Relying on a newly prepared report by the US State Department, President Bush yesterday certified in writing to various Congressional committees that Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime is in compliance with conditions specified in the Sudan Peace Act, viz. that the regime “has engaged in good faith negotiations to achieve a permanent, just, and equitable peace agreement,” and that the regime has not “unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts.” The announcement of the Presidential certification appears to be low-key, in contrast with the upbeat signing ceremony at the White House on October 21, 2002 (the President’s press secretary had nothing to say about Sudan at today’s press briefing). In October President Bush declared that passage of the Sudan Peace Act “demonstrates that the Congress shares my commitment to help end suffering and promote a just peace in Sudan. For too long, the people of Sudan have endured slavery, violence, disease, and forced starvation.” He also declared at the time that, “the Government of Sudan must choose between the path to peace and the path to continued war and destruction.” But despite these unambiguous words, the “choice” of the National Islamic Front regime has been tragically all too clear. How, then, is this “choice” reflected in the State Department report to the President concerning certification? For people continue to be threatened with starvation, especially because of actions by Khartoum-backed militias in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. Khartoum continues its massive redeployment of offensive military assets, in clear violation of the October 15, 2002 agreement on the cessation of hostilities. Disease still follows in the wake of malnutrition and displacement that are consequent upon Khartoum’s ongoing military assaults in the oil regions. As recently as mid-February of this year Khartoum was decisively impeding humanitarian access into southern Sudan—this following the massive aid denials that defined 2002. And at the Machakos peace talks Khartoum has proved intransigent again and again, preventing any significant advance on the “Machakos Protocol” of July 2002. With no attendant demands of Khartoum, with no indication of a willingness to bring additional pressure on the regime, it is not clear how yesterday’s action by the President demonstrates his “commitment to help end suffering and promote a just peace in Sudan.”
Eric Reeves [April 22, 2003]
Northampton, MA 01063
There is, of course, no surprise in yesterday’s certification by the President: it has long been evident from State Department actions and statements. Indeed, on April 14, 2003 Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner clearly indicated to news reporters that certification was certain (Agence France-Presse, April 14, 2003). Still, an event as consequential as a Presidential certification on the status of negotiations and humanitarian access in the world’s longest and most destructive civil conflict bears close scrutiny. Certainly the new State Department report justifying the President’s certification deserves very careful review. Though not yet publicly available, the report should be held accountable in various respects:
 Humanitarian access.
At various points during 2002, Khartoum denied humanitarian access to the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan in highly consequential fashion. The denials were frequently part of a clear military strategy, as they have been in previous years. In short, they were systematic and deliberate. At one point, by virtue of denying aerial overflight across Western and Eastern Equatoria, the Khartoum regime succeeded in closing down all air-delivered humanitarian access. The effect was to put over 3 million human beings beyond humanitarian reach. During this aid denial, which extended into October of 2002, the US Memorial Holocaust Museum’s Committee on Conscience assessed the situation in the following terms: “Once again, the Sudanese government is attempting to use starvation as a weapon of destruction against its own citizens. If the ban is not lifted, many innocent people will die. It will create an emergency of immense proportions.” The Committee on Conscience continued, “We strongly reiterate our warning of genocide in Sudan.”
As recently as mid-February of this year—two months ago—Khartoum denied access to some of the UN’s most critically important aircraft. On February 9, 2003 the regime began denying Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) all use of its “Buffalos.” The “Buffalo” aircraft are the workhorse planes for OLS in delivering vitally important non-food items. Moreover, by denying the use of “Buffalos,” OLS operations and aircraft deployments were threatened with a series of ripple effects, especially in supporting the large numbers of displaced persons in Western Upper Nile—victims of Khartoum’s massive January military offensive. Particularly vulnerable during the time of denial were: OLS delivery of essential vegetable cooking oil; the movement of vehicles used in the assessment missions necessary for the security of various OLS operations; the delivery of water bore-hole drilling equipment; the pre-positioning of airplane fuel for travel by smaller OLS planes in South Sudan.
It is worth noting in this connection the conclusions about humanitarian access in the most recent human rights report on Sudan by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department (March 31, 2003):
“Cooperation with U.N.-sponsored relief operations generally was poor, although there was some improvement. Government forces continued to obstruct the flow of humanitarian assistance. Problems with relief flights in the south were caused by the Government’s frequent denials of visas or work permits to foreign humanitarian workers as well as aircraft clearances to the U.N.’s Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).”
The President yesterday declared that the Khartoum regime has not “unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts” since October 21, 2002. Again, the justification for this claim, on the basis of the new State Department report, deserves the closest possible scrutiny.
 “Good faith negotiations” in the Machakos peace process.
There has been no substantial progress on any issue since the signing of the Machakos Protocol in July of 2002. Within the last month, separate rounds of peace talks have broken off without any progress on two key issues being negotiated: [a] the status of the three contested areas (Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and Southern Blue Nile); and [b] security arrangements during the interim period contemplated by the Machakos Protocol. This latter issue is especially critical, since its successful resolution is all that will give the people of southern Sudan and other marginalized areas any confidence in a final peace agreement.
It should also be noted that there has been no progress, except in the most general of terms, on important issues of power-sharing and wealth-sharing during the interim period. Nor has there been progress on the religious status of the capital city.
 Adherence to agreements negotiated over the last year under the auspices of the peace process (including those provided both by the US special envoy for Sudan, John Danforth, and by IGAD, which is heading the Machakos process):
Khartoum is in violation of every agreement it has signed since March of 2002:
[a] “Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to Protect Non-Combatant Civilians and Civilian Facilities from Military Attack,” brokered by US special envoy for Sudan John Danforth, signed by Khartoum’s representative in March 2002;
[b] “Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army on Resumption of Negotiations on Peace in Sudan,” signed by Khartoum’s representative in Nairobi on October 15, 2002;
[c] “Addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding on Cessation of Hostilities Between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army,” signed by Khartoum’s representative in Nairobi on February 4, 2003;
[d] “Joint Communiqu Between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army Regarding Strengthening the MOU on the Cessation of Hostilities,” signed by Khartoum’s representative in Nairobi on February 4, 2003.
Despite these agreements and their various obligations, Khartoum has:
[a] impeded humanitarian access (violating the October 15, 2002 and February 4, 2003 agreements);
[b] continued redeploying offensive military assets (violating the October 15, 2002 and February 4, 2003 agreements);
[c] extended and augmented the oil road south of Bentiu, leading toward Adok (violating the February 4, 2003 agreement);
[d] refused to secure a military stand-down by its allied militias (violating the October 15, 2002 and February 4, 2003 agreements);
[e] denied the means for displaced civilians in Western Upper Nile to return to their home areas and villages (violating the February 4, 2003 “Joint Communiqu”);
[f] denied the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team “unhindered flight access” (violating the March 2002 agreement).
 Human rights issues and a conducive negotiating climate.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department has recently issue its annual report on the human rights situation in Sudan. Below are excerpts from this report of March 31, 2003, which notes that the Khartoum regime’s “human rights record remained extremely poor [in 2002]” (detailed accounts of particularly exemplary human rights abuses follow the introduction, from which these excerpts are drawn):
“Government security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, and there were reports of government responsibility for disappearances. Government security forces regularly beat, harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and detained incommunicado opponents or suspected opponents of the Government, and there were reports of torture. Government security forces and associated militias beat refugees, reportedly raped women abducted during raids, and reportedly harassed and detained persons on the basis of their religion. Government security forces and progovernment militias acted with impunity.
“Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening, prolonged detention was a problem, and the judiciary continued to be subservient to the Government. The authorities did not ensure due process and the military courts summarily tried and punished civilians. The Government continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights. The Government continued to conscript forcibly men and boys. The Government still did not fully apply the laws of war to the southern insurgency, has taken few prisoners of war (POWs), and did not cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regarding access to or treatment of POWs. Cooperation with U.N.-sponsored relief operations generally was poor, although there was some improvement. Government forces continued to obstruct the flow of humanitarian assistance. Problems with relief flights in the south were caused by the Government’s frequent denials of visas or work permits to foreign humanitarian workers as well as aircraft clearances to the U.N.’s Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).
“During the year, restrictions on press freedom under the National Security Emergency decree continued as the Government frequently arrested editors and journalists and suspended publications that criticized or disagreed with government policy; however, there were a few media articles critical of the Government. The Government continued to restrict severely the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, religion, and movement.
“The Government continued the Islamization and Arabization of the country, and there were credible allegations of forced Islamization of non-Muslims. Fears of Arabization and Islamization and the imposition of Islamic law (Shari’a) increased support for the armed opposition throughout the country. Local human rights NGOs were harassed routinely. Violence and discrimination against women and abuse of children remained problems. Female genital mutilation (FGM) remained widespread. Discrimination and violence against religious and ethnic minorities and government restrictions on worker rights persisted. Child labor was widespread. Slavery and trafficking in persons remained significant problems.”
This is the context in which the Presidential certification of yesterday, along with the newly issued State Department report justifying that certification, should be read and understood. These are the realities that must be made to square with the President’s finding, per the terms of the Sudan Peace Act, that the Khartoum regime “has engaged in good faith negotiations to achieve a permanent, just, and equitable peace agreement,” and has not “unreasonably interfered with humanitarian efforts.”