The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Africa

June 14, 2001

June 14, 2001 | News Releases on Africa

U.S. Can't Hope to End Sudan's Civil War Without Taking Sides, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2001-Secretary of State Colin Powell is right to call for an end to Sudan's 18-year-old civil war, but the United States must do more to help transform that country into a stable, peaceful state that does not use terrorism and subversion as instruments of foreign policy, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

Sudan's civil war, the longest-running conflict on Earth today, has claimed 2 million lives, displaced 5 million people inside the country and sent another half-million into exile, notes James Phillips, a Heritage research fellow in Middle East studies. But, he says, the sides are not morally equivalent, as Secretary Powell seemed to suggest during his recent tour of Africa.

In the course of imposing sharia-strict Islamic law-on Christians and animists in the southern part of the nation, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has bombed civilians, starved his countrymen, turned a blind eye to a thriving slave trade and engaged in other human rights abuses, Phillips says.

Moreover, Sudan-its government bolstered by oil revenues-has become a leading exporter of terrorism. The al-Bashir regime harbors members of such virulently anti-American organizations as Egypt's Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, the Palestine Islamic Jihad and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group. Believed to responsible for terrorist attacks that include the Kobar Towers attack on U.S. servicemen in Saudi Arabia and the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, bin Laden lived in Sudan from 1991 to 1996.

The Sudanese resistance-a coalition of Christians, animists and Muslims frustrated by the brutal repression of the al-Bashir government-is concentrated in the oil-rich south, although oil revenues go to the government in the capital city of Khartoum. The rebels have sought to build a broad coalition inside Sudan.

Phillips says the United States should support the resistance with food outside of the United Nations' Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) program to feed Sudan because the government intercepts or manipulates much of that. It also should lend military aid, but not soldiers, if al-Bashir's troops go on the attack again.

In addition, he says, President Bush should appoint a special envoy to coordinate U.S. policy on Sudan, launch a high-profile campaign to expose the regime's inhumane policies and strengthen international pressure against Khartoum.

"U.S. policy in Sudan should focus on bringing an end to Khartoum's militant brand of Islam," Phillips says. "Were it not for the al-Bashir government's attempt to impose its religious laws on the non-Muslim south, there would be no war."

About the Author

Related Issues: Africa