Sudan Peace Accord "Historic," States Religious Freedom Center
Credits Bush Administration with making Sudan Priority; Says Challenges Remain
January 10, 2005
by Center for Religious Freedom
Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom today praised the signing of a peace accord Sunday that finally grants southern Sudan religious and political autonomy.
The peace treaty between the Arab, Muslim government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the rebel group representing the largely Christian and animist south, brings to a close a decades-long conflict that killed over 2 million people and displaced more than 5 million. The war took on genocidal proportions and was marked by Khartoum’s policy of withholding international food aid and bombing agricultural areas to cause deliberate starvation.
“This is a time of jubilation for the people of southern Sudan, and it is also a victory for religious freedom,” said Center Director Nina Shea. “For the first time in a generation, the south Sudanese people have guaranteed rights to worship. Critical to the peace deal is Khartoum’s agreement to stop forcing Islamic sharia law on the south—the initial trigger for the 22 year-old civil war.”
American leadership was critical in securing the peace deal and its pressure must be brought to bear to ensure that Khartoum honors its commitments.
“President Bush and his Administration deserve high praise for elevating Sudan as a foreign policy priority and persevering in hands-on, painstaking efforts of diplomacy in one of the most intractable and lethal conflicts in Africa,” said Ms. Shea. “But Khartoum has a track record of broken promises and deception. For beleaguered Christians and animists of the south to develop an economy, live in security, and educate their children in peace, outside pressure must be applied on the government of Sudan.
"President Bush personally took up the plight of the south Sudanese early in his first term, appointing former Senator John Danforth as special envoy, ensuring that U.S. aid reached starving populations despite Khartoum’s efforts to block it, and using the Presidential bully pulpit to bring pressure to bear toward a peaceful resolution. In short without the President’s action, the war in southern Sudan would have remained the U.S. foreign policy “back burner” issue that it was through three previous administrations, and peace negotiations would have continued to languish.”
Shea noted that part of the President Bush’s legacy will be determined by the ultimate success of this agreement. U.S. attention is needed to ensure the implementation of the terms of the peace accord, and there are other urgent issues unresolved by the accord that also must be addressed. Specifically:
* A minimum 10,000 south Sudanese who were documented to have been abducted into slavery must be accounted for, and, if still living, freed.
* The future of over a dozen southern militias that are not part of the primary rebel group, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, should be peacefully resolved in an all-south conference.
* Many thousands of Nuer tribesmen who have been forcibly pushed from their homes and villages in the Western Upper Nile oil fields must be resettled.
The continuing war in the western province of Darfur, classified by the United States as genocide, should also prompt the Bush Administration to continue to lead in pressing for a peaceful, fair resolution there as well, and for holding the responsible parties accountable for the ethnic cleansing that has occurred.
Hudson's Center for Religious Freedom has tracked Sudan's record of repression against ethnic and religious minorities for a decade. It has advocated extensively for the U.S. to apply consistent pressure on the Sudanese government through a national coalition of churches, religious groups and civil rights organizations it helped coordinate, with the support of members of both Houses of Congress.