Chairman Kerry Statement at Hearing on Sudan
Washington, DC – This morning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered the following statement at a hearing to examine the oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, humanitarian access in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the potential for progress in Darfur, and developments in South Sudan since its independence.
“We can and must continue to put our shoulder to this wheel, even as we acknowledge that the fate of these two countries lies with their people and their leaders. Sudan must escape its fatal cycle of conflict, not as some next chapter in the Arab Awakening, but because it is the only way to forge a viable political and economic future for its people. The bombing and humanitarian blockade in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile has to stop.”
The full text of Chairman Kerry’s hearing statement, as prepared for delivery, is below:
One of the privileges and responsibilities of our Committee is to shine some attention on important issues when they're not part of the daily drumbeat of the news cycle.
We all remember the famous moment in Charlie Wilson's War when - having achieved the objective of driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson is stunned to see how quickly his colleagues have moved their attention elsewhere, despite, as Wilson said then, "that ball keeps on bouncing." We know what came next -- and how -- tragically -- too many policy makers only returned their attention to Afghanistan again after 9/11.
Our Committee would fail the test of history if we allowed attention today to drift from the critical situation in Sudan and South Sudan.
I was in Sudan for the referendum. I saw the expressions of hope for the future and the difficult birth of a new nation.
But we'd all do well to remember that you can have a vote to make a new beginning but lose that future when the tough choices that must follow are denied, deferred, or our collective attention is diverted.
That's why at a time when the world faces many competing crises— crises competing for attention and leadership -- we must wrestle with and better understand what steps the United States and our partners should take to help Sudan and South Sudan resolve the complex challenges before them.
Make no mistake: it is the leaders in Khartoum and Juba who must choose between a future of conflict and poverty or a future of security and prosperity. But we must not abdicate the important role the United States can play in helping to nurture that process just as we helped midwife the birth of this new nation.
Some signs are cautiously encouraging.
On January 9, President Bashir made the right choice in allowing the South’s referendum. On July 9, he made the right choice in recognizing its outcome. Yesterday, he announced that he would travel to Juba for the first time since independence to meet with Salva Kiir.
But for every step forward, there has also been a step backward toward the patterns of violence and repression of Sudan’s past. In the last year, Bashir has waged war on his own people in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, he’s arrested student protesters, and he has rejected viable solutions to outstanding issues in favor of aerial bombardment and bellicose rhetoric. The past has again become prologue.
For its part, South Sudan has established itself as a new nation, President Kiir has named a diverse cabinet, and the leaders in Juba have put forward serious proposals for a lasting settlement. But the country has experienced wrenching ethnic violence, there are allegations it has supported proxies fighting in the North, and in an act that may be justified but that may also be self-defeating, it has cut off the flow of oil.
For all these struggles, we must not devalue the progress we have seen. Peacefully creating a new state was an accomplishment of historic magnitude. Furthermore, in Abyei, Ethiopian peacekeepers have helped to bring a critical measure of stability. And, finally, the New York Times recently titled an article “Hope for Darfur.” When is the last time you saw hope and Darfur in the same sentence?
Cautious optimism may be appropriate given recent developments. Some Darfuris who were displaced are returning home, and the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement signed a peace agreement last year. I look forward to hearing whether these first steps – if actually implemented and supported – could become the foundation for a more lasting resolution in Darfur.
At a time when there are those who want to slash the international affairs budget, I would point to Sudan and South Sudan as examples of the power of diplomatic engagement. The CPA was signed because of diplomatic engagement. The birth of a new nation took place because of careful, sustained diplomatic engagement.
We can and must continue to put our shoulder to this wheel, even as we acknowledge that the fate of these two countries lies with their people and their leaders. Sudan must escape its fatal cycle of conflict, not as some next chapter in the Arab Awakening, but because it is the only way to forge a viable political and economic future for its people. The bombing and humanitarian blockade in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile has to stop.
South Sudan, in turn, has the opportunity to avoid the corruption that too often plagues oil-rich countries, and to create an inclusive government that embraces its ethnic diversity.
Last December, I had the privilege of standing with President Kiir at the Engagement Conference for South Sudan here in Washington. At that conference, he spoke eloquently about the long road to freedom. I know that journey came at tremendous sacrifice, in blood, sweat, and tears. But the long road to freedom was never intended to be a trek to perpetual conflict and poverty. It was always a journey to hope and prosperity.
That journey continues. Two fragile states emerged on July 9, and we are all here today because it is in the vested interest of the international community that they become partners in political and economic stability—not volatile adversaries in an already troubled region.
We are privileged this morning to be joined once again by the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan, Ambassador Lyman. Princeton, we know you are just back from Ethiopia, and we appreciate your tireless service. We also welcome Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg from USAID. And I especially want to welcome the first U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, who is in the audience today, as well as the Senior Adviser for Darfur, Ambassador Dane Smith.
On our second panel, George Clooney and John Prendergast join us. Together they represent the Satellite Sentinel Project, which has given us a window into events in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and elsewhere, and they are just back from travel in the region. We have worked together on the ground in Sudan and South Sudan, and I am pleased they are testifying before us today as well as meeting with Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Rice, and others this week. Joining them on the panel is Jon Temin (“Temmin”), a Sudan scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Finally, as many of you know, sadly Congressman Don Payne passed away last week. He was a constant champion for all of Africa and a tireless advocate for the people of Sudan and South Sudan. His funeral service is today, and this morning our Committee remembers him for his dedication to the cause of peace.