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Chair Cardin Opening Remarks at Hearing on Conflict and Humanitarian Emergency in Sudan

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations, delivered opening remarks at the full Committee hearing, “Conflict and Humanitarian Emergency in Sudan: An Urgent Call to Action.” In his remarks, the Chair once again sounded the alarm about the atrocities taking place in the country as war rages on, called for external actors to stop arming the belligerents, and urged Special Envoy Tom Periello to pursue a diplomatic solution.

The hearing comes after the Chair sent a letter to President Biden requesting a determination on whether Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces and its leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, should be subject to sanctions for gross violations of human rights under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The Chair also recently took to the Senate floor to deliver a speech calling for accountability for human rights on the one year anniversary of the start of the civil war in Sudan, and to urge a robust humanitarian response to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.



More information about the hearing is available here.

A copy of the Chair’s remarks, as delivered, are below.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order. Let me welcome our Special Representative and former colleague, Tom Perriello. It is nice to have you here. Thank you for your willingness to take on this incredibly challenging role in regards to Sudan. We recognize that the circumstances are dire and we appreciate your willingness to serve in this capacity and we look forward to your comments today on our ability to engage in a conversation with you.

In recent weeks, the satellite images show evidence of brutal fighting outside Al Fasher. It is the only remaining city in Sudan’s Darfur region the RSF—the [paramilitary] Rapid Support Forces—have not taken over. Eyewitnesses report attacks on over 16 nearby towns with entire villages burned to the ground.

Starving civilians are trying to escape the violence with their belongings on foot. As the death toll climbs, the United Nations has warned that the lives of 800,000 civilians, who are still living in the city, are in danger. It has been more than a year since the current conflict erupted in Sudan between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces.

In the last year, the two sides have killed detainees and indiscriminately bombed civilians, both sides have. They have used rape as a weapon of war, targeting woman of certain ethnic groups. They have conscripted children as soldiers. They have destroyed farmland, looted supplies, and attacked humanitarian workers. Earlier this year, videos emerged of troops chanting ethnic slurs as they paraded the streets holding decapitated heads. 15,000 to 30,000 people have already died. 8 million people have fled their homes. 25 million people—including 14 million children—are in desperate need of food, and water, and medicine.

At the recent humanitarian conference in Paris, the United States announced over $100 million in additional aid to respond to the conflict. Donors committed more than $2 billion dollars—but that is barely half of what the United Nations says it needs in Sudan. And it is not clear whether those promised funds will be turned over any time soon. Meanwhile, the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights released a report last month concluding that the RSF is committing genocide in Sudan.

Today—with the RSF threatening the city of Al Fasher—we are on the brink of a mass atrocity against non-Arab ethnic groups. Analysts say the RSF could unleash another wave of violence, like their assault on West Darfur last year, echoing the atrocities carried out two decades ago by the Janjaweed. Yet the international community has no plan to protect civilians should the RSF mount a full-scale assault. Given the dire circumstances, we welcome the appointment of the Special Representative. I strongly urge the Biden Administration to fully staff your office with the personnel you request as quickly as possible.

Ceasefire after ceasefire has been violated. The risk of further atrocities is high. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have failed. I think we need to make it clear to both parties—and their foreign backers—the cost of continued conflict is higher than the cost of coming to the negotiating table. A report from last year by a United Nations panel of experts found evidence that the UAE was giving arms to the RSF.

I am also deeply concerned by reports that Iran has re-entered the Sudan file, possibly providing drones to the Sudanese Armed Forces. We have seen what Iran’s support for terrorism looks like across the region. These drones can carry significant payloads and they use them for catastrophic consequences to civilian populations. Russia, Egypt, Chad, and Libya have also been implicated in the conflict. None of the external actors are being constructive—in some cases, quite the opposite.

As the United Nations Under Secretary General told the Security Council this April—“External actors continue to flout the sanctions regime imposed by the Council to support a political settlement, thereby fueling the conflict. This is illegal, it is immoral, and it must stop.” I could not agree more. We will [not see] real progress unless we make it clear—no nation will be providing arms or support to these groups. We will not see progress until we get the external factors in support, removed.

There has been a blatant violation of the U.N. arms embargo that has been in place for decades. Special Envoy Perriello, you have a Herculean task before you and I look forward to hearing your plans. For example, how will you push for resumption of peace talks that will end hostilities from Darfur to the East? How do you plan to galvanize additional humanitarian support for the aid workers trying to mitigate the impending famine? How will you support the malign actions of external actors? How will you promote accountability for human rights abuses? How will you elevate civilian voices as part of negotiations on the future Sudanese government? Never again must mean never again.

The Sudanese people deserve security and prosperity as much as any other people in the world.