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Responding to Genocide in Sudan
Barriers to Peace, International Indifference, and the Need for Tough Diplomacy
By Stephen M. Doane

More people have died due to the current war in Sudan than in the recent conflicts of Bosnia, Chechnya, Haiti, Kosovo, Rwanda and Somalia combined. Despite the magnitude of the ongoing affliction, Sudan has gone largely unnoticed by the world. This paper will demonstrate that the prolonged military conflict in Sudan is a genocide of shockingly horrific proportions; it will explore how the international response to such human rights abuse has been slow and weak; and it will explain why recent political developments call for immediate action on behalf of the oppressed.

Historical Background

Regional strife between the northern and southern areas of Sudan has occurred for centuries, but the current animosity stems directly from the unnatural political union arranged in preparation for Sudan’s independence from Britain in 1956. North Sudan is comprised primarily of Arab and racially mixed (part Arab-part African) populations. Most are Muslim and feel a strong cultural association with Arabs of the Middle East. South Sudan is home to a myriad of African ethnicities, including the Dinka, Nuer, Azande, Bari, Shilluk, as well as racially mixed peoples. Some practice tribal religions while others practice Christianity, and most of them want to remain culturally separate from their neighbors. Therefore, during its period of control, the British colonial government operated with the understanding that the Sudanese residing in the south were culturally and racially distinct from their northern counterparts. Nonetheless, in a 1947 conference to determine the political future of the Sudan territory, Sir James Robertson, the British civil secretary, declared that the people of southern Sudan were “inextricably bound for future development to the Middle East and Arabs of the northern Sudan.”1 Many of the southern representatives present were not ready to accept the unity of the Sudan (due in large part to prior deception from the North), yet they were not given the opportunity to present their case. Since the country’s inception, the decision of the conference has been the foundation upon which the northern government justifies repression of southern politicians and military forces in the name of preserving the unity of the nation, a unity never legitimized by the southern people.

This result encouraged northern politicians to hold the contrived attitude that “the Sudan is an integral part of the Arab Nation. Anybody dissenting from this view must quit the country.”2 This mindset has intensified through to the present day, and exists along with the widespread belief that southerners are ignorant, backward, confused, pagan savages.3 Today, 60% of the Sudanese population is non-Arab and 30% are non-Muslim,4 yet the government continues to insist that the national language be Arabic and the state religion be Islam, thereby disrespecting the southern right to self-assertion. The resolute will of many northerners to make Sudan an Arab and Islamic nation originates from the belief that “Arabism has a superior rank than Africanism, based on the way they view the racial hierarchy.”5

The goal of the Sudanese government, to subjugate southerners to a cultural, ethnic, and religious heritage that is not their own, created a civil war which has lasted for 35 of the 46 years since Sudan became an independent nation. Representatives from the South made repeated demands in the years preceding independence that a federal system be adopted to allow for an ample degree of self-rule in the South. Northern leadership (which formed the majority in the Sudanese House of Representatives) consistently ignored these outcries, pausing only once to make a shallow promise to consider the southern desire for federation. The promise, however, turned out to be a ploy intended to appease the southerners so that they would not boycott the vote for independence from Britain. Later realizing the stubbornness of the North toward maintaining its chosen hegemony, southern military forces initiated a civil war, lasting from 1955 to 1972.

The North brokered a loosely defined peace agreement in 1972 by promising regional autonomy for southern Sudan, but only to stall the fighting, as the political parties in the North had no desire to recognize the southern right to self-rule.6 When southern leaders were re-integrated into the Sudanese government, they were treated as second-class citizens, relegated to political positions of little influence.7 The intent of the North became painfully clear and civil war broke out again in 1983. The ravaging of towns by government troops and government-supported militia caused internal displacement of southerners in gigantic proportions; hijacked deliveries of food from international relief agencies resulted in more than 250,000 deaths by famine in 1988 alone, in addition to the direct military casualties.8 Military victories by the southern forces motivated a peace initiative which included the abolishment of Islamic law (Shari’a)9 as the law of the land. However, before the constitutional details of that agreement could be worked out, General Omar Hassan al-Bashir seized power from a democratically elected government in June 1989, establishing a more unyielding military regime in Khartoum and rejecting all previous peace arrangements.

Today, after 13 years, the hostilities are increasingly violent. The government continues indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets in South Sudan, including hospitals, markets, churches, and schools.10 Chemical weapons have been used to attack non-Muslims in the Nuba mountains.11Displaced southerners are often gathered in forced-labor camps as well as re-education camps where children are forced to learn Arabic, memorize the Qu’ran, convert to Islam, and are beaten or tortured if they do not comply.12 Government-sponsored militias freely apply scorched-earth techniques to ruin any good land remaining and abolish whole villages. Women captives are frequently raped; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment are common. Some of this abuse occurs in the context of a large slave trade, supported by Khartoum, reminiscent of the oppression many Africans of South Sudan endured throughout the 19th century. The government of Sudan supplies Baggara tribesmen (Arab cattle herdsmen who live in western Sudan) with weapons and ammunition, and coordinates slave-finding raids so that its military can be present as backup in case the Baggara are attacked by opposition forces. Government armies and government-supported Popular Defense Forces also sell southern women and children as slaves.13 Though their motivations are different, the atrocities of the Baggara, the northern government, and the government-sponsored militias share the same aim of subjecting southerners to permanent subservience.

Over two million South Sudanese have been killed due to war-related causes since 1983. Four to five million more have been displaced from their homes in that time, some of whom face further abuse and discrimination from now living in the Khartoum region. As of last March, the United Nations World Food Program estimates that three million South Sudanese are in danger of starvation.14 Hundreds of thousands of other South Sudanese live in refugee camps dotting the landscape of neighboring countries. In 1998, during one of the bleakest famines of the decade, planes from the United Nations’ famine relief program, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), were restricted by the North from bringing aid to South Sudan.15 Many died because of UN acquiescence to Khartoum demands that dictate where to allow passage of UN-sponsored flights. To this day, the UN still grants the northern government authority over its relief efforts. Undoubtedly, casualties of the genocide in Sudan have been exacerbated by the desire of the international community to respect the sovereignty of the government of Sudan, even though the government does not in any way represent the will of its people.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as official government acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”16 As described above, the policy of the government of Sudan precisely fits this definition.

Failed Peace Attempts

As the livelihood of the South Sudanese has been persistently demolished, there has been a series of intermittent peace talks in which the northern government remains resolutely uncompromising and seems content to prolong the conflict until it can decisively subvert the South on the battlefield. The United States, Nigeria, and a coalition of East African countries have each moderated negotiations, but all have been frustrated by the depth of the ideological chasm separating the two sides.

In the first five years of the Bashir regime, the North and South delegations met nine major times to seek a satisfactory peace. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter served as mediator in the early phases of negotiations, but was surprisingly unprepared for the degree of polarization between the visions of the two opponents. General Bashir asked in 1990 for the U.S. to formally assume the role of arbitrator, but the U.S. misunderstood the political reality behind the pleasantries of his diplomacy. The U.S. strategy was based on the incorrect premise that the Bashir government was ready to let go of its claim on the South, while General Bashir used the occasion simply to procure a temporary cease-fire at a time when the southern forces were achieving substantial military gains.17 This facade of deceptively offering an overture to peace for the sake of military advantage has been used multiple times by the northern government. Further U.S. peacemaking activity in Sudan became unfeasible at the end of 1990, when Khartoum sided with Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. African nations then took America’s place as being the primary arbiters in the conflict. These nations with their own internal struggles had been blind to the severity of the war in Sudan during the 1980s, but by the early 1990s they were concerned about the failing peace talks and the potential regional instability that could erupt from the growing conflict in Sudan. Nigeria in particular accepted the role of mediator.

Negotiations at the two peace conferences in Abuja, Nigeria exposed the frustrating diplomatic behavior of the Khartoum government and clarified the intractable impasse between the political visions of North and South. Two important issues they addressed were the questions of a state religion for all of Sudan and self-determination for South Sudan. Regarding the role of religion in government, a Nigerian mediator reported, “I am sorry to say that we failed to agree on it because it is the view of [the government of Sudan] that Sudan accepts generally the concept of the doctrine that the state shall not adopt any religion as the state religion, but objects to . . . incorporat[ing that acceptance] expressly in . . . the constitution.”18 Responding to the North’s earlier agreement that a statement ensuring no state religion would be acceptable, the southern delegation cried out:

“We stated it on this floor . . . that there is no state religion. For God’s sake, what are you doing? Are you denouncing what you have stated? Are you saying that you did not mean what you were saying? Did you come here to play with words? . . . If the Sudanese government is not willing to yield to a secular constitution, then it is categorically stating that it does not want the unity of the Sudan or that it is prepared to go all the lengths possible to impose unity by force. . . . The threat of the Sudanese government . . . in Africa has to be addressed very very seriously.”19

The North finally wrote into its constitution a guarantee of religious freedom for all Sudanese, but in practice the government still severely restricts religious freedom.20

The Nigerian-moderated peace attempts eventually failed in light of the conflict over religious freedom as well as debate over the role a referendum might play in the South’s desire for self-determination. The North would allow a referendum if it meant that the southerners would choose between different styles of federal government. The South was committed to the principle of self-determination and did not want to preclude the possibility that the populace might choose separation in the form of confederation or even secession. Nigeria, like most other African states, believed in strict maintenance of the original boundaries given to each country upon independence from its colonial government. In the early years of post-colonial Africa, there was a widescale concern that newly delineated borders would crumble under ethnic separatism because that had been the trend of European nationalism. This prediction was not fulfilled, but it made African leaders sensitive to the threat of political fragmentation, and wary of establishing a precedent for creating new nations due to ethnic strife.21 Accordingly, the mediators opposed any potential for division by secession and the issue of referendum was tabled in the government’s favor. Later, the two sides debated the details of a proposed federal system but found it impossible to decide specifics without a constitution also proposed in writing. General Bashir emphasized that he would make no concessions regarding the imposition of Islamic law. Furthermore, the two parties could not agree on mutually beneficial cease-fire terms, so Nigeria adjourned its resolution effort.

A few months later, in September 1993, General Bashir asked regional heads of state from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda in what is now called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to mediate the conflict in Sudan. Bashir expected that their mediation would be favorable to his government, but in May 1994 IGAD leaders created a Declaration of Principles (DOP) that shocked Khartoum. The DOP, while emphasizing the priority of a unified Sudan, dictated stipulations that if not fulfilled, would justify a southern vote for separation. The most controversial and unequivocal of these was the establishment of a secular state. IGAD also made a clear, definitive statement upholding the southern right to self-determination. The North, however, called it, “a concept with no legal or moral basis. Shari’a was ‘irreplaceable’ and partial exemptions for non-Muslims in the South were voluntary concessions, not rights. The GOS [government of Sudan] had a duty to Islamize all of Africa and would only establish a permanent cease-fire once it ensured unity by force.”22 This affront to the pride of the northern government caused its members to elucidate their unacceptable agenda with utmost clarity.

Since 1994, scant progress has been achieved in reconciling the two opponents because both sides believe that their goals would be thwarted by the conditions of peace currently offered. Circumstances unrelated to the war prompted the UN to pass a Security Council resolution in 1996 condemning the Khartoum government. Uganda and Eritrea also severed diplomatic relations with Sudan for a time and the Clinton administration issued an Executive Order in 1997 creating comprehensive trade sanctions against Sudan. This international disfavor, plus a string of military defeats, motivated now-President Bashir to renew IGAD-mediated talks with the South and to accept the DOP as foundation to negotiations in July 1997.

However, the northern government has continued its duplicitous international actions. At IGAD talks in May 1998, for example, Khartoum announced that it would cease to hinder relief operations, yet the attacks and bombings continued unabated. Since 1999, the Sudanese government has supported new peacemaking efforts from Egypt and Libya, but those have been to no avail. The stalemate continues, with the two parties maintaining divergent views on the role of religion in government, the delineation of the South Sudan area to be granted self-determination, and the nature of the political framework to be established in the interim period between a full cease-fire and a southern referendum.

International Support for the Sudanese Government

Despite Sudan’s egregious offenses against its own citizens, many governments support the aggressor and its policy goals. In addition, the United Nations has been reluctant to rebuke the Sudanese government for its human rights violations, even though annual reports by UN Special Rapporteurs on Sudan explicitly detail such crimes. However, the cooperation with the Sudanese government that hurts the South Sudanese most directly is the development activity of individual oil firms.

The international body most sympathetic to the northern government is the League of Arab States, which passed a resolution in strong support of the reconciliation efforts of its member country.23 Bulgaria, China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and former Soviet Republics have all sold weapons to northern government armies and state-sponsored militias. Last October, the Russian ambassador to Khartoum congratulated the Sudanese government for “reinforcing freedoms.”24 Not content to just sell arms, Russia and China have committed to build large tank factories in Sudan in exchange for oil concessions.25 France has reportedly assisted the government’s military effort by providing satellite pictures of opposition troop deployments as well as strategic locations in the Central African Republic from which to attack southern forces. France has also consistently blocked UN Security Council resolutions submitted by the U.S. and intended to isolate the Khartoum regime, because France views the southern opposition as a security threat rather than a legitimate political movement.

This widespread friendliness toward Bashir’s government may explain why the UN has been so weak-willed in asserting its plans such as famine relief within Sudanese territory. What is most ironic, however, is Sudan’s membership on the UN Human Rights Commission, whose mission is to “review observance of human rights worldwide, discuss reported violations, consider new ways to promote and protect human rights, and encourage countries to respect their populations’ basic rights and freedoms.”26 The hypocrisy of selecting such an abusive government to judge other human rights violators reveals the extent to which the world has turned a blind eye to the genocidal actions of the government of Sudan.

Another embarrassment is the response of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to the slavery endemic in Sudan. After initially denying that the problem of slavery existed, UNICEF eventually committed to a program that would demand freedom of movement for international monitors of the slave trade. It would also enact efforts to retrieve, trace, and reunite slaves with their families. When asked about the proposed budget for the program, a UNICEF spokesman replied that the agency “has not begun any concrete action on these objectives pending an agreement with the Sudanese government, nor has a budget been determined. . . . If we reach an agreement, resources will be found.”27 It is illogical that an endeavor to rectify human rights abuses would seek the consent and guidance of the government committing those transgressions. The government of Sudan does not even acknowledge that there is a slavery problem, much less that it is complicit in propagating the slave trade. Even more disturbing is the fact that relief funding provided by UNICEF is used to support the government concentration camps where refugees are compelled to convert to Islam and to perform forced labor.28

Unfortunately, foreign investment helps Khartoum exploit and export Sudan’s oil reserves. Most of the operations are located in South Sudan, and civilians are violently relocated so the government can secure these areas and protect them from opposition attack. Oil-rich areas are currently among the most dangerous places in Sudan. Some oil companies contend that their investments do not contribute to subjugation of southerners, but Khartoum readily admits that its military expenditures have more than doubled since 1998, when the government did not receive any oil revenue. Current income from oil production is estimated at $1 billion per year29 and is certain to increase as new oil reserves are discovered. Even more conspicuous is the direct military assistance provided by these companies:

“China’s petroleum firm reportedly purchased a high-tech radar system for the government last year. It was installed last summer, and since then government bombing raids against southern targets (mostly churches and humanitarian relief operations) have increased . . . . [The targeted] have confirmed 152 air attacks last year [2000]. Talisman Energy opened to government forces an airstrip that it built near its oil concession.”30

Until recently, the northern government had been suffering significant military defeats, with a large majority of South Sudan controlled by southern forces. This boosted southern morale and gave their leadership increased bargaining ability in peace talks. The windfall of revenue from oil production, however, has been more than enough for Khartoum to purchase sufficient military firepower to permanently eradicate the South Sudanese opposition. This impending possibility correlates with the stated vision and previous action of the despotic Khartoum regime, and this threat must not be taken lightly.

Potential Intervention by the United States

The current political situation of the North has created an opportune time for a favorable peace agreement between Khartoum and the opposition armies in Sudan. In light of the greatly increased funding for the government of Sudan’s military offensives, now is a critical juncture for the United States to decide how to intervene on behalf of the oppressed of South Sudan. The pending result of debate over the Sudan Peace Act, a bill introduced in Congress last January, will determine the level of U.S. commitment to peace in Sudan.

General Bashir was recently re-elected to his second term as President of Sudan, but almost all the major opposition groups boycotted the election, accusing the government of rigging the electoral process. Therefore, only about 5-7% of the eligible population voted, placing Bashir’s legitimacy in doubt.31 In order to protect Bashir’s agenda, arrests of political dissidents and crackdowns on freedom of speech are commonplace. This has heightened tension and determination for change among the northern political elite. When Bashir first assumed power in the military coup of 1989, the largest opposition groups in the North formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to champion the terms of peace they had arranged with the southern army, rather than prolong the war as Bashir desired. Eventually, the NDA recognized its need for military involvement and loosely joined with the southern forces to push Bashir towards a favorable peace resolution. Recent achievements by the NDA include the destruction of a government plane, fuel depot, and ammunition storage, as well as the explosion of a newly completed pipeline in northeast Sudan.32 The NDA understands the strategic importance of oil revenue, helps to weaken the government’s military forces, and is perhaps at the height of its strength in its 13-year history. At the same time, the government of Sudan is vigorously seeking foreign investment to build its economy and President Bashir is attempting to convince the world that he is a moderate leader eager to bring peace to his country.

The Clinton administration’s policy of condemnation and isolation of the Khartoum regime was an important first step toward defending the interests of the South Sudanese, but it proved insufficient to effect change in Sudanese government actions. Instead of glossing over injustice for political expedience, concerned nations must repeatedly denounce the agenda of the northern government in order to motivate multilateral intervention from the international community. One facet of the Sudan Peace Act (H.R. 2052, 107th Congress)33 is for the U.S. to sponsor a UN condemnation of the northern government every time it subjects civilians to aerial bombing. Other parts of the bill include a call for the UN to provide mechanisms to eliminate slavery in Sudan, an attempt in the UN to remove the veto power of the Khartoum government over OLS relief efforts, and a contingency plan to divert up to 100% of U.S. aid funds to non-OLS relief agencies should the northern government exercise its veto power. If the international community has any conscience for justice in Sudan, it will support these three UN resolutions and vindicate the UN’s poor record in Sudan. The U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN and the UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan together should also ensure that no UNICEF or World Food Program funds are used by the Khartoum government for oppressive ends. It is vital that the U.S. make a concerted effort to convince other countries not to remain idle while the Sudanese government destroys the lives of many of its people.

Another provision in the Sudan Peace Act demands a report detailing what financing of Sudan’s oil exploitation projects occurred in the United States or through the facilitation of U.S. citizens. This is partly an allusion to the listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) of six international firms who are major participants in developing the Sudanese oil industry: China National Petroleum Corporation, Sweden’s Lundin Oil, Malaysia’s Petronas, Royal Dutch Shell, Canada’s Talisman Energy, and France’s Total/Fina. Human rights agencies have begun a divestment campaign in the last few years encouraging everyone from individual stockholders to large mutual funds to unload shares of stock in these companies, in order to proclaim that Sudanese lives are more valuable than money. In September 2000, New York City sold the 186,000 Talisman shares in its pension plan accounts and the comptroller explained the course of action saying:

“I believe a company that is doing business in a country under a repressive regime must not provide financing or other resources for the perpetuation of wrongdoing or atrocities. As long-term investors, we believe a company that is cavalier about its moral and social responsibility presents an unacceptable investment risk. The expanding divestment campaign against Talisman Energy for alleged complicity in the horrors in Sudan is just one indication of that risk.”34

If these oil companies could see the long-term financial benefits of investing in political stability as opposed to only a short-term gain, they could use their substantial economic leverage to help the opposition groups negotiate a just, satisfying peace with the government. Concerned activism can manifest itself not only in resolutions of condemnation, but also in providing an alternative vision to oppressors of the greater glory associated with justice and equality.

The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom recommends that capital market sanctions be applied to all companies involved in the Sudanese oil industry, including de-listing them from the NYSE. U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus introduced an amendment to the Sudan Peace Act that would “prohibit any entity engaged in the development of oil or gas in Sudan from raising capital in the United States; or from trading its securities . . . in any capital market in the United States.”35 The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives last June by a 422-2 vote. Soon, the Securities Industry Association, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and Wall Street investment banks like Goldman Sachs voiced their opposition to the amendment, claiming that it would weaken the U.S. market competitiveness by causing businesses to list elsewhere. Talisman CEO Jim Buckee admitted, however, that the clause would have its desired effect, saying, “I don’t think anybody could afford not to have access to the U.S. capital markets. No asset is worth that.”36 Indeed, if the bill became law, Talisman said it would sell its share of a large Sudanese oil project.

Regardless, the Bush administration announced that the President would not sign the Sudan Peace Act if it contained the Bachus Amendment. Therefore, the Senate equivalent of the amendment was scrapped from its Sudan Peace Act (S. 180) by a voice vote, meaning that not even one senator opposed the motion. This action was hypocritical since S. 180 still acknowledges that oil money received by the government of Sudan will be used to scale up the lethality of the war effort, and pledges the U.S. to use “all means of pressure available” to resolve the conflict. The final bill passed by the Senate in July 2001 also omitted statements that highlighted the government of Sudan’s aerial bombing and the classification of that government’s actions as genocide.

Increasing Favor Toward the Government of Sudan

A press conference was scheduled in Washington D.C. on the morning of September 11 to urge the Bush administration to support the Bachus Amendment, but it was canceled after the terrorist attacks forced Capitol Hill to evacuate. Hopes for a strong-willed effort by the United States to work for peace in Sudan are likewise in jeopardy because the U.S. government now wants the government of Sudan to be an ally in its war on terrorism.

Shortly after the attacks, Khartoum claimed to have arrested 30 militants accused of terrorist connections and its officials have been cooperating with the CIA to provide valuable intelligence information. The United Nations rewarded Sudan at the end of September by lifting five-year-old sanctions that had been placed on the country for previous terrorist support. While the world praises the Sudanese government for a newfound commitment against “terrorism”, it overlooks the terror that the government continues to inflict on its citizens. In early October, the government of Sudan bombed the village of Mangayath three times within ten days. One of the bombings was intentionally planned right before a UN scheduled humanitarian aid drop, prompting the UN to halt all further relief operations in that area.37 This example is representative of the war policy pursued daily by the Sudanese government, which certainly does not merit commendation by world leaders.

President Bush was quoted last May saying, “Sudan is a disaster area for human rights. . . . my administration will continue to speak and act for as long as the persecution and atrocities in the Sudan last.”38 Nonetheless, on September 19, just before a joint congressional committee was to be formed to finalize the content of the Sudan Peace Act, the Bush administration tabled those plans citing national security reasons and since then have been slow to revive deliberation. In the last Congress, two similar bills languished and were ultimately rejected. Meanwhile, there is pressure on the U.S. to follow the UN example and drop its trade sanctions against Sudan. Southern opposition warns, “a move by the [United States] to end its embargo against Khartoum would directly undermine peace efforts in the country.”39 There is a sentiment among many U.S. government officials that the counter-terrorism assistance of Sudan is a promising development that will lead Sudan to greater openness towards the U.S., and that legislation such as the Sudan Peace Act should not be allowed to obstruct such a relationship. However, the destructive agenda of Bashir’s government remains as focused as ever. It would be sadly ironic if the deaths of thousands of civilians on September 11 provide a pretext that the Sudanese government could use to kill many more thousands of civilians with international impunity.


The two greatest barriers to peace in Sudan are the unwillingness of the North to accept a pluralistic society and the mistrust with which the South views the North. Historically, the North has earned this suspicion by frequently reneging on political arrangements with the South. Southerners question whether they can ever believe political promises made by northern leaders. The North needs to prove to the South that it can be trusted, and the international community needs to convince the North that it is in its best interest to secure peace with the South. Two scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. summarized this in their policy recommendation to the Bush administration, saying, “realistically, the only viable course to end Sudan’s war and see progress in other critical areas is through a hard-nosed strategy based on diplomacy, heightened engagement with all parties, enhanced inducements and punitive measures, and concerted multilateral initiatives.”40

At the height of U.S. interest in the plight of Sudanese citizens last March, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell testified, “there is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the Earth today than the tragedy that is unfolding in the Sudan.”41 He spoke correctly, describing it as a great tragedy, but in fact this tragedy finished unfolding years ago and has already released its havoc on an entire generation of Africans. The dream of successive Khartoum regimes for a Sudan that would be fully Muslim and gloriously Arab is essentially a manifestation of the feeling of cultural, ethnic, and religious superiority that characterizes the northern political elite. This feeling of superiority has been manifested through gross societal inequality and mistreatment of “inferior” Africans living under Arab rule since independence. The governments of President Bashir and others, however, have taken this mistreatment one step further and have pursued a plan of military subjugation of genocidal magnitude, which has threatened to eradicate forever the preferred way of life of millions of Africans, even entire cultures.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail wrote to Secretary Powell in February of last year in hopes of mending the U.S.-Sudan relationship, saying, “the past, while important as teacher, is nonetheless, the past.”42 If the genocide were past as Ismail claimed, the horrors of the war in Sudan would not continue to afflict southern civilians as they do. On the contrary, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha spoke to soldiers last October saying, “the jihad is our way and we will not abandon it and will keep its banner high.”43 Immediate U.S. involvement is essential to bring about a peaceful solution and to ensure this time that peace talks do not degenerate into a mere time-saving military tactic, but are strenuously pursued to the end. A prerequisite to any serious peace negotiation is the passage of legislation such as the Bachus Amendment to prove that America is committed to using its powerful voice on behalf of Sudanese who currently have no say in their political future. As Bachus said himself:“Expanding U.S. sanctions in the area of capital markets access specifically targets what is the most significant revenue the Sudanese government has to prosecute the war. Obviously, the United States must send a new message and we must make that message stick. Stop the killing, stop the murder and torture, end the terror, or we end the investment. Can’t have it both ways. It is immoral to finance a war machine you know is wrong. America has to walk the walk.”44

Bachus points out the double standard of restricting investment in Sudan through the U.S. trade embargo, but facilitating investment through U.S. capital markets. Soon the American government will have to choose one of those two positions. This decision will demonstrate whether the U.S. relationship to South Sudanese involves political resolve or indifference. As a resident of South Sudan said recently to an American diplomatic delegation visiting there, “Unless you help us, you will not find us here for long.”45


1 Kulusika, Simon E. Southern Sudan: Political and Economic Power Dilemmas and Options (London: Minerva Press, 1998) 67.

2 Ibid., pg. 56.

3 Kulusika, Southern Sudan provides a thorough look at the historical role of ethnic prejudice in Sudanese politics.

4 The World Factbook 2001 - Sudan. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (Nov. 26, 2001).

5 Jok, Jok Madut. War and Slavery in Sudan (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) 77.

6 Kulusika, pg. 88.

7 Lagu, Joseph. Comment Made at the Conference on “The Southern Sudan Problem and the Prospects of Peace,” April 26, 1998. The Sudan Foundation. (Nov. 26, 2001).

8 Rone, Jemera. “Famine in Sudan, 1998.” Human Rights Watch. (Nov. 26, 2001).

9 Shari’a law is a set of comprehensive guidelines regulating all aspects of public and private life, which is based on the authority of the Muslim religion. For a discussion of the development of shari’a and its role in nation-states, read: Utvik, BjÀrn Olav and VikÀr, Knut S. The Middle East in a Globalized World. (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2000) 220-250.

10 Dagne, Ted. “Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism and U.S. Policy.” Congressional Research Service Issue Brief No. 98043, Updated April 27, 2001, p. 11.

11 Rubin, Michael. “Uncivil.” The New Republic, October 22, 2001; pg. 14.

12 United States. Cong. Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Africa. Committee on International Relations. House of Representatives. America’s Sudan Policy: A New Direction?. 107th Congress, 1st session. Washington: GPO, 2001; p. 26.

13 Colloquially speaking, Arabs in the North use the word abd (slave) to describe filthy and immoral people, and they apply this term generally to all South Sudanese, showing their perceived racial superiority through the belief that southerners are naturally slaves. Jok, War and Slavery in Sudan is an excellent resource on the motivations behind slave trading and its current extent in Sudan.

14 Phillips, James. “To Stop Sudan’s Brutal Jihad, Support Sudan’s Opposition.” The Heritage Foundation. (Nov. 26, 2001).

15 Rone, Jemera. “Famine in Sudan, 1998.” Human Rights Watch. (Nov. 26, 2001).

16 United Nations. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (Dec. 1, 2001).

17 Wondu, Steven and Lesch, Ann. Battle for Peace in Sudan: An Analysis of the Abuja Conferences 1992-1993 (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 2000) 15.

18 Ibid., pg. 46.

19 Ibid., pg. 47.

20 United States. Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Sudan, September 9, 1999. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Department of State. (Nov. 26, 2001).

21 Touval, Saadia. The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1972).

22 Wondu and Lesch, pg. 156.

23 Sudan Daily News, Issue No. 170, March 29, 2000. Sudan Embassy in South Africa. (Nov. 26, 2001).

24 Englund, Will. “Russia Republic, Sudan Seek Deals on Arms, Oil.” Baltimore Sun, October 23, 2001; Telegraph, 1A.

25 Russian tanks for Sudan oil, March 14, 2001. ViTrade. (Nov. 26, 2001).

26 About the Commission on Human Rights. U.S. Delegation to the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. (Nov. 26, 2001).

27 United States. Cong. Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Africa. Committee on International Relations. House of Representatives. Crimes Against Humanity in Sudan. 106th Congress, 1st session. Washington: GPO, 1999; p. 67.

28 Gillis, Charlie. “Sudan camps feed on religious hate, UN largesse.” National Post, December 1, 1999. htm (Dec. 2, 2001).

29 “Coming out of the cold.” The Economist, October 4, 2001. Story_ID=807792 (Nov. 26, 2001).

30 Belz, Mindy. “Blood for oil.” World Magazine, March 10, 2001. (Nov. 26, 2001).

31 United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World. Geneva: UNHCHR, February 16, 2001; p. 2.

32 “Sudan oil pipeline blown up, exports normal.” Reuters, May 2, 2000.,1690,19405,00.html (Nov. 26, 2001).

33 Bill text can be found at

34 Reeves, Eric. New York City Divests From All Shares of Talisman Energy, September 14, 2000. The American Anti-Slavery Group. (Nov. 26, 2001).

35 See Section 9 of H.R.2052.EH at

36 Battle Lines Being Drawn on Sudan Capital Markets Sanctions, August 10, 2001. The Center for Security Policy. (Nov. 26, 2001).

37 “The Sudan Test.” Washington Post, October 13, 2001; Page A26. (Nov. 26, 2001).

38 Remarks by the President to the American Jewish Committee, May 3, 2001. The White House. (Nov. 26, 2001).

39 Achieng, Judith. “Lifting of Embargo Could Shake Regional Alliance.” Inter Press Service, October 4, 2001.

40 Deng, Francis M. and Morrison, J. Stephen. Sudan’s War: Report of the CSIS Task Force on U.S.-Sudan Policy, (Washington: CSIS, February 2001), 2.

41 McGrory, Mary. “Suddenly, Sudan.” Washington Post, March 11, 2001. 20sudan.htm (Nov. 26, 2001).

42 Aidi, Hisham. “Slavery, Sudan, and Domestic Politicking.”, May 15, 2001. /index_20010515.htm (Nov. 26, 2001).

43 Begos, Kevin. “U.S. Considers the Two Faces of Sudan.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 25, 2001; General, pg. A7.

44 Rosenthal, A.M. “Of Slavery, Oil Money, and Human Rights.” Washington Times, July 30, 2001. (Nov. 26, 2001).

45 Lacey, Mark. “U.S. Envoy Looks for Change in Sudan.” New York Times, November 18, 2001.