Sudan: the smear campaign continues
Top level US officials have once again attacked Sudan's human rights record, providing the latest evidence of a lone US smear campaign against Sudan. In an article published September 1 by the International Herald Tribune, US Secretary of State for African affairs, Susan Rice, and US ambassador for war crime issues, David Scheffer, said the "charm campaign" of the Sudanese government to convince international observers of Sudan's democratic and humanitarian reforms is belied by facts the officials themselves supposedly gathered on a recent visit to southern Sudan.
According to the two officials, "A quick glimpse within Sudan's borders, however, reveals a world of famine, slavery, torture, religious persecution, rape, massacres, pillaging and looting." According to a September 2 BBC report, Sudan has "strongly rejected" the allegations.
While Sudan has often been the target of criticism, the latest barrage seems a bit over-handed given the government's current efforts towards peace and its attempts to promote greater democracy in Sudan. In the past, Sudan has been subject to criticism by Amnesty International (AI), UN observer mission and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), among others.
The Sudanese government has recently put a few newspapers on suspension for a week, prompting protest from the Reporters without Frontiers (RSF). Other human rights abuses typical in governments in the developing world are summarized in the 1999 AI report, which is silent on the more emotional US accusations of slavery, massacres, forced starvation and genocidal practices.
Other countries are not subject to the amount of criticism Sudan receives. Some of them with far worse records - such as Israel and Turkey - are US allies. And not all observers are so critical of Sudan. In Sudan on Tuesday, the envoy of the UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs met with Sudan's External Relations Minister Moustapha Osman Ismail and expressed appreciation for the "tangible improvement in the humanitarian situation in Sudan during the past two years," as summarized by Sudan's Ministry of External Relations on September 1.
With the first oil exports recently underway in Sudan, economic links have been substantiated with a number of countries, much to the chagrin of the US government. Poland reportedly has been threatened with US sanctions for accepting one of the first Sudanese shiploads of oil.
But the United States remains one of the few countries to insist on ostracizing Sudan. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on August 31 lifted a set of sanctions against Sudan and praised the country's progress, while urging it to press on with reforms, according to Reuters.
Since it is impossible to attain independent substantiation of the recent claims made by the two US officials, one can only look to the track record of both the defendant and the prosecutor in the recent propaganda war.
Sudan has proposed a series of peace negotiations with opposition forces and on August 6 declared a unilateral 70-day cease-fire to allow distribution of humanitarian aid. Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) director Khalid Faraj said in a September 1 government release that the government had delivered 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid to displaced persons in the south, some within rebel-held areas.
The government in Khartoum has additionally demonstrated its commitment to peace negotiations with its backing of a recent Egyptian-Libyan proposed peace plan, efforts reportedly rejected by the southern rebels over Khartoum's insistence to retain its constitution based on Islamic Sharia law.
The US government is guilty of financially backing the southern rebels and of an avowed blanket opposition to the Islamic government in Khartoum. Last year, the US government bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, circumstantially alleging the factory was used in the production of chemical warfare.
The US has since blocked all efforts to secure an independent UN investigation of the attack, an action which has served to undermine the validity of the United Nations itself, according to Sirak Malede writing for Ethiopia's The Monitor on August 31.
The Sudanese government says the variety of US accusations are "a well orchestrated plan by the West" to increase international pressure on the Islamic government in Khartoum, according to Judith Achieng writing for the East African on August 17.
The genocidal practices recently alleged by the US officials seem unfounded and politically motivated. Such allegations only serve to make US officials seem irrational and overly eager to attack Sudan. According to a September 2 BBC report, the US government has lost "some credibility and sympathy for its position" against Sudan.
Yet although Sudan is obligated to defend itself from damaging propaganda, the best victory Sudan can currently achieve against US slander would be negotiating a successful peace settlement with the opposition to end a civil war which, since 1983, has killed 1.5 million people. If observers and participants, international and Sudanese alike, are truly committed to an end to human rights abuses in Sudan, they would put all their efforts into attaining a fair peace settlement instead of calling each other names.Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at iviews.com
Topics: Human Rights, Sudan