Tags: Bush | Names | Envoy | Slavery-Ridden | Sudan

Bush Names Envoy to Slavery-Ridden Sudan

Friday, 04 May 2001 12:00 AM

Speaking Thursday before the American Jewish Committee, Bush said Natsios "will provide the leadership necessary to ensure that our aid goes to the needy, without manipulation by those ravaging that troubled land."

"This is a first step; more will follow," Bush said. "Our actions begin today, and my administration will continue to speak and act for as long as the persecution and atrocities in Sudan last."

The announcement marked the first statement from the president on the troubled country that has drawn the attention of an unlikely coalition of black leaders, conservative activists and evangelical Christians.

In February a group of leading conservatives, including former Bush campaign adviser Marvin Olasky, urged the president to relegate Sudan to "pariah status." Last month, House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., the chairman of the House panel that funds the State Department's operations budget, called for a special envoy to Sudan.

"Sudan is a disaster area for all human rights. But the right of conscience has been singled out for special abuse by the Sudanese authorities. Aid agencies report that food assistance is sometimes distributed only to those willing to undergo conversion to Islam," Bush said.

In the speech he compared the government's campaign against Christians and animists in southern Sudan to pogroms against Jews in the early 20th century.

The Sudanese regime has been sanctioned by the United Nations for bombing grounded U.N. relief helicopters taking supplies to the south, and it also was denied a seat on the U.N. Security Council largely because of its human rights record. However, Thursday it won a seat on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights - which ejected the United States.

There is widespread slavery in the country, perpetrated against southern Christians and animists. A 2001 Human Rights Watch report said at least 5,000 slaves were held captive by government-backed militia groups.

In his speech Bush said: "Women and children have been abducted and sold into slavery. UNICEF estimates that some 12,000 to 15,000 people are now held in bondage in Sudan."

Despite this record, Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the administration is considering whether to re-establish formal diplomatic ties with Khartoum. The relationship with Sudan has essentially been broken off because U.S. officials were forced to leave the embassy in Khartoum in February 1996 for security reasons.

Since then, U.S. diplomacy with Sudan is conducted through U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Cairo, Egypt. Powell's choice for assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Walter Kansteiner, signed a paper this year calling for a return of U.S. officials to the Khartoum embassy.

The State Department's annual terrorism report, issued this week, said Sudan was making strides to get off a list of seven "state sponsors of terrorism." In 1995, Sudanese training camps were used by an 11-man hit squad that attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 2000, total U.S. aid to Sudan was nearly $94 million. But many charities operating in the country complained that the Sudanese regime and rebels required the groups to take sides in its 18-year civil war that has taken the lives of as many as 2 million people.

The war pits the northern, mostly Arabic-speaking and Muslim population against the African south, where Christianity and animists are the majority.

Complicating the conflict is the discovery of oil in a zone straddling the two parts of the dirt-poor country. Nongovernmental organizations doing relief work in the south and others say government forces are conducting forced relocations of people living in the area as part of the security process for oil companies operating there.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Speaking Thursday before the American Jewish Committee, Bush said Natsios will provide the leadership necessary to ensure that our aid goes to the needy, without manipulation by those ravaging that troubled land. This is a first step; more will follow, Bush said. Our...
Friday, 04 May 2001 12:00 AM
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