First, the good news, this month we have been able to verify through different sources within Sudan that slave raids in Bahr al Ghazal, the southern province where 90 percent of slave raids occurred, stopped over a year ago. A slavery expert sponsored by the British government attributed the cessation to "American pressure." He said that, "Khartoum decided it just wasn't worth the bad publicity." Our coalition partner John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International (who leads the slave redemption effort) also confirmed that slave abductions and other Islamic militia raids in Bahr al Ghazal ended early last year. Later in 2002, the rebels dismantled the railroad tracks to the city of Wau on which captured slaves were sometimes transported north (the rails are reported to have been turned into plows and farming tools by the southerners, literally turning swords into plowshares). Our jubilation is tempered, though, by the fact that slave raids do continue in the oil areas of Western Upper Nile province and that 10,000 Sudanese women and children are estimated to remain missing after being abducted in prior years.
Peace talks in Sudan are continuing with no real breakthroughs since last July when the “framework” for the talks was agreed upon. A big stumbling block is Khartoum’s demand -- which the United States shamefully endorsed – for a hard-line sharia state in the north, including the capital and national institutions such as the judiciary and military. The southern rebels correctly want to know how they as non-Muslims can be integrated into such a structure if Sudan remains a unified state, which the United States also endorses.
Outside the oil field areas, for now, the cease-fire is in effect and holding. Within the oil areas, government troops continue to kill and lay waste civilian villages with impunity. A badly under-staffed and under-supplied (it has only one plane and there are virtually no roads) US-supported monitoring team is investigating and has verified such attacks but there are no consequences contemplated for Khartoum. Next month, the U.S. State Department is scheduled to issue the first official report on acts of genocide in Sudan, which it will make public and present to Congress under the Sudan Peace Act.
Also alarming is the fact that Khartoum has taken advantage of the cease-fire to stage a massive military build-up in the southern garrison towns. This is causing a dangerous shift in the balance of power in the south. The United States has not seriously addressed this. We are increasingly concerned that Khartoum will overwhelm the south when talks break down or the U.S. loses interest.
Last week, our movement scored a huge legal victory when the Federal Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York decided against Talisman Energy, the private Canadian oil company in partnership with Khartoum, in its motion to dismiss the tort case brought by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan. The Church accuses Talisman of "directly aiding and abetting the government of Sudan in acts of genocide, torture, slavery and crimes against humanity." The Court cited our Center in his massive 120-page opinion, as well as the language of the Sudan Peace Act. The Center has worked with Church lawyers since the early stages of this legal action to bring forward evidence that Talisman, not only knew of and benefited from killing and otherwise driving out the Christians from the oil field areas, but provided vehicles and aircraft to the government for this purpose. This month, after sustained pressure from us and our coalition partners, Talisman was forced to sell its stake in Sudan. Talisman was Khartoum's only Western partner and is by far the richest.
We are must now press the U.S. government to:
- Ensure that Khartoum pays a price for ongoing acts of genocide;
- Establish a timetable for concluding a just peace;
- Establish an arms embargo on Khartoum and pressure the government to roll back its military build up during the cease-fire period;
- Build up the US-supported and funded civilian protection monitoring team that is documenting genocidal acts in the south;
- Change its policy to oppose a hard-line Islamic state in Khartoum.