By Esther Sprague
May 13, 2013 - The White House has invited Nafie Ali Nafie, the Advisor and Assistant of Sudan’s ICC indicted President, to the United States for high level talks. Since Nafie’s proposed visit was announced, reasons, such as the following, have surfaced almost daily to explain why the visit would be inappropriate and counterproductive.
He is a terrorist. Known as the architect of state sponsored terror in Sudan and an accomplice in the assassination attempt of Egypt’s President Mubarak, Nafie has long relationships with rogue states and extremist groups. While it may take a terrorist to find a terrorist, former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson, who had access to intelligence from Sudan, recently indicated that the information “isn’t worth the spit on your shoe.” If the U.S. is seeking Mali extremists, Joseph Kony and others, surely more reliable and appropriate sources and allies are available. Working with the host government of terrorists and murderers (and a government that will orchestrate matters in order to appear “valuable”) is of dubious benefit.
Nafie’s visit would violate President Obama’s August 4, 2011 Proclamation suspending entry into the United States to anyone who “planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so.” According to the Office of the Prosecutor’s application for the first ICC arrest warrant for Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, “Many senior members of Al Bashir’s Government participated in recruiting and mobilizing Militia/Janjaweed – including…Presidential Assistant and NCP Vice President Nafie Ali Nafie.”
Nafie is powerless to stop the war in Sudan. Nafie signed the June 28, 2011 agreement between the Sudan government and the SPLM-N that was immediately rejected by President Bashir. Furthermore, Nafie’s proposed traveling companion, Ibrahim Ghandor, could only deliver the empty non-starter message to the SPLM-N (give up your weapons for positions in the government), which quickly ended recent and failed negotiations in Addis. In addition, it is misguided to think the U.S. could influence the development of Sudan’s constitution with a regime that refuses to abide by its existing constitution and bill of rights and is currently mobilizing forces, under Nafie’s direction, to eradicate Sudanese who have expressed a genuine interest in an inclusive constitutional review process.
Advancing Nafie’s career and thereby prolonging the NCP’s deadly decades-long grip on Sudan helps no one. As a transition in Sudan is inevitable, Nafie has been making his way around Europe and now possibly the U.S., in an effort to establish his place as Bashir’s successor. Within the NCP’s leadership, there are no good replacements for Bashir, but Nafie is considered by most as the worst possible option. The only appropriate place for Nafie to visit (and stay) is The Hague.
Nafie violates our principles and he hurts our friends. Through relationships with the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan and thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, Americans have grown to love the people of Sudan and South Sudan. It offends us deeply that someone who purposely planned their destruction would be allowed to follow them to their place of safety. It also concerns us that America’s reputation for upholding human rights will be forever tarnished because of one President’s decision to host the “Butcher of Sudan.”
The Administration’s invitation to Nafie is the latest example of a weak and perhaps non-existent U.S. policy on Sudan and South Sudan. If the U.S. is truly interested in building peace in Sudan and between Sudan and South Sudan, instead of inviting a should-be-indicted war criminal to the U.S., the Administration should read and implement the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act of 2013. This legislation was written by Members of Congress who have been in place long enough to observe and understand the nature and tactics of the regime and therefore are in a position to craft policy recommendations that will actually save lives, support Sudanese-led change, and ultimately protect U.S. interests.
It would serve President Obama (and his Cabinet and Staff) well to remember his own words from the August 4, 2011 Proclamation:
“Universal respect for human rights and humanitarian law and the prevention of atrocities internationally promotes U.S. values and fundamental U.S. interests in helping secure peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises around the globe.”
President Obama recently urged Ohio State graduates not to become “discouraged and cynical” about our government. I’m asking President Obama to give me a reason to feel differently by listening to thousands of Americans who have protested Nafie’s visit and by rescinding Nafie’s invitation to the United States.
Esther Sprague is a co-founder of Act for Sudan and the founder and director of Sudan Unlimited, a non-profit that seeks to support all Sudanese and Southern Sudanese in their efforts to secure and enjoy freedom, justice, equality, democracy, peace and prosperity.