I have been troubled by the horrors of Sudan since 2002 when the Boston Anti-Slavery Society introduced me to a man who had been sold and enslaved for many years before escaping to freedom. In 2003, my resolution condemning slavery in Sudan was approved by the House. In 2005, I co-founded the Sudan Caucus, after Congress declared the atrocities being committed by the Sudanese government constituted genocide. In March of 2006, I secured an additional $50 million for the African Union Mission in Sudan through a House emergency appropriations bill. The Sudan Caucus became the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan in 2011.
I have traveled twice to the region. Most recently in November of 2015, I traveled to South Sudan with representatives from the United Nations Foundation to learn more about the work of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the role other humanitarian agencies are playing in the region.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, ending the long conflict between the government of Khartoum in the north and southern regions of Sudan. The CPA mandated that South Sudan should have the opportunity to vote for either unity with all of Sudan or secession in a referendum on January 9, 2011. In the lead up to the vote in the fall of 2010, I sponsored a resolution that successfully passed the House calling attention to the need for dedicated resources to avoid a return to civil war. The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for secession, and South Sudan became the world’s newest country on July 9, 2011.
Separation of the two countries has been far from easy. As we know too well, independence does not insure either peace or democracy. Tragically, in late 2013 violence again broke out in South Sudan. Since then, millions have been displaced, the UN has sent a sizable force to protect internally displaced people and war crimes have increased.
Attacks against unarmed civilians, use of heavy weapons against defenseless villages, incursions into UN compounds, and widespread rape and murder have all become commonplace. Humanitarian workers have been targeted – according to USAID, 78 aid workers have been killed since the civil war erupted in December 2013. Now, even food assistance being sent in from around the world is threatened. On February 20, 2017 famine was officially declared in parts of South Sudan. As of May, the total amount of refugees from South Sudan adds up to nearly 1,750,000, stated by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
I have been calling for an international arms embargo and strong international sanctions against those responsible for the murder and suffering in the region.