FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2009
Contact: Rob Schwarzwalder
Acting Communications Director,
(202) 523-3240 ext. 127
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today urged the Obama Administration to ensure that the peace agreement that ended the civil war between North and South Sudan is sustained.
"The peace plan that has brought such hope to the North-South Sudan conflict is in danger of unraveling, and effective action by the new Administration is needed to ensure that the plan goes forward," said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer. "America's efforts to prevent violations of religious freedom and other human rights in Sudan, including Darfur, may be jeopardized unless effective measures are taken to preserve the many-layered comprehensive peace agreement.
"The abuses in Sudan have been immense, and the Commission has called for specific U.S. actions to safeguard the many Sudanese whose well-being and even lives are at risk. They will best be protected by ensuring that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is sustained," Gaer noted.
During Sudan's last North-South civil war, from 1983 until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005, more than two million people were killed and four million driven from their homes, often due to severe violations of religious freedom. The Commission called Sudan the world's most violent abuser of religious freedom, and denounced its genocidal violence. Without continued and sustained U.S. action, the Commission concludes that the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is unlikely and a return to war remains a threat.
In its newly released policy recommendations, the Commission urges President Obama to appoint a new Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan as soon as possible. The recommendations note that this person should have the stature necessary to emphasize the priority of Sudanese peace and stability to the new Administration and that the Special Envoy should also "enjoy the trust and confidence of the President and Secretary of State."
The Commission calls all relevant parties in Sudan to conduct the national, Southern, and state elections mandated by the CPA, minimizing any delay to what is genuinely required by practical considerations such as the rainy season in the South; insist that these elections be free and fair; that adequate security be provided to enable participation by all eligible voters regardless of religious or ethnic background; and that the results be accepted by both the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
To prevent violence against civilians (including mass atrocities and genocidal acts) that would result from renewed conflict, the Commission recommends that the U.S. provide Southern Sudan with the support it needs to professionalize and strengthen the Southern Sudanese army, which includes International Military Education and Training, as well as the technical assistance and capacity it needs to secure radar, communications and other passive/defensive equipment.
U.S. assistance to infrastructure, basic education, the economy and the judicial system also are critical, and can greatly enhance Southern Sudan's viability in advance of the 2011 referendum on its future status. The referendum is mandated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Additionally, the Commission recommends the U.S. continue to provide Southern Sudan with the technical assistance.
The Commission points out that a free, secure and prosperous Sudan is important to the security of the region and coincides with both America's values and vital interests. The Commission urges the U.S. to work in coordination with the African Union and the United Nations to that end.
The Commission has undertaken three visits to Sudan in order to assist in developing recommendations for U.S. policy. A USCIRF delegation visited Southern Sudan in October 2008 shortly following a Commission public hearing on Sudan on September 24, 2008.
The Commission also recommends that the U.S. government take the following additional actions:
• Help strengthen reconciliation and the rule of law in Southern Sudan, including the buttressing of Southern Sudan's court system and assisting the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission;
• Aid in building a successful indigenous economy in Southern Sudan, including a well-functioning banking system, encouragement of private investment and promotion of agricultural development; and
• Enhance the facilities and personnel resources of the U.S. Consulate General in Juba.