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Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2003 / 11 Adar I, 5763

Nat Hentoff

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Continuing genocide in Sudan | On Oct. 21, President George W. Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act, which declared that the Khartoum government of Sudan (the National Islamic Front) is guilty of persistent genocide against the black Christians and traditionalists in the South of that long-divided nation. The law requires the president to certify every six months that Khartoum and the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) are negotiating in good faith to end the civil war.

If Khartoum is found not to be negotiating honestly, sanctions are to be imposed, including our government opposing international loans and credits to Khartoum, and getting the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the National Islamic Front government. This law, moreover, orders the Bush administration to report any obstruction of humanitarian aid to the South by Khartoum.

So far, the American media has largely ignored the fact that, while peace negotiations between Khartoum and the SPLM are sporadically going on, the Sudanese government is continuing the ethnic cleansing of blacks in areas where foreign oil companies have their installations (and the source of the National Islamic Front's large profits).

On Jan. 16, Agence France Press reported the SPLM claim that the government is using helicopters and field artillery against black Sudanese to test whether the United States and the international community is truly committed to the peace process.

Following that news, there have been several reports from Christian Solidarity International, which has helped free thousands of black slaves taken by northern armies. Its Jan. 17 dispatch tells of an 18-day "ethnic cleansing" offensive by government troops to clear land to provide security for Canada-based Talisman Energy oil interests.

A senior SPLM official is quoted as saying that more than 200,000 Sudanese blacks have been displaced since the offensive began, and neither the United Nations nor other relief agencies have delivered emergency humanitarian aid. In the village of Lare, the humanitarian facilities of the World Food Program and other relief agencies were torched.

According to an SPLM source, says Christian Solidarity International, "local officials (in the South) are still trying to determine the number of killed, wounded and abducted civilians." It should be noted that the Khartoum government claims that the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement's army itself committed acts of violence.

On Jan. 27, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a press statement -- which few American news providers picked up -- that "the United States is deeply concerned at the reports of a continuing offensive undertaken by the government of Sudan and its proxies in southern Sudan, as well as the government's continuing buildup of forces at garrisons in the South."

These actions, Boucher said, "constitute a flagrant violation" of a cease-fire agreed upon by both sides in this civil war. "If this is true," says our State Department, "Khartoum risks losing its credibility as a serious partner for peace with the United States and the international community."

Khartoum's armed forces are unquestionably in the South again -- and not as peacekeepers. On Jan. 29, Christian Solidarity International Executive Director John Eibner wrote to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner who, when the president signed the Sudan Peace Act, pledged to see that its terms would be fulfilled.

Eibner told Kansteiner of "murder, abductions and the burning of villages and humanitarian facilities" by the military forces of the National Islamic Front. "Khartoum's lack of credibility as a partner for peace was not inevitable," Eibner wrote. "It has been emboldened by the weak American response to aggressions."

Where is John Danforth, the president's envoy to bring an end to the killings and slavery in Sudan?

When President Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act, he told the American abolitionists who had pressured American presidents for years to intervene that "there are times when the government has to be prodded. I know that if we don't do what we're supposed to, you'll be out there prodding us again."

That is precisely what is going to happen now, but where is Congress? Meanwhile, there are reports that our government has enlisted Khartoum in the war against terrorism, but Khartoum itself is a terrorist nation, committing ethnic cleansing on its own people.

That is what the Sudan Peace Act, signed by the president, made clear.

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JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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