November 13th, 2013
“How much longer will the international community allow Khartoum to continue its brutal policies with impunity?”: Baroness Cox in the House of Lords
Last Thursday (07/11/13), as a new HART intern, I attended a debate in House of Lords which focused on the continuing humanitarian crisis in Sudan and South Sudan. Baroness Cox asked what assessment the British Government have made of the situation in Sudan, and the implications for citizens of the Republic of South Sudan.
Over the past two years, human rights abuses committed by the Government of Sudan and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have been a daily occurrence in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile state. Constant aerial bombardment has forced half of million civilians to hide in caves or riverbed, living continuous fear. A quarter of million have fled into refugee camps in South Sudan or Ethopia.
Tired of waiting for the referendum promised by the African Union, last month a unilateral referendum of the Ngok Dinka took place in the disputed border region of Abyei. It showed a near unanimous desire in favour of Abyei joining South Sudan. Baroness Cox pointed out that this was able to happen “in spite of intimidation and boycott by the Khartoum Government, which attempted to bomb bridges to prevent people from returning home to vote.”
Baroness Kinnock added that “the misery of Darfur has once again intensified, Khartoum’s campaign of aerial bombardment and systematic ethnic cleansing has spread to Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and after last week’s referendum it is clear that the permanent residents of Abyei wish to be free of a regime that is hostile to their very existence.”
Lord Avebury drew an attention to the role which the international community could have in influencing Khartoum’s actions, pointing out that “The IMF persuaded the regime to cancel fuel subsidies in an attempt to control its rocketing external debt…. If the IMF made the ending of these conflicts and of purchases of sophisticated foreign military equipment a condition of debt relief, there would be a double benefit to the Sudanese economy and to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Khartoum’s aggression.”
The Lord Bishop of Guildford expressed concern at the destabilizing effect which Sudan could have on its neighbours, stating that “There is a real question about the escalation of ethnic and religious violence, and its spread from east Africa to west Africa.”
Lord Wallace of Saltaire responded of behalf of the British Government. He summarised the current situation within Sudan, noting that the British Government’s approach is one of working with other international actors, and encouraging their involvement. “We are no longer an imperial power within the region. We have to work with others…We are working as closely as we can with the African Union and the high-level panel… We are also, of course, working through and with the United Nations… We are doing our best to make the EU a more active player than it has been… We wish that the Arab League was more active… We would like to see more active Chinese involvement.”
A complex debate, reflecting the many complex, interrelated issues at work in Sudan. Many of the peers called for a more proactive stance from the British Government, with Baroness Cox asking “How much longer… the international community [will] allow Khartoum to continue its brutal policies with impunity?”
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