President Menendez’s opening remarks during the Committee of the Whole hearing on U.S. policy toward Sudan in the wake of the October 25 coup
February 01, 2022
WASHINGTON – US Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committeetoday delivered the following opening remarks during this morning’s plenary session entitled “Sudan’s Transition in Peril: US Policy in the Wake of the Events of October 25”.and Coup.” Testifying before the Committee were Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mary Catherine Phee; Isobel Coleman, Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development; President and CEO of International Crisis Group, Dr. Comfort Ero, and Mr. Joseph Tucker, United States Institute for Peace Senior Expert for the Greater Horn of Africa.
“The fall of Al-Bashir and the subsequent progress of the transition paved the way for me and other members of this body to take legal action to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and to support a general thaw in U.S.-Sudan relations. The brazen military coup in October put that progress in jeopardy,” President Menendez said, condemning the Sudanese military’s continued killings, torture, abuse and detention of protesters and civil society activists, and noting its own legislative efforts to establish the conditions that must be met before the United States resumes the aid to Sudan. “We have vital strategic interests in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Corridor that will be difficult if not impossible to meet if Sudan’s transition fails. We simply cannot take that risk.
Below is a copy of President Menendez’s remarks.
“Let me thank our witnesses for joining us today to discuss the crisis in Sudan. East Africa is on the brink. Three years ago, fragile transitions in Ethiopia and Sudan once prompted cautious optimism. Today, the conflict in Ethiopia, including the murderous siege of Tigray, and on October 25and coup in Sudan are alarming.
In April 2019, the people of Sudan peacefully and tenaciously ousted indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s brutal dictator for 30 years. Despite a violent response from its security services, during five months of sustained and widespread protests, the people of Sudan have succeeded in securing a transition to democracy. Although the process was difficult, civilians were able to reach agreement with military actors on a transitional constitutional document that provided a timetable for a full return to civilian rule.
The fall of Al-Bashir and the subsequent progress of the transition paved the way for me and other members of this body to take legal action to remove Sudan from the list of sponsoring states. terrorism and to support a general thaw in U.S.-Sudan relations.
The brazen military coup in October put this progress in jeopardy. The coup was the culmination of weeks of tension between civilian and military members of Sudan’s transitional government. The army’s arrest and detention of Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian officials, as well as the killing of dozens of protesters advocating a return to civilian rule, have made it clear that military actors have little interest in ceding power and do not fear the consequences of their actions. .
The United States, regional actors, and the international community must respond quickly and decisively to help the people of Sudan put their country back on a democratic path. Although the United Nations Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) has indicated that it will facilitate Sudanese-led talks among local stakeholders, it has no means of enforcing participation or holding participants responsible for meeting commitments.
Despite publicly committing to dialogue to resolve the current crisis, the Sudanese military continues to kill, torture, mistreat and detain protesters and civil society activists. Nearly 80 civilians have been killed by security forces since the coup, including a 27-year-old man last weekend. Although a dialogue is necessary, there must also be consequences for those responsible for the human rights violations and for those who, at the highest level, organized the coup.
In that vein, I support the Biden administration’s decision to suspend $700 million in aid immediately following the coup. I also welcome the World Bank’s decision to suspend its own planned assistance. However, these actions alone proved insufficient to end the violence and force the generals to the negotiating table.
I am pleased that the administration has taken a number of steps to increase its engagement in the Sudan crisis, including selecting David Satterfield to succeed Ambassador Feltman as Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, and by sending a seasoned ambassador to the position of Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy in Khartoum until an Ambassador is confirmed. And I’m glad the White House has finally appointed an ambassador to Sudan. Given the current situation, I hope my colleagues will join me in ensuring that we proceed with the appointment as quickly as possible.
In the days to come, Congress will also act. Ranking Member Risch and I are collaborating on legislation that establishes conditions that must be met before resuming assistance, orders the administration to rethink its assistance strategy, and establishes a targeted sanctions regime to those who undertook the coup and continue to undermine the transition to democracy and the violation of human rights – so far a critical missing piece in the administration’s response.
I hope that during your testimony you will discuss the following points: What are the prospects for a return to civilian rule? What role are the African Union, Gulf Arab states and other regional actors playing in supporting a return to dialogue and pressuring military leaders to agree to cede power? What “consequences” were you referring to in your tweet a week ago, Assistance Secretary Phee, and when does the administration plan to impose them?
We have vital strategic interests in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Corridor that will be difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy if Sudan’s transition fails. We simply cannot take that risk.
I will turn to Ranking Member Risch for his opening statement.