A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
April/May 1993, Page 26
Can the U.S. Halt Starvation in Southern Sudan?—Three Views
The U.S. Must Lead the Way
By Roger Winter
Exasperated U. S. policy makers have turned their backs on Sudan over the past 18 months. That must change—quickly. It is time for the United States to step forward to confront Sudan's woeful humanitarian, human rights and political problems.
The U.S. State Department announced last month that it has undertaken "a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Sudan" and is "developing options. " A reassessment of U.S. policy is overdue but nonetheless welcome.
I have visited south Sudan repeatedly in the past 5 years, including twice in the past 10 months, most recently in January. The current phase of Sudan's civil war has dragged on for 10 years. More than a half-million southern Sudanese civilians, ravaged from all sides, have died from war, atrocities, and war-induced famine. More than five million persons have fled their homes or been forcibly uprooted by the government. Some 270,000 southern Sudanese are refugees in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zaire and the Central African Republic.
With so many families torn from their homes, their land, and their livelihood, malnutrition and disease are pervasive throughout south Sudan. There is essentially no adequate medical care. Many regions of the country report wholesale crop failure and loss of livestock due to drought and war. I have visited huge camps where tens of thousands of uprooted southern Sudanese have converged for survival.
Occupants in some camps have been terrorized by Sudan government military aerial bombardments. Residents of other camps fear that they could become targets for ethnic massacres now that the rebel factions in south Sudan have split largely along ethnic lines. Only a handful of relief organizations are operating in the country due to the insecurity and the restrictions imposed by the government in Khartoum.
The abysmal record of human rights abuse by the Sudan government has made the Khartoum regime a pariah for several years, and rightly so. Its rebel opponents also have a record of abuse.
Yet my January visit to south Sudan has persuaded me that the United States possesses greater leverage to influence events there than commonly realized. Sudanese authorities, I believe, are acutely aware of their international isolation. They are even more aware of the U. S. -led international intervention in Somalia, which apparently has intimidated some elements within the Khartoum regime into a reassessment of their policies. The internally driven rebel group, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), meanwhile, is desperately attempting to restructure itself.
These trends make this an opportune time for the U. S. to refocus on Sudan as a political and humanitarian priority. U.S. policy makers should take at least six initiatives:
First, the goal of U.S. policy should be the achievement of a just and lasting end to the war in Sudan. This will require a political settlement, because total military victory by either the government or the SPLA guerrillas is extremely unlikely.
The southern Sudanese, who are largely Christian or practitioners of traditional African religions, have demonstrated their unwillingness to live under Islamic law imposed by Khartoum. The SPLA will continue to survive government military offensives by disappearing into southern Sudan's expansive bush country, from where they can operate with deadly effectiveness as they have in the past.
A final end to Sudan's long conflict will require all sides to agree either on a unified but secular Sudan, or on an independent south Sudan. Only these two options can bring lasting peace.
Secondly, the United States should focus its efforts on facilitating peace negotiations between the government and all factions of the SPLA.
Peace negotiations which exclude some SPLA factions would enable Khartoum officials to misuse the talks as a cynical opportunity to pit SPLA leaders against each other. U. S. government officials should attend the talks as observers and push for measurable results.
Thirdly, the U.S. should escalate the currently inadequate response to Sudan's war victims and displaced people. This requires two initiatives.
The U. S. must work to strengthen Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), the U.N. program that has attempted to provide humanitarian relief to Sudanese civilians since 1989. The United States should work to assure that OLS can deliver relief supplies on the basis of Sudanese humanitarian need, not Sudan government whim.
In addition to Operation Lifeline Sudan, the official U.N. relief program, the U.S. should provide financial and logistical support to smaller non-OLS relief programs, such as Norwegian People's Aid, which assist civilians in rebel-held zones without formal permission from Sudan's government. U.S. support for these small but effective relief programs will save lives and make a political statement to the regime in Khartoum that sovereignty does not legitimize suffering.
Fourthly, the U.S. should work with the United Nations to establish demilitarized zones and safe resettlement routes to help prevent additional civilian casualties.
Southern Sudanese civilians are highly vulnerable as they try to survive in a war zone. They need safe havens where they can receive assistance and engage in productive peaceful enterprises—such as farming, fishing or raising livestock—without fear of attack. These zones should be demilitarized on the ground and in the air, with uninterrupted monitoring by U.N. observers. No faction of the SPLA, local militia, or government forces should be allowed access to these zones.
Fifthly, the U.S. should urge the United Nations to designate a special U.N. envoy and place a team of U.N. human rights monitors in Sudan.
The situation in Sudan demands greater international visibility and scrutiny. The U.S. should insist that the special U.N. envoy report directly to the secretary-general and be designated to negotiate a nationwide cease-fire.
The U. N. Commission on Human Rights took a potentially useful step in March when it assigned a "special rapporteur" to collect information on human rights conditions in Sudan, but more must be done. The U.S. and the U.N. should make a stronger commitment by assigning a large corps of U.N. human rights monitors throughout southern Sudan, particularly in camps for displaced persons, demilitarized zones, along resettlement routes, and in areas of persistent and egregious human rights violations such as the isolated town of lube and the Nuba Mountains. Human rights monitors should also focus attention on the government's harsh treatment of displaced southerners in northern cities.
Finally, the United States should notify neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia and the Central African Republic that relations with the United States will be harmed if they deliberately allow Sudan's army to use their territory as a staging area or a transit point for military attacks.
These measures are necessary to halt Sudan's humanitarian tragedy. Events in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia have proven yet again that the rest of the world fails to respond adequately unless the United States assumes an active role.
Although I believe the measures I have outlined can be effective, there is no guarantee. What is certain is that Sudan's humanitarian disaster will continue if the United States remains on the sidelines.
Roger Winter is director of the U. 5. Committee for Refugees, which monitors and assesses the situations of refugees and displaced people around the world.