By Gary G. Yerkey
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Jan. 24 that, if confirmed as President Obama’s choice as secretary of state, as expected, he will work to end the continuing humanitarian crisis in Sudan, which he called a “human tragedy.”
Kerry said that bombings and starvation continue in the largely Christian areas of southern Sudan, and that the National Congress Party led by President Omar al-Bashir, which governs the north, “needs to be held accountable.”
But Kerry, appearing at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said that the leaders in the south need to show “greater determination and better governance.”
“So we’ve got our work cut out for us with respect to both [the north and the south],” he said in answer to a question from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “But I can promise you it’s going to remain a focus.”
Earlier this month, at a forum in Washington, D.C., a coalition of leading human rights activists and scholars called on Congress to press the Obama administration to act quickly to end the humanitarian crisis in the largely Christian areas of southern Sudan, saying that the administration’s response to the crisis has been nonexistent.
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said that an opportunity to get through to the administration would present itself when Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Shea said that those concerned about Sudan should contact the offices of committee members to ensure that the issue would be raised at the confirmation hearing. “Anyone with contacts on the foreign relations committee, now’s the time to use them,” she said. “[Kerry] needs to understand that there’s a constituency on Sudan.”
The harassment of Christians in the south through aerial bombings, forced starvation and targeted massacres have reportedly intensified since July 2011 when the territory succeeded from Sudan and al-Bashir pledged to adopt a stricter version of Shariah and to recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.
Portrait of Sen.John Kerry by United States Congress [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons