Casey Leads Senators in Urging U.S. Commitment Following Southern Sudanese Independence Vote

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today spearheaded a bipartisan letter signed by eight of his Senate colleagues urging the Obama administration to focus on protecting the livelihoods and future prospects of all Sudanese people following the referendum to declare independence that Southern Sudan will begin on January 9. The letter emphasizes the importance of providing adequate humanitarian, development and diplomatic assistance and mitigating regional tensions with neighboring countries in the wake of Sunday’s vote.

“In the short-term, we believe it is critical that the United States work with the United Nations and other international and regional partners to ensure the safety of vulnerable populations, especially those most at risk – southerners living in Northern Sudan, recently resettled southern Sudanese from the north and northerners living in Southern Sudan,” the Senators wrote.

Senator Casey also stated, “Sunday’s vote is a historical moment and opportunity for both Southern and Northern Sudan to realize a lasting peace.   I would urge all sides to carry out the vote in a peaceful manner, and to continue to work to resolve outstanding differences.”

The letter was cosigned by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

The Senators expressed concern that an agreement on citizenship rights for Northerners living in the south and Southerners living in the north has yet to be concluded. They wrote: “At this time, there is potential for numerous people to become stateless or for forced mass expulsions to occur without an agreement.  Therefore, we encourage your Administration to continue to provide assistance in this matter and to urge all sides to comply with international norms.”

The letter urges President Obama to focus on five key post-referendum issues: protecting vulnerable populations; popular consultation; constitutional development; and the future of the north and adequate humanitarian, development and diplomatic assistance.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear President Obama,

As you know, Southern Sudan will hold a referendum on self-determination beginning January 9, 2011.   While there will be substantial international focus on the region in the days leading up to the referendum, we urge you to ensure that the Administration focus its attention on five key post-referendum issues that will influence the livelihoods and future prospects of all Sudanese.  These issues range from protecting vulnerable populations who remain in the north as well as those migrating south, ensuring that we uphold Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) commitments for popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, maintaining leverage to assist the people of Darfur, providing adequate humanitarian, development, and diplomatic assistance to help both the north and new Southern Sudan succeed, and mitigating regional tensions with neighboring countries.

Protecting vulnerable populations.  In the short-term, we believe it is critical that the United States work with the United Nations and other international and regional partners to ensure the safety of vulnerable populations, especially those most at risk – southerners living in Northern Sudan, recently resettled southern Sudanese from the north, and northerners living in Southern Sudan.
 
We are concerned that an agreement on citizenship rights for Northerners living in the south and Southerners living in the north has yet to be concluded.  At this time, there is potential for numerous people to become stateless or for forced mass expulsions to occur without an agreement.  Therefore, we encourage your Administration to continue to provide assistance in this matter and to urge all sides to comply with international norms.

Likewise, with most migration routes and transit stations located in potential areas of contention, it is important to work with both governments to ensure the free movement of people through these areas.  We understand that in December approximately 5,000 people were stranded along migration routes to Southern Sudan.  We are concerned that these incidences of stalled transit will only increase and that unauthorized checkpoints will arise following the referendum.  

Popular Consultation. According to the CPA, popular consultations to resolve long-standing differences between the two Northern states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and Khartoum are supposed to continue until agreements are met.  While the process has begun in Blue Nile with some modest success, there has been little progress in Southern Kordofan, as the state awaits postponed elections to be held.  Meaningful popular consultation processes are crucial to resolving widely-held grievances in those two states, where there continues to be discontent with the CPA and its implementation.  With international engagement, the government in Khartoum should be encouraged to engage in good faith with the two states over powers and authorities that may be devolved to the states as well as to continue to work on their relations with Khartoum.  

Similarly, the international community should continue to support the North and South in reaching a mutually acceptable accord on the future of the border state of Abyei.  With negotiators failing to establish Abyei’s referendum date, outbreaks of violence have already been witnessed.  If left to languish, we believe that the currents of dissatisfaction within Abeyi could derail the implementation of the larger CPA.

Constitutional development.  If the vote for self-determination is successful, both the new state in the south and the existing state in the north will likely develop new constitutions.  These documents will lay the legal and political foundations for Northern and Southern Sudan, so it is critical that the permanent constitutional development processes are inclusive and transparent, providing ample opportunity for citizens, civil society and political parties to provide input.  

President Bashir’s recent comments suggesting that the north will adopt a Sharia-based constitution are disturbing given the limited dialogue in the north to date on a post-referendum constitution.  Such a constitution would potentially ignore the diversity of religious perspectives that exist in the north.  Soon after the referendum, U.S. officials should continue their engagement with both Northern and Southern leaders in dialogue about the processes they will adopt for developing new constitutions, and look for opportunities to ensure that those processes are inclusive, transparent, and protect minority communities.   

The future of the north.  The U.S. government should devote significant attention and resources to better understanding the future of Northern Sudan post-referendum.  While there is currently a good deal of dialogue concerning the future of the south, the north will be crucial to Sudanese and regional stability. A strategy should be prioritized that considers the challenges and opportunities for engagement with Khartoum on Darfur and other marginalized areas such as Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan

Adequate humanitarian, development and diplomatic assistance to help Southern Sudan succeed.  As the Department of State and the Office of Management and Budget work to finalize the FY 2012 International Affairs Budget, the State and USAID’s Sudan-related accounts should be adequately funded.  Unlike unanticipated global crises, we know that the emergence of a newly independent Southern Sudan will most likely necessitate rapid humanitarian and democratic development assistance in both the south as well as the north.  As the excitement of a successful referendum dissipates, one of the greatest challenges will be meeting the elevated expectations of the southern Sudanese and ensuring that the new state is capable of providing basic government services.  We all have an interest in ensuring that Southern Sudan does not become a failed state.  We also have an interest in helping the north and south peacefully resolve difficult post-referendum economic issues, like the sharing of oil revenue.  

In the months to come, we look forward to working with you, Special Envoy Gration, Ambassadors Rice and Lyman as well as Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership to ensure that U.S. government has the capacity and the plans to meet the challenges arising from the upcoming referendum.  

                                                            Sincerely,

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).


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