In his speech announcing the release of the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out the Sudan government.
“In Sudan the government arrests, detains and intimidates clergy and church members,” Tillerson said. He added that the government “denies permits for the construction of new churches and is closing or demolishing existing ones.”
Secretary Tillerson encouraged Sudan to “engage concretely on the religious freedom action plan provided by the department last year.” But that’s not likely to happen.
Sudan is not just a country whose report card says “needs improvement” in the religious freedom category. Religious freedom violations are just the tip of the iceberg.
As Christians themselves will tell you, the Sudan government’s persecution of them and of other minorities — including black African Muslim people groups — is part of its ambitious agenda of Islamization and Arabization.
Khartoum’s desire is to remove these people groups from their own land by displacement or death, by hell or high water.* And the end goal of Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions is demographic transformation of the entire country. They want to replace African people groups for jihad-sympathizers from other nations to build a new caliphate, an ambition now shared by ISIS. Ironically, Sudan gets kudos from the clueless for “accepting refugees.”
In addition, every year indicted war criminal President Omar al Bashir turns out thousands of new jihadist graduates of terrorist training camps in Sudan from countries in the Arab world, North Africa, and beyond.
Killing Civilians: Khartoum’s favorite targets
In advocacy for Sudan and other regions of Islamic supremacism, you learn to connect the dots. For Sudan, religious freedom ‘violations’ connect to: mass rape, government-orchestrated starvation, and seeing the indigenous people of Darfur, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile State, and elsewhere as “black insects” to exterminate.
Khartoum’s genocidal ambitions would have been fulfilled long ago, if it were not for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and other rebel groups. They defend their people and to try to bring about a Sudan with justice and equality, religious freedom, and secular democracy. And they win militarily with little help from anyone, and with the added handicap of being treated as morally equivalent with Khartoum.
Mostly civilians have died in Khartoum’s decades of genocide that have killed over 3 million people and displaced some 5 million. The regime drops bombs from the sky onto homes, markets, schools, churches, and hospitals. They poison food supplies. They wage scorched earth campaigns. They target houses of the rebels’ supporters. And now, what we knew all along has been proven. Khartoum uses internationally-banned chemical weapons against men, women, and babies.
Khartoum’s use of chemical weapons goes back decades, but only now has been exposed.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Amnesty International reported the use of chemical weapons in Darfur by the Khartoum regime last September. Amnesty said that “at least 30 likely chemical attacks” had taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur. The documented attacks were in the period from January to September 9, 2016.
Amnesty’s Director of Crisis Research, Tirana Hassan, said of the Darfuri civilians affected by Khartoum’s chemical warfare:
The scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words. The images and videos we have seen in the course of our research are truly shocking; in one a young child is screaming with pain before dying; many photos show young children covered in lesions and blisters. Some were unable to breathe and vomiting blood.
It was not all that long after the report of this monstrous evil came out that President Barack Obama decided to ease the 20 year sanctions on Sudan on a probationary basis. Former Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, justified the lifting. She said that there had been a “sea change of improvement in humanitarian access.”
Seriously? You want to lift sanctions because Khartoum is pretending to let in more food for people IT is starving in the first place?
There hasn’t been such a straw man since Dorothy and her friends followed the yellow brick road. Even if it were true that there was such an enormous improvement — which it’s not — when you are one the one causing the need for humanitarian access, it’s not such a grand gesture for you to allow that access.
And more importantly, the main thing is not whether Khartoum concedes a miniscule amount on humanitarian access. The war is not a war for “humanitarian access.” (Even though some at the State Department have made that the be-all and end-all of the war.) The main thing is genocide and massive crimes against humanity. Are we going to lift sanctions on a regime perpetrating such evil?
Fortunately, on July 11, President Donald Trump decided to postpone the lifting of sanctions until October. A press statement from The White House explained that they needed more time to review whether Sudan had made demonstrable progress in five areas listed in the original decision under Obama to lift sanctions. The statement also said they want to discuss three matters that, breathtakingly enough, were not included to Obama’s five conditions. Matters to discuss include Sudan’s human rights record and religious freedom.
The Sudan regime has hired the US-based international law and lobbying firm, Squire, Patton & Boggs to clean up their image. This is part of their “charm offensive” — using deceit and quiet voices and congenial meetings over cups of Bedouin tea to show the West what great humanitarians they are.
In spite of President Bashir’s standing fatwa and threat that since the Christian South of Sudan had seceded there would be full-blown Sharia in Sudan, a new province of the Anglican Communion was just created in Sudan. The ceremony, installing Sudan’s first Archbishop took place with much fanfare. And it left the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, ecstatic. After a private meeting with President Bashir, Welby was quoted by the Sudan Media Center saying that “the British government supports the lifting of sanctions on Sudan.”
Allowing such public ceremonies attended by international dignitaries does not mitigate genocide. It doesn’t even indicate religious freedom! Remember Secretary Tillerson’s comments above.
Khartoum’s charm offensive snookers the naïve and delusional hopefuls. It also provides cover to the cynically opportunistic that ignore the clear evidence of Sudan’s human rights violations and encourage friendly engagement with the genocidal regime.
One example of this is in a blog post by Dr. J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council in June 2016. Pham, who is said to be one of the front runners for the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, credits Sudan for fighting against terrorism with its 2014 Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Finance Act. He ignores or is ignorant of the fact that leaked minutes from a meeting of Sudan’s most senior military and security officials on August 31 of that same year showed Sudan’s leadership bragging about the success of their support (financial, weapons and military equipment, communications) for jihadis in Libya!
If the Trump Administration uses clear thinking and moral courage in determining whether or not Sudan, with its genocidal and jihadist ambitions, is deserving of having sanctions lifted, the determination will be an easy one. Not only will the US government maintain sanctions on the regime, but it will support those that are fighting for religious freedom and true democracy in Sudan.
*High water literally in the case of Nubia, where dam building on the Nile is flooding deliberately the land of the Nubians. (But that’s a topic for another blog post!)