WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at this morning’s full Committee hearing: “Conflict in Sudan: Options for an Effective Policy Response.” Testifying before the Committee were the Honorable Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Ms. Sarah Charles, Assistant to the Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.
“Sudan is not only descending into violent chaos, it is on the brink of a full-scale, zero-sum civil war,” Chairman Menendez said. “Millions of lives in Sudan and the Horn of Africa are at stake, as are our strategic interests in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Corridor. We need to put the democratic transition back on track in Sudan.”
Find a copy of the Chairman’s remarks as delivered below.
“This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.
Since fighting erupted in Sudan almost a month ago, ceasefires have come and gone with no appreciable reduction in fighting.
Violence has left the air in the capital thick with dust and smoke.
Food and water shortages have resulted in looting and attacks on civilians by armed groups in search of provisions.
The former strongman head of state—who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity—has escaped from prison.
The borders are overwhelmed with people trying to escape. Hundreds have been killed, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.
One American doctor staying to help treat the wounded was surrounded by a group of men and stabbed to death in front of his family.
Sudan is not only descending into violent chaos, it is on the brink of a full-scale, zero-sum civil war.
And the last civil war went on for more than two decades.
So I want to thank our witness for joining us today to discuss how we respond to the conflict in Sudan.
I welcome the long overdue Executive Order issued last week with respect to Sudan.
And we are all grateful to those who planned and carried out the nighttime rescue operation to evacuate more than 70 people working at our embassy, including Ambassador Godfrey.
Thankfully all U.S. government personnel escaped unharmed.
However thousands of private Americans citizens were left to fend for themselves when the violence broke out, to say nothing of millions of Sudanese who now understandably feel abandoned by the international community.
I won’t sit here and put all the blame on the State Department or the Administration for a foreign policy failure that has been many years in the making.
The failed negotiations on a transition to democracy were supported not only by us, but by the African Union, Gulf States and the United Nations.
Numerous attempts to broker a ceasefire have failed, and the international community has yet to mount a robust humanitarian response.
But let’s be clear. U.S. policy fell short of the challenge.
We refused to call a coup a coup after the Sudanese military’s takeover in 2021.
Instead of imposing sanctions, we put the democratic aspirations of millions of Sudanese in the hands of generals despite evidence of their complicity in—and responsibility for—gross violations of human rights and significant public corruption.
The Sudanese Armed Forces have a long record of human rights abuses.
And the Rapid Support Forces—best known to the world as the Janjaweed—committed genocide in Darfur.
And their leader has been implicated in rapes and massacres and has allied himself with the Wagner group.
By convincing ourselves that these figures were going to help Sudan transition to a democracy, we neglected the need for accountability.
We failed to push hard enough for inclusive civilian participation.
And we ended up legitimizing and entrenching those with guns at the expense of the Sudanese people’s democratic aspirations.
I would like to hear from our witnesses about U.S. policy options to end the conflict, our efforts to rally the international community to jumpstart the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and what steps the Administration is taking to garner international support for collective action to ensure that military leaders stand down and step aside.
I realize, sometimes there are no good options, but hope is not a foreign policy strategy.
We need to understand how our analysis was so flawed that the State Department failed to draw down its embassy staff or assist American citizens to depart before the violence began.
The United States cannot be blind-sided like this. I want to understand what is being done to prevent this in the future.
Now—I realize that the views of some end up being the reality, our ability to predict and prepare for situations like we’re seeing in Sudan will be dramatically affected because of the potential cuts that are being talked about in discretionary domestic spending. Everything we do at the State Department is through discretionary domestic spending. I don’t know how we are going to do better with less.
Under Secretary Nuland—I’d like to hear a clear articulation of our short-, medium-, and long-term goals in Sudan and in the Horn of Africa, as well as the Administration’s strategy for achieving them now that we have no diplomatic presence on the ground in Sudan.
Ms. Charles, given the emerging humanitarian catastrophe, we need a plan to deliver assistance as quickly as possible to the people of Sudan and empower civil society voices advocating against all odds—and at great personal cost—for democracy.
Millions of lives in Sudan and the Horn of Africa are at stake, as are our strategic interests in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Corridor.
We need to put the democratic transition back on track in Sudan.
I’ll turn to Ranking Member Risch for his opening statement.”
Remarks edited lightly for clarity.