Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s committee briefing entitled “Sudan at the Crossroads”:
Madam Chairman, thank you very much for calling this timely briefing.
I want to begin by congratulating you on your new position as Chairman. I’d also like to congratulate the new subcommittee chairs. I really look forward to working with all of you in the 112th Congress.
At the outset, I’d also like to commend Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Donald Payne and other Members on both sides of the aisle for their leadership on Sudan, especially their efforts to focus the world’s attention on the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Khartoum regime against the people of South Sudan and Darfur.
Their work on these critical issues inspired two major pieces of legislation -- the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004 and the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006 – along with a number of resolutions condemning the regime for crimes against humanity.
Madam Chairman, this past week marked a historic moment for the people of South Sudan, who fought a 22-year civil war to arrive at this moment of self-determination. While we do not know the official results of the referendum, it is clear that the vote will almost certainly result in independence for the South.
As we consider this milestone, it is important that we remember the late President John Garang Mabior (MAH-BE-OR) who led the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement and Army through the long civil war – a terrible conflict that resulted in the deaths of over 2 million South Sudanese, and the displacement of millions more.
Before his tragic death in a helicopter crash in July 2005, Garang negotiated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Khartoum. That Agreement provided for the referendum and other events we will examine today.
After his election in 2008, President Obama undertook a bold review of US policy towards Sudan and set out a new vision focused on intensive diplomacy.
This new strategy required significant changes in behavior by the Khartoum government. It demanded verifiable progress towards a settlement between the North and South, as well as progress in Darfur.
The President’s new approach was met with great skepticism by many of us in Congress and the advocacy community – in part because it required direct engagement with a Sudanese government that had committed genocide and other gross violations of human rights.
To carry out the new policy, President Obama appointed retired Air Force Major General Jonathan Scott Gration as Special Envoy to Sudan.
Gration – a son of missionaries who was raised in Congo – assembled a team and developed a diplomatic strategy to realize the President’s vision.
Our first witness today, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, also deserves great credit for his diplomatic efforts to complete the “roadmap” that helped deliver Khartoum’s final cooperation on the CPA and the referendum.
Today, we can see the results of the Obama Administration’s hard work -- the voting for the referendum has taken place peacefully and a major goal of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has been achieved.
There are, of course, as the Chairman mentioned earlier, many outstanding issues to resolve before independence is finalized in July.
A referendum on the status of the oil-producing Abyei region has yet to take place. And agreements need to be reached on the sharing of oil revenue, the division of national debt, and the delineation of borders.
There is also the thorny issue of citizenship. Should the South vote to form a new independent state, there are fears that Southerners in the North and Northerners in the South could be left stateless and vulnerable to political violence.
Finally, there is the crucial issue of peace in Darfur, which still eludes us today. We must not forget the innumerable atrocities that have taken place in that region of Sudan.
In 2004, Congress and Bush Administration declared that the events in Darfur constituted genocide. And in 2008, the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, and two counts of murder.
I am encouraged that President Obama has remained focused on Darfur and intends to revive the stalled negotiations between Khartoum and the rebel groups in Darfur.
The people of South Sudan have taken a major step towards self-determination. But there are many difficult days ahead. The new nation will face a large number of challenges, from building the basic institutions of statehood, to economic development, to the reintegration of returnees.
And by all accounts, there is very little capacity in South Sudan to meet these daunting challenges.
If South Sudan is to flourish, then the United States, the United Nations and other members of the international community must continue to assist the people of that nation in their transition to independence and democratic rule.
In this context, it is important to recognize the herculean efforts of the United Nations Development Program to help make the referendum a reality.
UNDP supported voter education, delivered ballots for more than 4 million voters on schedule, and helped to establish and equip nearly 3,000 registration centers, and trained over 8,000 staff to manage those centers.
These efforts – and the efforts of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan – underscore the extent to which the UN’s work can support U.S. foreign policy interests and contribute to international peace and security.
Madam Chairman, we would not be where we are today in South Sudan without hard-nosed American diplomacy, the active involvement of the United Nations, and targeted U.S. foreign assistance programs.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today.