achievable. These include securing a cease fire and protecting humanitarian relief corridors, establishing the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping operation and advancing the political dialogue in Darfur.
Additionally, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice must place Sudan higher on the U.S.-Chinese agenda. Sudan produces some 500,000 and 600,000 barrels of oil per day. China purchases 80% of this oil and invests heavily into Sudan's oil producing infrastructure.
As China continues its diplomatic and economic courtship of African nations, she should be clear about how it intends to deal with despotic and authoritarian governments. The international community has worked hard over the past 20 years for greater progress on democracy and human issues in Africa. Having China thumb its nose at these accomplishments would set a bad precedent for Africa and its allies in the West.
China should be afforded an opportunity to become part of the solution in addressing Sudan's humanitarian concerns.
Diplomacy and economic leverage should be applied to Sudan with the cooperation of China.
Mr. President, the United States has clearly shown what can be accomplished through sustained and concerted diplomatic efforts. After 21 years of fighting we were able to persuade Khartoum to negotiate with the Sudanese People's Liberation Front (SPLF).
This Administration was able to marshal international humanitarian support and the attention of the world to what is happening in Darfur. The United States can provide the vision and the leadership to protect innocent civilians in Darfur.