Sudan’s Government Plays Politics With Human Lives

By Jason Scott Jones Published on March 16, 2017

I’ve written here before about the plight of Christians and other persecuted people in Sudan, a country whose troubled regions I’ve visited in the past on humanitarian missions. So I need to correct the record about what’s happening there now. Steven Koutsis, Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, recently wrote an article which implies that the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) is chiefly responsible for humanitarian aid not reaching the embattled Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile regions. He urges the SPLM-N to “remove political conditions preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching populations in need and allow rapid deployment of humanitarian aid to civilians in the areas it controls.”

Mr. Koutsis states more than once that the United States “is ready to begin delivering medical supplies and vaccinations to the people within SPLM-N controlled areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.”

To someone not up to speed on the Sudan crisis, it would appear from Mr. Koutsis’ statements that the SPLM-N is jeopardizing the welfare of Sudanese living in areas of their control to gain some political leverage.

But this assumption would be misguided. 

It’s Sudan’s Government Choking Out Humanitarian Aid

Mr. Koutsis knows full well that there is nothing preventing the U.S. Government from delivering aid to the SPLM-N-controlled areas of Southern Kordofan or the Blue Nile. For the last six years, my friends at Persecution Project Foundation (an American NGO) have brought in humanitarian aid to areas of Southern Kordofan without any impediment by the SPLM-N — this includes large consignments of medicine. The only difficulty they’ve encountered has been security threats from the Sudan Armed Forces under President Omar al Bashir.

Since fighting began in Southern Kordofan in June, 2011, access to the Nuba mountains through South Sudan has been open, and restricted only by the weather and internal security. If officials at the U.S. State Department are so keen on delivering medical aid to SPLM-N-controlled areas, there is no one stopping them — especially not the SPLM-N.

The U.S. Government can deliver humanitarian aid directly, or through proxies, as it has done in the past (and continues to this day).

Why Give Sudan’s Government a Foreign Aid Monopoly?

In Sudan, it is the ruling party that is playing politics with people’s lives.

So why the insistence on an agreement between the SPLM-N and the National Congress Party (NCP) in which 100 percent of aid flows through NCP-controlled areas of Sudan? The SPLM-N has already agreed to an 80-20 compromise, where 80 percent of humanitarian aid comes through Sudan, while the remaining 20 (mainly medicine) is delivered via Ethiopia with NCP inspection. The ruling party claims it cannot accept cross-border aid for sovereignty reasons. But Ethiopia remains a staunch ally of the government in Khartoum. Moreover, the NCP has agreed to cross border aid in the past during the 1990s, with cross-border aid from Kenya under Operation Lifeline Sudan. 

Instead, it is the ruling party that is playing politics with people’s lives— and Mr. Koutsis is helping them do it.

Bombing Doctors Without Borders

Let’s not forget that it was the NCP regime that expelled all humanitarian organizations from SPLM-N areas in the first place. When Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) refused to leave, the government bombed their hospitals until they were forced out.

More officials at the State Department should take time to actually visit the SPLM-N-controlled areas of Sudan. Then they would learn that average Sudanese citizens do not trust a government which has spent years trying to exterminate them to suddenly become their friends and start injecting them with vaccines!

President Obama promised to intervene in Darfur and hold the NCP’s feet to the fire. But he then did an about-face, and spent more time trying to legitimize Omar Bashir’s regime than intervening on behalf of its victims.

Trump Must Dump Obama’s Failed Policies

Mr. Koutsis is evidently trying to carry over this failed policy to the new Trump Administration by being Omar Bashir’s hatchet man, turning the victims of genocide into the bad guys. We all know no “rebel movement” has ever been perfect. But even if we assumed, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Koutsis was right, and the SPLM-N is solely at fault in this instance, it wouldn’t take away from the fact that the single greatest destabilizing force in Sudan since 1989, has been, and remains, the NCP regime of Omar al Bashir.

For the U.S. government to provide more legitimacy to this government, instead of working towards a real Sudanese-led democratization of power, is a mistake.

Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department backed the wrong horse many, many times. Let’s hope that under President Trump, a new Sudan team at State will at least know when it is being played.

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  • Autrey Windle

    but Israel is really the big human rights violators…isn’t that what we’re supposed to think?

  • faithmcdonnell

    Bravo, Jason! That was wonderful. And exactly right. Why do we give the benefit of the doubt to the Islamist regime whose actual goal is the extermination of the black African people groups and build a Caliphate? Thank you for this terrific article. And as much as I care about Israel and realize it is demonized by most of the world, it would be nice for commenters to stick to expressing concern for the victims of Sudan’s genocide.

    • Autrey Windle

      Faith, my concern for the children of Sudan is that the world pay attention to the real genocide instead of spending their time falsely accusing nations who do NOT murder their citizens. I’m sorry if my pithy comment didn’t make you think of that injustice. I hope you will accept my apology for what was perceived as an unsympathetic comment.

      • faithmcdonnell

        Apology accepted! And sorry if I was overly sensitive. I just get weary of Sudan’s genocide getting ignored a lot.

        • Autrey Windle

          I do hope the new administration hears the truth from people in power who understand who the bad guys really are. Weeding out the crooks and assassins from the true freedom fighters is something this President has alluded to expecting he could and would do. I hope he gives the Sudan swift attention.

  • JSAUSA

    Exactly what is needed right now! Thank you so much for such a poignant and powerful piece on the horrendous state of affairs being created by Obama’s Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis. He is either colluding, collaborating, and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan or he is carrying Obama’s water and woefully ignorant of Khartoum’s capacity for deception! This needs widespread distribution!! The world needs to know this is happening, and that it is the heart and root of international Islamic terrorism led by the power base of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan. They are not partners in good faith and trustworthy allies of intel on terrorism. Quite the contrary, they share only what benefits them in competition for being home to the World Caliphate and calling the shots in the Islamic realms of conquest.

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