After Assault on Abyei, U.S. Must Adopt a Consequence-based Sudan Policy: Rights Groups

Washington - The U.S. government’s incentive-oriented policy toward Sudan has not achieved its objectives. The Khartoum regime has militarily occupied Abyei, escalated bombing and aid cut-offs in Darfur, and increased support for ethnic militias throughout the South.  The process toward normalization between the U.S. and Sudan should be suspended and offered incentives should be supplanted by escalating consequences for government officials in Khartoum and any other party that promotes violence, commits human rights abuses, and targets civilians, said a group of prominent anti-genocide and human rights advocacy organizations.

Over the weekend, the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, responded disproportionately to an attack by a southern unit on a U.N.-escorted convoy by indiscriminately bombarding and occupying the contested Abyei region along Sudan’s North-South border. This prompted the civilian population of Abyei town to flee. Confidential reports seen by the Enough Project describe northern-affiliated Popular Defense Force, or PDF, militias fighting alongside the SAF, and the U.N. Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS has condemned “burning and looting” perpetrated by armed elements in Abyei town.

“If there is no cost to the Khartoum regime’s commission of atrocities and to the dishonoring of agreements, then why would anything change in Sudan?” said Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast. “Darfur is deteriorating, Abyei is a war zone, and pockets of the South have been set aflame by Khartoum-supported militias.  It is time to impose serious consequences for the Khartoum regime’s use of overwhelming military force to deal with every challenge it faces.”

The Government of Sudan must also ensure that violence does not escalate.  It should ensure that any of its security forces involved in violence are held to account and it should refrain from taking any action that would increase the likelihood of a widespread conflict along the border.

The northern army’s rapid seizure of Abyei using aerial bombing, artillery shelling, and main battle tanks follows a massive military buildup documented by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP). SSP has documented the razing of three villages in Abyei by northern-aligned forces; attack helicopters and tanks within driving range of Abyei; the upgrading of roads; and the construction of onsite fueling capacity at an airbase which enabled the rapid assault that occurred over the weekend. South Sudan has also built up its own forces in the area, and its security forces have been involved in blocking U.N. peacekeeping forces and allegedly carrying out provocative actions.

Militia-instigated violence has escalated across strategic areas of Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states in recent months, with a particularly sharp surge of violence in Mayom County, Unity State this past week. Unity State is adjacent to the Abyei region and both borders and hosts lucrative oil fields.

“The assault on Abyei did not occur in a vacuum.  The evident coordination between the SAF assault on Abyei and the upsurge in militia attacks in Unity suggests a deliberate effort by Khartoum to undermine prospects for peace,” said Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw. 

U.S. and international policy toward Sudan has been premised on the willingness of the government in Khartoum to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, accept the secession of the South following the self-determination referendum, and negotiate a settlement on flashpoint issues including Abyei’s status, oil sharing, and the demarcation of the border.

“This weekend’s assault on Abyei demonstrates that rather than honoring peace agreements, the Khartoum regime has once again chosen a military strategy that places civilians at tremendous risk and flies in the face international humanitarian law,” stated Mark Hanis, Co-founder and President of Genocide Intervention Network / Save Darfur Coalition.  “Rather than premising U.S. policy on the false hope that normalized relations with the United States are sufficient to secure the cooperation of Khartoum, the Obama administration should seize this moment to develop robust consequences for this behavior. “

The groups are calling for the United States to immediately suspend progress toward normalization with Sudan, including the review of its status as a state sponsor of terror, as well as any steps towards review of debt relief or the lifting of sanctions.  Specifically, they called for:

  • The United States to demand the immediate cessation of offensive operations and the withdrawal of the SAF from the Abyei area;
  • Immediate U.S. imposition of unilateral sanctions on individuals, whether representing North or South, implicated in violence;
  • The U.S. government to begin planning for contingency scenarios for civilian protection in Sudan;
  • The United States to convene an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council and propose the rapid establishment of a targeted sanctions regime for anyone responsible for violence against civilians in Sudan;
  • The U.N. Security Council to accelerate planning for emergency steps to protect civilians from violence; and
  • The U.N. to expand and strengthen existing U.N. sanctions regime for Darfur.
  • “We are less than two months away from Southern independence. The status of Abyei was to be determined through negotiation, not military occupation,” said Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service. “In response to this deplorable turn of events, we must suspend our efforts to normalize relations with Sudan. There must be serious consequences and measures of accountability for those who engage in violence and undermine peace negotiations. The world must not be silent. We cannot be resigned to indifference in the face of violence.”

 

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Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.

The Save Darfur Coalition and Genocide Intervention Network merged on November 1, 2010 to create a more powerful voice dedicated to preventing and stopping large-scale, deliberate atrocities against civilians. The organization remains committed to its work to end the crisis in Darfur and bring peace to all of Sudan as well as to end violence in other areas of mass atrocities such as Congo and Burma.  The merger creates the world’s largest anti-genocide organization, with a membership base of hundreds of thousands of committed activists globally, an unparalleled nationwide student movement, more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights partner organizations, and a network of institutional investors with over $700 billion in assets under management.

American Jewish World Service(AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism's imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community. www.ajws.org

Stop Genocide Now (SGN) is a grassroots community dedicated to working to protect populations in grave danger of violence, death and displacement resulting from genocide. Through active education, advocacy and policy change SGN resolves to change the way the world responds to genocide. SGN is currently focused on creating awareness and action to stop the genocide in Darfur and deal appropriately with its aftermath. All of our projects focus on and utilize the strength and power in grassroots connectivity. For information, visit www.stopgenocidenow.org.

Investors Against Genocide is a non-profit organization dedicated to convincing mutual fund and other investment firms to change their investing strategy so as to avoid complicity in genocide. The organization works with individuals, companies, organizations, financial institutions, the press, and government agencies to build awareness and to create financial, public relations, and regulatory pressure for investment firms to change. The ultimate goals are that the Government of Sudan ends its deadly genocide in Darfur and that investment firms avoid investing in genocide. For more information, visit www.investorsagainstgenocide.org.