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Meanwhile, Sudan was and remains one of the top priorities of the U.S. CIRF. Its first hearing was on Sudan, on February 15, 2000.1485 In its first, May 2000, report the U.S. CIRF found “that the government of Sudan is the world's most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief.”1486 In June 1999, in its first specific reference to Sudan in years, the U.S. Congress adopted a “sense of the Congress” resolution condemning the Sudanese government for a wide range of human rights abuses.1487 Later in 1999, Congress passed an appropriations bill containing provision for food aid to the rebel SPLA, at the discretion of the U.S. president.1488 Several U.S.-based NGOs operating in Sudan, as well as Human Rights Watch, lobbied against the U.S. giving food aid to the SPLA, citing SPLA abuses, concern 1484 Two U.S. CIRF commissioners were familiar faces from the Reagan era: Elliott Abrams, former assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, who was found to have lied to the U.S. Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings about his solicitation of funds from the Sultan of Brunei for the benefit of the Nicaraguan contras, and Nina Shea, who had been a vocal Nicaraguan contra supporter while at the Puebla Institute. She had since written a book about persecuted Christians worldwide.
Both were among the first commissioners on the U.S. CIRF. Elliott Abrams resigned from the U.S. CIRF in 2001 to take a high-level position at the National Security Council in the Bush administration, reportedly acting as liaison between the NSC and the White House on Sudan matters.
1485 One month later a commission member criticized the State Department’s first report on religious human rights in Sudan as inadequate because it was “unclear—even about the basic fact that religious persecution is at the core of the conflict.” Testimony of Nina Shea before the House International Relations Committee et al., March 8, 2000.
http://uscirf.gov/briefings/shea_030800.php3?scale=800 (accessed July 17, 2001).
1486 http://uscirf.gov/reports/01May00/policy_Sudan.php3 (accessed June 15, 2001).
1487 U.S. House of Representatives, “Condemning the National Islamic Front (NIF) government for its genocidal war in southern Sudan, support for terrorism, and continued human rights violations, and for other purposes,” Concurrent Resolution, H. Con. Res.
75, 106th Cong., 1st sess, June 16, 1999.
1488 Section 592(b) of the Fiscal Year 2000 Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
483Human Rights Watch
about NGO staff safety, and the need to preserve NGO neutrality.1489 The SPLA denounced these NGOs.1490 On February 10, 2000, President Clinton wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress as required by the legislation, informing that “at this time” he would not exercise his discretion to allow U.S. food aid to the SPLA.1491 There were only a handful of Congressmen interested in Sudan in the mid-1990s: Congressmen Donald Payne (D-NJ), Tony Hall (D-OH), and Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) stood out in their efforts to rouse Congress to the plight of the Sudanese. In 1999, a few more members of the U.S. Congress began to devote time and interest to Sudan, in response to pressure from U.S. conservatives and religious groups who believed that the Muslims of Sudan were persecuting the minority Christians of Sudan in a “genocidal war” and were enslaving southern Christians in the course of the war.1492 One was newlyelected Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), in whose district schoolteacher Barbara Vogel was already raising money for slave “redemptions.” Another was freshman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), who was one of the most outspoken senators on Sudan.
An important supporter of peace in Sudan was Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), who had gone to southern Sudan with World Vision in his capacity as a medical doctor during the 1998 famine. He was appointed Senate Majority Leader in 2002 and took another trip in his medical capacity to southern Sudan in 2003, 1489 Karen DeYoung, “Aid Groups Challenge U.S. Policy on Sudan,” International Herald Tribune, January 6, 2000; Stephen Mbogo, “Stakeholders Lobby against New U.S. Strategy on Food Aid,” All Africa News Agency, Nairobi, January 31, 2000. WFP also expressed concern that the U.S. plan would represent a threat to OLS and “disrupt an existing non-partisan aid programme.” “WFP Worried about US Food Aid Project for Southern Sudanese Rebels,” AFP, Geneva, November 30, 1999. See Human Rights Watch press release, “Food Aid to Sudanese Rebels Opposed,” New York, December 13, 1999.
1490 Nhial Deng Nhial, SPLM/A press release, “Statement on the MOU between the SRRA and the NGOs,” Nairobi, March 1, 2000.
1491 William J. Clinton, Text of a Letter from the President to the Chairman of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, February 10, 2000. p. 2.
1492 Testimony, Charles Jacobs, American Anti-Slavery Group, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, D.C., September 28, 2000.
discomforting U.S. officials concerned about his safety in the south despite the ceasefire.1493 He was said to lead Senate opinion on Sudan.
A lobbying group that focused on Congress, and was frustrated by the U.S. State Department, was the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), a group created in 1995. It began its work on Sudan that year by focusing attention on why U.S. African-American Congressmen and other leaders did not take a position on “black African slavery” in Sudan.1494 Its work grew as the phenomenon of slave “redemption” of “Christian” southern Sudanese slaves from “Arab Muslim” raiders/masters grew. A few Christian NGOs— not including those who had relief and medical operations on the ground in Sudan—had started to buy back slaves in Sudan as a means of freeing them. In lightning trips conducted under great secrecy to northern Bahr El Ghazal in Sudan, the “slaves” were presented to first-time visitors to Africa (who spoke no Arabic or local languages) by an “Arab” “go-between” who had allegedly gathered them from their owners in western Sudan and walked them south into SPLA territory.1495 The Sudanese churches recognized the problem of slavery but did not endorse these buy-backs.1496 Many operational NGOs took a similar position.1497 A scandal regarding the misuse of the redemption funds 1493 “Senate majority leader went on his own for medical missions to Sudan, Kenya,” AP, Washington, D.C., September 3, 2003.
1494 Bill Sammon, “Christians, Jews say African slavery being ignored; U.S. black activists deny Farrakhan factor,” Washington Times, February 27, 1998 (quoting Charles Jacobs, American Anti-Slavery Group, “Jesse Jackson’s office told me he wouldn’t touch it because it could be perceived as an anti-Arab campaign.” Ibid.) “Black African” is not a term that southern Sudanese use to describe themselves, at least not before the AASG and others used it.
1495 Linda Slobodian, “The Slave Trail,” http://www.canoe.ca/SlaveTrain/ (accessed March 26, 1998); see Christian Solidaritry International, “Slavery In Sudan: Evidence to Congressional Sub-Committee Hearings, March 1996,” testimony of Baroness Cox, Washington, D.C., March 13, 1996; Caroline Cox and John Eibner, “Christian Solidarity International: Visit to Sudan, May 31-June 5, 1995,” preliminary draft, Oxford, U.K., June 1995.
1496 A joint statement the SCC and the NSCC issued in Geneva in July 1999 said, “The issue of slavery should be looked at in the context of the crisis in Sudan; When the crises in Sudan are brought to an end, slavery will also come to an end; Partners should support the efforts of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to end slavery in Sudan; With all the good intentions in slave redemption, it does not end slavery.”
and bogus “slaves” surfaced, in which even some Christians who had formerly participated in the “redemptions” renounced the practice.1498 The redemption campaign in its simplicity proved emotionally appealing. Steady campaigning on the slavery issue at the grass roots, fund-raising through appeals to “buy-back” slaves, and spreading the word to African-American churches had an effect, as did the removal by illness of the Black Muslims’ Louis Farrakhan from the debate. Farrakhan, who commanded a following among African-Americans in the U.S., had visited Sudan and was a defender of the Islamic government of Sudan even after meeting with southern Sudanese who appealed to him as Africans to condemn the Sudanese government’s persecution of them.
The U.S. African American community was split on the Sudan issue until Farrakhan faded out on the issue in the late 1990s. U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), who had been a vocal supporter of military aid to the SPLA long before Sudan became an issue of religious rights, was key in the effort to bring the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) along in a coalition with the white religious conservatives on Sudan.
There was thus ongoing constituent pressure on Congress to “do something” on Sudan. But Sudan was already subjected to a stringent sanctions regime, with only one visible hole, that of gum Arabic; Sudan was the source of more than 90 percent of this product, used to suspend particles in soda pop cans, in the world.1499 1497 Human Rights Watch, “Background Paper on Slavery and Slavery Redemption in the Sudan,” March 1999, http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/sudan1.htm, and “Slavery and Slave Redemption in Sudan,” March 2002, http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/sudanupdate.htm; and Human Rights Watch, Children of Sudan: Slaves, Street Children, Child Soldiers (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995), http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/Sudan.htm (all accessed May 22, 2002);
AntiSlavery International (London), www.antislavery.org/ (accessed May 22, 2002);
1498 See Human Rights Watch, “Slavery and Slave Redemption in Sudan,” March 2002.
1499 The U.S. had exempted gum arabic from its own sanctions on trade with Sudan. An editorial in the Washington Post chastised the U.S. for “Soda Pop Diplomacy,” specifically: “it does seem fair to ask whether a nation that can't accept the pulp settling on the bottom of the can of soda pop is totally, utterly—and credibly—committed to the fight against global terrorism.” “Soda Pop Diplomacy,” editorial, Washington Post, November 8, 1997.
486Foreign Corporate Complicity, Foreign Government Support
This conservative religious/Black Caucus coalition, and another including operational NGOs responsible for programs regularly caring for hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese in need, more established churches, and human rights groups (such as those groups opposing food aid to the SPLA), were both seeking ways to rachet up U.S. pressure on Sudan. At the same time, the Europeans and other U.S. allies were going in exactly the opposite direction, that of normalizing their relations with Sudan, greased by the participation of their companies in the growing oil business in Sudan and despite the efforts of European NGOs operational in Sudan.
Campaign Against Oil Investment
Pressure to Sell Off Talisman Shares U.S. pressure groups of many persuations were concerned that, although U.S. companies were already barred from doing business in Sudan, non-U.S. oil companies were undercutting the economic boycott.
These included Talisman, a company based in neighboring Canada, where Canadian activists had been mounting a campaign to force the Canadian government to rein in Talisman. U.S. activists kept up continuous and unforgiving pressure on Talisman. But it had not been enough.
Canadian NGOs had campaigned against Talisman and its predecessor Arakis since at least 1995, urging them to pull out of Sudan on account of the gross human rights abuses committed by the Sudanese government. They also pressured Talisman shareholders to sell off their Talisman shares in protest, targeting large, institutional Canadian shareholders. Probably as a result of this pressure, Vancouver’s Citizens Bank of Canada sold off its undisclosed Talisman holdings.1500 1500 Steve Chase and Guy Dixon, “Silence is golden, PR experts tell Talisman,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), Calgary and Toronto, November 20, 1999.
The faculty and students of the University of Toronto and York University, Ontario, lobbied to rid their pension and endowments funds of Talisman stock as well.1501 The head of the Ontario Teachers Federation, Barbara Sargent, announced that the federation would lobby its pension fund board to divest its Canadian $184 million worth of Talisman stock if it could corroborate evidence of violations in Sudan where Talisman operates. The teachers welcomed the Canadian government’s human rights fact-finding mission to Sudan in 1999.1502 Their Ontario pension fund board, in contrast, said that it had no plan to sell its 4.5 million Talisman shares (3.2 percent of Talisman’s publicly traded shares). It said it bought Talisman shares because it buys positions in all stocks included in the Toronto Stock Exchange’s index of 300 leading stocks.1503 As of December 2000, the Ontario teachers’ pension fund held a diminished number of Talisman shares, 3.8 million, or 2.7 percent of Talisman’s outstanding stock. In 2002 it still held a substantial block of Talisman stock, despite the unions’ displeasure.1504 U.S. groups joined the campaign because Talisman’s shareholders included a large roster of U.S.-based pension funds and institutional investors. Smith College Professor of English Eric Reeves ran a prolific one-man email campaign for human rights in Sudan, focusing on the oil industry and divestment of Talisman shares, then the capital market sanctions amendment. Activists sent letters to mutual fund companies and pension funds that held Talisman shares, urging them to sell off their Talisman 1501 Nicola Luksic, “University of Toronto holds millions in controversial Talisman Energy,” University of Toronto Varsity newspaper, December 9, 1999; Angela Pacienza, “York Money Immersed in Controversy: Faculty Urges University to Sell Talisman Stocks Linked to Civil War,” York University Excalibur, December 1, 1999; Nancy Kuyumcu, “Stock Controversy Continues,” York University Excalibur, January 19, 2000; Reka Szekely, “Sudan War Grips York Student,” York University Excalibur, March 22, 2000.