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Story Publication logo May 13, 2010

Special Envoy for Sudan Testifies Before Senate


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General Scott Gration, the president's special envoy for Sudan, testified May 12 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Just returned from travels to East Africa, Gration delivered a message of urgency. While plans to improve Sudan's security situation in time for the January 2011 referendum on Southern independence lag behind schedule, success is still possible if the international community takes immediate action.

Gration, special envoy since March 2009, has come under harsh criticism for engaging Khartoum. He is clear about his rationale: Efforts to prop up stabilization and population security are ultimately doomed to failure if they do not place authority in the hands of a legitimate Sudanese regime.

Yet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, while demanding increased international recognition, won a dubious re-election this year as the first standing head of state with an International Criminal Court warrant on his head. Evidence of human rights abuses by the northern Sudanese government is abundant, including, Gration confirmed, recently renewed attacks on the Darfur region. Much infrastructural support and humanitarian relief vanished with al-Bashir's March 2009 expulsion of NGOs from the country. While Gration secured the reinstatement of three such agencies, their impact is reportedly constrained by lack of government cooperation and scant resources. Though relief is increasingly available in IDP camps, Gration did not deny reports that gender-based violence is rampant and aid to rural areas virtually non-existent, affirming Chairman John Kerry's (D-Mass.) assertion that humanitarian agencies are currently unable to reach half of the Sudanese population.

While popular opinion indicates little doubt the South will secede, questions regarding the equitability of this year's national elections raise concerns over Sudan's ability to hold a free and fair referendum. Yet the regime stability and population security required to support democratic elections are the end goals of a lengthy peace process underway since the 2005 implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and signs of progress have been few and far between. Entering the final push before the 2011 deadline, Gration noted Sudan still lacks effective judicial infrastructure, border demarcation remains ambiguous, and oil revenue allocation between the North and South is an issue of contention likely to ignite renewed violence in the event of a vote for independence, all this on top of a severe drought which has caused a two-meter drop in the water tables, further depleting regional resources.

Experts agree that further delaying the referendum will likely result in resumed civil war, yet a rigged election or a vote for independence under the current security climate would give way to new causes of violence. According to Gration, the onus falls primarily on the Sudanese factions, followed by their nine neighboring nations, the rest of Africa, then the international community. Committee members from both sides of the aisle strongly recommended increased leverage from the Obama administration to spur progress over the next few months and scheduled a second hearing to bring additional perspectives from USAID and the State Department.

View footage of Gration's testimony above.

Video shot and edited by Christina Maria Paschyn.



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