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Letter from US Congressman Frank Wolf to President George W. Bush

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Letter from US Congressman Frank Wolf to President George W. Bush Concerning the Impending Suspension of Sudan Peace Talks in Naivasha

By Eric Reeves

Jan 23, 2004 — Yesterday a remarkable and timely letter was sent from Congressman
Frank Wolf, long one of southern Sudan’s most stalwart supporters on
Capitol Hill, to President George W. Bush. In addition to his
exceptionally distinguished support for the cause of peace in Sudan,
Congressman Wolf is the extremely powerful Chair of the House
Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and State, the
Judiciary, and Related Agencies. His jurisdiction includes the US
Department of State, as well as anti-terrorism issues. His letter
cannot be ignored by either the President or the State Department.

The entire letter is attached below; especially worth noting are
Congressman Wolf’s trenchant and pointed comments about the threatened
suspension of the Sudan peace talks in Naivasha (Kenya) under the
auspices of IGAD. He declares to the President that:

"the window of opportunity for peace in Sudan may be closing unless we
intensify our engagement at this critical stage of the peace process. It
appears, despite the signing of these agreements and occasional positive
overtures, the [Khartoum] regime does not intend to go the last mile and
sign a just peace with the South."

It is in this context that Congressman Wolf appropriately invokes the
terms of the Sudan Peace Act (enacted October 2002):

"The Act clearly states that if the Government of Sudan has not
’engaged in good faith negotiations to achieve a permanent, just, and
equitable peace agreement, or has unreasonably interfered with
humanitarian efforts,’ the president of the United States, after
consulting with the Congress, shall implement measures outlined in the
Act."

These measures include:

[1] [Instructions from the President] "through the Secretary of the
Treasury, [to] instruct the United States executive directors to each
international institution to continue to vote against and actively
oppose any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit,
or guarantee to the Government of Sudan";

[2] "consider downgrading or suspending diplomatic relations between
the United States and the Government of Sudan";

[3] "take all necessary and appropriate steps to deny the Government
of Sudan access to oil revenues to ensure that the Government of Sudan
neither directly nor indirectly utilizes any oil revenues to purchase or
acquire military equipment or to finance any military activities";

[4] "seek a United Nations Security Council Resolution to impose an
arms embargo on the Government of Sudan."

As further justification for invoking the terms of the Sudan Peace Act,
Congressman Wolf also highlights a recent and powerful news report from
the New York Times that offers a stark glimpse into the horrors of war
in Darfur, where Khartoum’s denial of humanitarian access has again
become an unmistakable weapon of war:

"the testimonies of the Darfur refugees, gathered from their makeshift
camps in the barren savannahs of eastern Chad, reveal a chilling pattern
to Sudan’s latest conflict, this one pitting the country’s
Arab-dominated government against Darfur’s black African insurgents."
(New York Times, January 23, 2004)

And finally, Congressman Wolf’s letter reminds us that Khartoum’s
behavior in these negotiations is certainly not without precedent, and
that if the regime’s present expedient diplomatic calculations are to be
changed, then they must be told forcefully that their duplicitous
stratagems are recognized for what they are:

"I am extremely concerned that the peace process is at risk of
collapsing, despite earlier progress on a number of issues. There are a
number of historical precedents for the kind of behavior we are
currently witnessing. And this would not be the first time that hopes
had been dashed in this long saga of tragedy. The Abuja Talks [peace
negotiations in the early 1990s---ER], after months of negotiations
between the current government and the SPLM, collapsed after initial
progress, largely due to the NIF’s intransigent positions. In the
mid-1990s, after the launching of the IGAD talks and after agreeing to
the Declaration of Principles, the NIF government walked out of the
talks to resume its brutal military campaign against the South."

Those concerned about the extremely perilous state of the Sudan peace
talks in Naivasha should join Congressman Wolf in communicating with
President Bush:

Mailing Address
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone Numbers
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

E-Mail
President George W. Bush: president@whitehouse.gov


From Congressman Frank Wolf

January 22, 2004

The Honorable George W. Bush
The President
The White House
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you are well aware, the people of Sudan and the international
community had hoped a just and comprehensive peace would be signed
between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement (SPLM) by the end of last year. Indeed, significant progress
has been made since the current round of talks began almost two years
ago. The signing of the Machakos Protocol in July 2002 led many to
believe that peace, after 20 years of a bloody civil war, was near.

Over the past year, the parties have signed a number of
important agreements on Wealth-Sharing, Security Arrangements for the
Interim Period, and have made progress on other areas. But several
issues remain unresolved. The status of the disputed three areas in
Central Sudan (Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and Abyei), despite
several weeks of negotiations, remain stalled in large part due to
unreasonable demands by the National Islamic Front government delegation
at the talks.

Meanwhile, the NIF government continues its brutal campaign
against innocent civilians in Darfur State, in the west of the country.
Since February 2003, an estimated 3,000 people have been killed by
government forces and their Arab militia allies, while an estimated
750,000 have been forced out of their homes. In December alone, an
estimated 30,000 people fled to neighboring Chad. In addition, the
government has deliberately and systematically denied relief agencies,
including the United Nations, from delivering much needed humanitarian
assistance in Darfur---a blatant and clear violation of a number of
agreements they signed with the United Nations and the United States
government. A recent New York Times article in describing the current
situation in Darfur stated that "the testimonies of the Darfur refugees,
gathered from their makeshift camps in the barren savannahs of eastern
Chad, reveal a chilling pattern to Sudan’s latest conflict, this one
pitting the country’s Arab-dominated government against Darfur’s black
African insurgents." A senior Bush Administration official, after
returning from the region, stated that "it calls into question the
sincerity of the government. They can’t be good guys in the South and do
what they’re doing in Darfur."

I am extremely concerned that the peace process is at risk of
collapsing, despite earlier progress on a number of issues. There are a
number of historical precedents for the kind of behavior we are
currently witnessing. And this would not be the first time that hopes
had been dashed in this long saga of tragedy. The Abuja Talks, after
months of negotiations between the current government and the SPLM,
collapsed after initial progress, largely due to the NIF’s intransigent
positions. In the mid-1990s, after the launching of the IGAD talks and
after agreeing to the Declaration of Principles, the NIF government
walked out of the talks to resume its brutal military campaign against
the South. It is pivotal to recall that the Rwandan genocide occurred
after a peace agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania, between the
Rwandan Patriotic Force and the former Rwandan government.

In counter-terrorism issues, the behavior of this regime has
been stunningly similar. Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks,
the NIF regime had been dragging its feet on counter-terrorism
cooperation. After the terrorist attacks, the regime realized that its
survival depended on cosmetic changes to appease the United States. They
cooperated with the United States as long as it served their interest,
but never abandoned their old bad habits. Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists
are still welcomed in Khartoum by this regime.

I am afraid, though I hope I am wrong, that the window of
opportunity for peace in Sudan may be closing unless we intensify our
engagement at this critical stage of the peace process. It appears,
despite the signing of these agreements and occasional positive
overtures, the regime does not intend to go the last mile and sign a
just peace with the South. My concerns are not without foundation.
First, the NIF regime, despite numerous claims and promises to sign a
just peace by the end of the year, have not made this possible. Second,
the current round of talks are stalled on an issue that the regime had
agreed to in September 2003, which allowed Abyei to be returned to the
South through administrative order or through a referendum. Even the
1972 Addis Ababa Agreement includes a provision for a referendum for
Abyei. Third, while pretending to make peace and change for the better,
the NIF regime has been actively engaged in consolidating its power base
and strengthening its military posture by acquiring sophisticated
weapons.

We are at a pivotal phase in the peace process, and it is
critical that our government reiterate with the Government of Sudan our
expectations that were outlined in the Sudan Peace Act. The Act clearly
states that if the Government of Sudan has not "engaged in good faith
negotiations to achieve a permanent, just, and equitable peace
agreement, or has unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts,"
the president of the United States, after consulting with the Congress,
shall implement measures outlined in the Act. The Government of Sudan
understands quite well that in order to normalize relations with the
United States, Khartoum must meet three conditions: true cooperation on
counter-terrorism efforts, a just and lasting peace with the South, and
unfettered humanitarian to the country’s areas of need. To date, those
conditions remain unmet.

As you may recall in my letter to you last July, I suggested
that perhaps consideration should be given to moving the peace talks to
Washington, and I again make that suggestion to you. Having the peace
talks here would demonstrate the level of priority of this issue for the
United States in seeing that a peace agreement is concluded, and also
could guarantee a level of scrutiny to keep the pressure on all parties.
This is not a proposal to take away the peace process from IGAD; rather
it is to help our IGAD partners conclude a just peace without further
delay. The United States government has the expertise, resources,
manpower, and political clout to bring an end to this conflict that has
taken so many lives over the past two decades.

We must help to keep open the window of opportunity to reach
peace in Sudan, and I appreciate any effort that can be made. I also
would like to express my deep appreciation for the strong leadership
that you and your advisors have shown in this regard. In particular, I
would like to single out Secretary of State Colin Powell, Special Envoy
John Danforth, and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Africa
Charlie Snyder for their continued dedication to this process.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress



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