05/14/97 Committee on the Judiciary - Almquist Statement

1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Testimony of KATE ALMQUIST
Policy Analyst
H.R. 748

before the
JUNE 10, 1997

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I am Kate Almquist, policy analyst for World Vision Relief and Development. WVRD is the technical arm of World Vision US, which is the largest privately funded, faith-based relief and development organization in the United States. World Vision US is a member of an international Christian partnership providing assistance in 103 countries to more than 50 million beneficiaries worldwide. Approximately 85% of World Vision US' annual budget of $303 million in 1996 was raised through private sources, the remaining 15% came from public sources. Over the past five years, 1.3 million American families have contributed financially to World Vision. World Vision has been working in Sudan since 1972, with an operational presence since the early 1980s, with programs for internally displaced persons around Khartoum. However, World Vision was declared persona non grata by the Government of Sudan in 1988, and since then we have concentrated our operations in the non-government-held south. World Vision has worked in all of the major regions of the south, and presently maintains programs in three areas: Yambio county in Western Equatoria province, and Tonj and Gogrial countries in Bahr el Ghazal province. In 1997, World Vision has targeted an estimated beneficiary population of over 250,000 southern Sudanese. Our $8 million program focuses on food security, basic health care, clean water, income generation, and emergency relief needs of these populations.

World Vision is a founding member of Operation Lifeline Sudan, an international consortium of UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and aid donors providing humanitarian assistance to Sudan. World Vision is also a member of the Nairobi-based NGO Forum of OLS NGOs and the Washington, DC-based Sudan Working Group. I personally have had the opportunity to travel to southern Sudan and witness first-hand the devastation wreaked by years of civil war.

Sudan's Domestic Terrorism

Today we have heard detailed descriptions of the role which Sudan plays in promoting and fostering international terrorist activities. Indeed, the evidence against Sudan is compelling. It is sufficient in and of itself to justify prohibiting financial transactions between the Government of Sudan and U.S. persons (understood to mean individuals or companies). Yet I would like to focus your attention now on the terrorism which the Sudanese government propagates against its own citizens, and suggest that this domestic crisis is directly accountable for Sudan's support of terrorist activities abroad. Until and unless the root causes of Sudan's domestic crisis are addressed, we should not expect Sudan's role in sponsoring terrorist activities abroad to cease.

For it is the Sudanese people themselves who bear the brunt of the NIF regime's brutal policies manifested in a devastating civil war, ruthless oppression and gross violations of human rights. Sudan has been an independent country since 1956, yet it has only known relative peace for the period of 1972-1983. Since 1983, when the current civil war broke out, an estimated 1.5 million people have died from the effects of the war, several million have been displaced internally, and at least a half million have sought refuge outside of Sudan. To put these numbers into perspective, the death toll in Sudan alone is greater than the casualties in Somalia, Zaire and Bosnia combined.

Human rights groups, the State Department, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Sudan have repeatedly documented the egregious human rights violations by all parties to the conflict, and in particular by the NIF regime. These abuses frequently target women and children and include enslavement, forced Islamization and Arabization, persecution of Christians, animists and moderate Muslims alike, attempted genocide against entire population groups in the Nuba Mountains, and random bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets in the south. Indeed, World Vision itself has been the target of such bombing raids several times, which typically are devoid of any military pretext. Since May 17, bombs have been dropped on Thiet in Tonj county four times, with at least one of the bombs landing near the World Vision compound.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention the interference of the Sudanese government with the operation of the humanitarian relief program coordinated by Operation Lifeline Sudan in both the north and south. In southern Sudan, OLS agencies such as World Vision are able to operate programs due to an unusual tripartite agreement between the Sudanese government, the United Nations, and the SPLM/A. Under this agreement, the three parties negotiate monthly flight clearances for humanitarian flights to specific sites in southern Sudan. Unfortunately, the NIF regime has manipulated its role in this agreement to capriciously deny flight clearances for aid flights into southern Sudan, thereby handicapping the aid operation and effectively threatening the only lifeline to which millions of southern Sudanese have recourse. When the GOS cuts off most or all flights into rebel-held areas of southern Sudan, as it has done repeatedly in recent weeks, not only does it threaten the very existence of thousands of Sudanese, it also leaves hundreds of international aid workers stranded without sufficient supplies in frequently insecure locations. Presently, flight clearances for the month of June are being denied in blatant disregard of numerous reports of malnutrition and other emergency needs in southern Sudan. The manipulation of OLS by the Sudanese government is so great that the very integrity of the operation has been called into question.

Sudan's Regional Terrorism

In addition to the war the NIF regime is waging against its own citizens, it is also pursuing an aggressive strategy to destabilize its neighbors to the north and in the Horn of Africa. The secular, pro-American governments of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Uganda have been the primary targets of the Sudanese government's destabilization campaign. In each of these countries, the Sudanese government has provided financial and material assistance to extremist Islamic groups seeking to overthrow the democratically-elected governments. As a result, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda have severed diplomatic relations with Khartoum and are now actively working to contain the threat coming from Sudan.

Root Causes

Understanding the crisis in Sudan is a complicated matter. It is not simply the north against the south, the governing National Islamic Front regime against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, the Arabs against the Africans, nor the Muslims against the non-Muslims (Christians and traditional animists). In certain respects it is each of these things, yet still more. Fundamentally the religious, cultural, and ethnic discrimination underlying the domestic crisis in Sudan is a function of the identity crisis the country has struggled with since independence. This identity crisis is manifested in the present conflict of visions between the NIF regime's radical political Islamic vision and the SPLM/A's secular, democratic and pluralistic vision. Just as Sudan's domestic terrorism is a direct manifestation of the NIF regime's radical political Islamic agenda and its authoritarian style of governance, so too is its support for international terrorism.

Ending the war in the south and restoring multiparty democracy and respect for human rights would stop Sudan from being a regional and international menace. More importantly, resolution of the civil war would offer millions of Sudanese their first opportunity to live in peace and dignity. Therefore, the ultimate objective must be a just, comprehensive and lasting peace for the whole country, not a partial settlement between the regime and the SPLM/A or other southern rebel movements. Rule of law, respect for human rights, and a just peace in southern Sudan are prerequisites for ending Sudan's support for international terrorism. Prospects for Peace

Present political and military dynamics do not bode well for reaching a comprehensive and just peace among the warring parties. The conflict has now stratified along vertical lines, with north-south alliances fighting against each other. Northern opposition parties and the SPLM/A have joined forces in an umbrella association called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), whose objectives are the overthrow of the regime, the restoration of multi-party democracy and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the south. The emergence of the NDA is a critical development because it defuses the NIF regime's major rallying cry: that Islam in Sudan is under attack by secularists and the West. The northern opposition forces are all Muslim and include the traditional and very conservative Islamic leadership, which claims the loyalties of much of Sudan's Muslim population. Recently, Sadiq al-Mahdi, Prime Minister of Sudan at the time of the NIF coup in 1989, president of Sudan's largest political party, the Umma Party, and a leading figure in the NDA, visited Washington, DC to reinforce his constituency's support for a pluralistic and democratic Sudan.

For its part, the NIF regime has joined forces with splinter rebel movements in the south, including the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A) led by Riek Machar and the SPLM/A-Bahr el-Ghazal group led by Kerubino Kwanyin Bol. The alliance between NIF and several rebel factions was formalized in the signing of a peace agreement on April 21, 1997 which calls for a referendum in the south on the question of unity or separation following an interim period of four years. The SPLM/A has refused to join the peace agreement, dismissing it as a "sham." Indeed, observers question the usefulness of negotiating a peace agreement without the participation of all of the parties, particularly the largest southern rebel movement or any of the northern opposition parties. The true test of Khartoum's sincerity in seeking a peace agreement will be whether or not it is willing to negotiate with all parties to the conflict--northern and southern--and whether or not it is prepared to negotiate from the starting point of the previously-negotiated IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in the Horn of Africa) Declaration of Principles.

Barring this, we fully anticipate the intensity and scale of fighting in southern Sudan and other parts of the country to increase drastically. In January 1997, the NDA launched a military offensive in territory far more strategic to Khartoum than the south. This initiative--the "Eastern Front"--has the potential for shutting down Khartoum's vital pipeline and corridor to the sea. Combined with the NDA military fronts in Sudan's Upper Nile and Blue Nile provinces (threatening a dam that supplies 80 percent of Sudan's electrical power), SPLM/A rebel activity in central Sudan's Nuba Mountains region, and a strong SPLM/A offensive in the south generally, the NIF government finds itself confronted by a major strategic dilemma. For the first time, the government faces military challenges on four fronts. Never in its existence has it confronted such a direct threat to its own survival.

The Role of US Policy

World Vision concurs with the assessment recently made by Roger Winter, director of the US Committee for Refugees, before the Senate Africa Subcommittee, that Sudan is the one state on the Terrorism List which holds realistic potential for fundamental change in the near-term. The change will be produced by the Sudanese themselves, but it is directly in the interests of the United States to see such political change occur and to encourage it. We need a clear policy on Sudan that reflects US interests and sides with the people against a rogue government. Such a policy would not allow "business as usual" to continue between American individuals or companies and the government of Sudan, while at the same time withholding from the people of Sudan, particularly those living outside of the control of the government, appropriate forms of development assistance.

To the extent that it is in the interests of the US to see a democratic and pluralistic government established in Sudan, it is in our interests to help prepare southern Sudan for the eventuality of self-government, regardless of the ultimate national framework within which self-government is realized. Presently, the fledgling civil administration in non-government-held areas is severely handicapped by a dearth of resources, ranging from such basic commodities as paper to write on, chairs to sit in, or bicycles to enable administrators to move around their districts. Modest investments now in building the local capacity of the civil administration in its formative stages are investments in the governance of southern Sudan, investments that will pay off for years to come and will help ensure the sustainability of a just peace agreement when it comes.

It is also in our interests not to allow US persons to enrich the present Sudanese government. The NIF regime is starved for cash as a result of a failing economy and an estimated drain on its resources of $1 million per day to wage war against the south. Khartoum desperately needs the hard currency from oil revenues to continue to pursue its radical Islamic agenda at home and abroad. US policy should ensure that Americans do not contribute to the ability of the NIF regime to continue to wage war against its own citizens or to support destabilizing and terrorist activities regionally and internationally.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the oil fields in question lie in regions of southern Sudan which are hotly contested. The SPLM/A, the NDA, and other rebel factions have indicated to all foreign companies in Sudan that their installations and personnel would be considered legitimate military targets if operations do not cease, a threat which history has shown the SPLM/A is more than willing to act on. Plans to build a 950-mile pipeline to the Red Sea from the oil fields have already been jeopardized by NDA attacks in eastern Sudan, through which the pipeline to Port Sudan is due to be laid.

World Vision firmly believes that American investment should not contribute to the exploitation of Sudanese oil fields until a comprehensive settlement is reached which includes an agreement on the sharing of natural resources and provides for oil revenues to contribute to the critical development needs of southern Sudan. The possibility of American investment and assistance in the development of Sudanese oil fields should be used as an incentive to encourage all parties to negotiate a just settlement.

Weaknesses in American policy such as the ones I have just mentioned suggest that a comprehensive review of US policy on Sudan is needed. World Vision calls on the Administration and Congress to engage in such a review to identify a coherent policy on Sudan. Both World Vision and the Sudan Working Group have produced policy papers with specific recommendations for such a comprehensive policy review.

Section 321 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and 31 CFR Part 596

Section 321 of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, if taken at face value, would prevent US persons from engaging in financial transactions with Terrorism List governments. In the case of Sudan, this should have precluded the possibility of American companies seeking rights to oil concessions from the government of Sudan. Unfortunately, the regulations issued last August by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department (31 CFR Part 596) to implement Section 321 permit all financial transactions with Sudan and Syria except those which pose a direct risk of furthering domestic terrorism.

Since November of last year, World Vision and the Sudan Working Group have urged the Administration to rescind these regulations and rewrite them in a manner more consistent with the letter of the law. In the absence of the administration's willingness to do this, we have supported congressional initiatives to ensure that "business as usual" does not continue between the US and the government of Sudan.

World Vision would prefer that this objective be achieved as part of a coherent policy toward Sudan which recognizes the domestic and international implications of any financial transactions with the Sudanese government. Section 321 of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, no matter how strictly interpreted, will ultimately fail to stop the government of Sudan from supporting international terrorism because it fails to address the root causes of this support. Section 321 takes an appropriately moral stance on the role of US persons in contributing to the funding of the NIF regime's abhorrent practices, but there will always be other countries, companies, and individuals with fewer scruples willing to support a rogue regime if there is economic profit to be gained. Reports indicate that Canadian, Chinese, Malaysian, and now Austrian firms have rushed in where we would have American companies excluded. Nevertheless, the position articulated in Section 321 is the right position to take. Although it is beyond the scope of this committee, World Vision urges Congress and the Administration to incorporate the sanction provided for in Section 321 into a comprehensive policy on Sudan that does address the root causes of Sudan's domestic crisis and support for international terrorism.

The Impact of H.R. 748 on Humanitarian Assistance

Mr. Chairman, the bill you have introduced in the form of H.R. 748 would ensure that Section 321 is strictly implemented with no exceptions. While we are supportive of prohibiting financial transactions between the government of Sudan and US persons, World Vision shares the concern of other humanitarian organizations that some exemptions to the rule are necessary. Completely denying the Administration the ability to write regulations implementing Section 321, as this bill would do, may result in harmful, albeit unintended, consequences for humanitarian assistance to Terrorism List countries.

Specifically, World Vision is concerned that financial transactions incident to the provision of humanitarian assistance to meet basic human needs be exempted from Section 321 in H.R. 748. H.R. 748 makes similar provision for financial transactions related to routine diplomatic relations; we request that humanitarian assistance also be explicitly exempted from this sanction.

Presently, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has either issued written regulations or has adopted a policy of issuing specific licenses making the provision of humanitarian assistance to the five Terrorism List countries under sanctions regimes possible. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration also provides by regulation that exports of humanitarian goods to such countries is permissible, under certain conditions. The regulations issued by OFAC in 31 CFR Part 596 enable these provisions to remain in effect. In the cases of Sudan and Syria, which do not fall under comprehensive sanctions regimes, humanitarian assistance is possible because of the very broad general licenses OFAC has issued for these two countries in 31 CFR Part 596. Without these regulations, humanitarian organizations would not be able to provide life-saving aid to Terrorism List countries. H.R. 748, as presently written, would effectively nullify these provisions and prevent private humanitarian assistance to any Terrorism List country. Only in the case of non-government held areas of southern Sudan, where the Sudanese government is powerless to collect any taxes or fees on the delivery of humanitarian assistance or the travel of humanitarian aid workers, would humanitarian assistance still be possible. In all other cases, including for instance northern Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba, it would be virtually impossible to avoid payment of any sort to the government in the course of providing humanitarian aid to a Terrorism List country. Even if it were possible to deliver humanitarian assistance without engaging in a financial transaction with the government, traveling to the country to monitor the distribution of the aid would be impossible without at least paying a visa fee, an airline ticket or airport tax, or paying for government-run room and board. World Vision would face these challenges in North Korea, which is in dire need of food and agricultural aid to stop a famine that threatens the lives of 23 million North Koreans, including 2.4 million children.

Mr. Chairman, World Vision urges the Committee to ensure that millions of needy people in Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, or any other country on the Terrorism List not be deprived of vital humanitarian assistance as a result of H.R. 748. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on drafting language to ensure that this is not the case.