U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Africa Bureau




House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa

March 22, 1995

Madam Chair and Members of the Committee,

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this subcommittee hearing on Sudan. Our policy toward the largest country in Africa is one of the most difficult accounts in the Africa Bureau's portfolio. Sudan is a tragedy, a country beset by problems which pre-date the current National Islamic Front (NIF)-led regime and which past governments have either failed to address or, particularly in the case of the current NIF regime, exacerbated.


Sudan is a country which is rich in human and natural resources, with great potential for national development and economic contribution to the region. Independent since 1956, Sudan has had a difficult political history, in which its leaders have either failed to provide forthe political enfranchisement of the people or, in the case of democratically-elected governments, simply mismanaged the country. In 1989 a military junta aligned with the National Islamic Front (NIF) overthrew the last democratically-elected government. The NIF strongly advocates Islamist programs and sharia (Islamic law), not only in Sudan, but throughout the region. Like many of its predecessors, the NIF-led government allows little or no meaningful popular political participation and represses the political opposition.

Sudan is a nation of numerous ethnic groups, but there has historically been a distinct division in the country; between the predominately Arab/Muslim north and the predominately African/animist/Christian south. North-South conflict predates independence. However, since independence in 1956, except for the ten years between 1972 and 1983, there has been a bloody civil war in Sudan, with southerners seeking increased autonomy and freedom from the imposition of Islamic (Sharia) law. Government and rebel forces alike have treated the Sudanese people brutally. Over one million people have died in the civil war, which has created in southern Sudan one of the world's largest humanitarian crises. Almost 4.25 million Sudanese need humanitarian assistance, of which several hundred thousand would die without it. Over 500,000 Sudanese have fled the country and are refugees, dependent on the international community and Sudan's neighbors for survival.

A Regime Isolated

The National Islamic Front (NIF)-dominated regime is facing increasing economic, military, and political difficulties. Despite a record harvest this past season in much of the country, Sudan's economy remains in poor shape.

Militarily, the regime's long-awaited dry season offensive was delayed late last year when John Garang's Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) attacked first and besieged the city of Kapoeta in the southern most part of Sudan. Regime forces have relieved Kapoeta and regained some initiative, but they have suffered heavily against a resupplied SPLA and may have to scale back their offensive.

Politically, the Khartoum regime is increasingly isolated. Eritrean President Isaias broke diplomatic relations with Sudan December 5 over Khartoum's support for extremist rebels and is now openly collaborating with the Sudanese northern opposition and the SPLA against the regime. Relations similarly have deteriorated between Khartoum and Ugandan President Museveni over Sudanese support for insurgents in northern Uganda, in retaliation for alleged Ugandan support for the SPLA. Egypt has also charged Khartoum with supporting Egyptian extremists and is involved in a long-running dispute with Sudan over the Hala'ib border area. In short, Khartoum's relations with most of its regional neighbors are not good, primarily because of its support for regional extremists and its intransigence in regional peace talks under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD).

Sudan's human rights record is abysmal. Our recently released country report on human rights in Sudan documents the serious abuses committed by security forces, including massacres, extrajudicial executions, kidnapings, and torture of political opponents.

Sudan's support for terrorists, its abysmal human rights record, and the war-related humanitarian crisis have left it few friends in the world. Sudan purchases most of its oil on the spot market and must pay cash for the weapons and military equipment it receives. Its relationship with China is primarily based on trade, as well as mutual support on issues such as international pressure on their respective human rights records. There has been much talk of developing relations with Iraq, but so far there have been few benefits for either party. Even with Iran, differences between Sudan's predominately Sunni and Iran's predominately Shia Islam, as well as Sudan's inability to pay for purchases of goods and services, cloud the partnership.

The IGADD peace initiative stalemated in September, when Khartoum refused to discuss the two issues of religion and the state and self determination, which the regime equates respectively with secularism and an independent south. In January, the IGADD partners (Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, and Ethiopia) declared that the initiative would continue, but no new talks are scheduled.

The IGADD partners also are seeking U.N. and international support for their initiative. At the request of the partners, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali also agreed to send an observer to future peace talks. Khartoum is loathe to allow U.N. or international involvement in what it considers to be an internal matter and was infuriated by the Secretary General's decision. On February 8, The Netherlands, United States, Norway, Canada, and Italy formed the "Friends of IGADD" group under Dutch leadership to generate international support. The Friends group is planning to meet again on April 5 in the Hague.

The Regime is Intact and Resilient

Notwithstanding the bleak picture which I just described, the Government of Sudan has shown no inclination toward positive change. Indeed, the regime's reaction to outside pressure has been to reinforce NIF domination of the Government. A recent shake-up resulted in the replacement of the Foreign Minister, the last relative moderate in the government, with a NIF hardliner. Elections planned for later this year and ongoing efforts to institute federalism in Sudan are unlikely to compromise the NIF's domination.

The NIF-led government is unpopular with most of the Sudanese people. On several occasions during the past two years, economic frustrations boiled over into civil disturbances which, though quickly suppressed, were troubling to the regime. It is unlikely, however, that popular discontent with the NIF will result in political change in the forseeable future. There is presently no credible political alternative to the ruling National Islamic Front.

Sudan's political opposition groups are weak, divided amongst themselves, and suppressed by Government security services. Opposition leaders frequently exaggerate their ability to effect political change in Sudan. Perhaps most importantly, the political opposition is generally discredited in the eyes of many Sudanese, having been associated with past governments which, like the NIF, mismanaged the economy, prosecuted the civil war, allowed the humanitarian crisis to develop, and showed little respect for human rights.

The southern rebels also have little to offer the Sudanese people. John Garang's Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and Riak Machar's South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) are fractioned and factioned, both internally and against each other. The SPLA and SSIM have poor human rights records. A number of Riak's commanders have allied themselves with Khartoum. Longstanding inter-tribal conflict makes other commanders quick to switch sides and turn their weapons on each other. Forced conscription of boys by rebel militias has also been a problem. Finally, both the SPLA and the SSIM regularly loot, harass, and obstruct international relief efforts for needy southern Sudanese.

U.S. Interests and U.S.-Sudanese Bilateral Relations

U.S. interests vis-a-vis Sudan include deterring Sudanese support for terrorism and regional extremism, supporting an end to the civil war, encouraging the restoration of political/human rights, and ending the humanitarian crisis.

U.S.-Sudanese bilateral relations are poor. What was once a close and cooperative relationship deteriorated markedly after the 1989 overthrow of the democratically-elected government and plummeted after Sudan was placed on the Terrorism List in August 1993. Although Khartoum had for some time been considered a dangerous place for American diplomats, the increasingly hostile bilateral relationship and threatening security environment following the Terrorism List decision caused us to reduce significantly our diplomatic presence in Khartoum. Embassy Khartoum's staffing remains limited, and travel to Khartoum by USG visitors is subject to both Embassy and Department review and approval. Although the threat of terrorism is much less in the south, the ongoing civil war requires that we also monitor and approve official USG visits in the south (mostly USAID emergency program monitoring teams).

In 1992 in Juba, two Sudanese employees of USAID were executed by the regime, allegedly for assisting the SPLA. Two more Sudanese USAID employees were also taken and are believed to have been killed. We have told Khartoum that there must be an accounting for these atrocities before our relations improve.

The Khartoum regime has worked hard to portray U.S. policy toward Sudan as reflecting an anti-Sudanese and anti-Islamic bias. Such allegations are of course without foundation. Our problems with the regime are due to its failure to provide for democratic political institutions, to respect the human rights of its own people, and to end the civil war and humanitarian crisis in the south. In addition, the present NIF-led Government is a sponsor and supporter of major international terrorist groups, which threaten not only Americans, but the rest of the world. Finally, while it has had very limited success, the regime in Khartoum seeks to export its own brand of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, in part by supporting extremist groups such as the Eritrean Islamic Jihad.

Although the U.S. has provided no developmental assistance to Sudan since 1989, we continue to offer generous emergency assistance for the international relief effort for war-affected Sudanese. Since 1983, we have given over $1.6 billion dollars in assistance for Sudan. In this fiscal year alone, we have provided thus far over $28 million in aid, largely in support for the U.N.-led relief effort for the south, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). In addition, the U.S. contributes to the UNHCR and other non-governmental organizations' relief efforts for Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries and non-Sudanese refugees in Sudan itself.

Little Progress

In our bilateral relations and in international fora, the U.S. has tried to persuade Khartoum to address our concerns.

Shortly after the Terrorism List decision, we delivered a stern warning to the regime about the consequences of any Sudanese support for terrorist actions against U.S. interests. In September of 1994, in response to repeated Sudanese requests for evidence of Sudan's support for terrorism, we gave Khartoum solid, incontrovertible information about the location of a military facility north of Khartoum at which training, including small arms familiarization, had been provided to non-Sudanese extremists.

On human rights, we have led the international community at UNGA and in the U.N. Human Rights Commission in condemning human rights violations by both the Sudanese government and the southern rebels. Our Embassy in Khartoum has worked hard to monitor human rights abuses and to bring to public attention the regime's blatant disregard for the human rights of the Sudanese people.

While the U.S. record on humanitarian assistance to the victims of the civil war is a long and generous one, we have repeatedly criticized all of the parties to the conflict for their interference with relief efforts.

Recognizing that ending Sudan's humanitarian crisis can only be achieved by ending the civil war, the U.S. has long been interested in a peaceful settlement to the conflict. In May 1994, Ambassador Melissa Wells was appointed as the President's Special Representative on Sudan, with a mandate to assist regional peace efforts and to insure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy. Ambassador Wells has travelled to the region and has consulted extensively with the IGADD partners, the parties to the conflict, and the international community on ways to progress toward a peaceful settlement.

Unfortunately, I must tell you that both the Khartoum regime and the southern rebels have been unresponsive to our concerns. Khartoum rejected our information on the terrorist training facility out-of-hand and continues to harbor elements of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Abu Nidal Organization, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and other groups. Both Khartoum and the rebels continue to brutalize the Sudanese people and to attack civilian populations and obstruct or loot relief convoys. Finally, while the southern rebels have been somewhat more forthcoming in the IGADD talks, and there was limited agreement on some ways to facilitate humanitarian relief, Khartoum stalemated the talks in September by refusing to cooperate in substantive discussions.

In short, while we have been successful in keeping attention focused on Sudan, we have been unable to effect change in those regime policies and practices of most concern to us. We will maintain bilateral and international pressure on Khartoum. We have not and will not stop looking for ways in which to bring about changes in Khartoum's behavior.

The Sudanese Government must understand that those same policies and practices which we find threatening and objectionable will eventually cause its downfall. If the regime continues on its present course, and when a credible political alternative to the NIF emerges, we believe the Sudanese people will take the steps necessary to restore their legitimate political and human rights, end their suffering, and end Sudan's status as a pariah state in the world.

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


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