By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
OPINION — The passing of Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State of the United States and trusted former top military officer in the United States armed forces on Monday October 18, 2021 with the complications from COVID-19, has shocked the whole world and prompted countless world leaders to pay elicited condolences and tributes in remembrance of his dear legacy as a renown revered trusted world leader. Among these countless world leaders who paid tributes to him was South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit who praised the late Gen for his contribution to help Sudanese people achieve the peace that culminated in secession of South Sudan from Sudan. Powell’s efforts and determination to push the Sudanese government and the SPLM to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was bold and commendable.
Throughout its independence, Sudan had never enjoyed peaceful coexistence. Finally, in 2005, a new way of dealing with the chronic problem of Sudan emerged and the credit of the CPA goes to former U.S President George W. Bush. It would be entirely but American Evangelical Christians deserve the highest praise since they were the one who mobilized the American public to put pressure on their government in order to do something for South Sudanese Christians who have been mistreated by the Islamic led governments in Khartoum. So, the question that remains to be asked is, what encourages American Evangelical Christian to advocate for the end of the conflict in Sudan? Answer of the above question is as follows.
From early 1990, South Sudanese refugees began resettlement in the United States, and the colossal tragedy of their suffering had become very visible to members of the American evangelical Christians. After their resettlement in the United States in large numbers, South Sudanese Christians who had fled from the war-torn South Sudan in the 1980s to refugee camps in Ethiopia, begin to share the word of God with their fellow American Christians and help explain their suffering in detail in Sunday worship services. The stories of their tribulations inspiring American Christians, and the Church groups in the United States, began focusing on persuading the U.S policymakers to pay more attention toward Sudan. The Church renewed its international mission to reach South Sudanese Christians who remain in refugee camps in neighboring countries and inside South Sudan liberated areas. The missionaries brought hope to desperate refugees who had no clue of when they might return to their original homes in South Sudan or when peace will actually be going to come to their land permanently.
Due to this Christian mobilization, former President George W. Bush could not ignore the American Christian movement that had contributed so greatly to his successful election in 2000. While beginning his work on Sudan, President George W. Bush allowed his secretary of State Colin Powell to declare in testimony before the House Subcommittee for Africa in March 2001 that the greatest tragedy on earth today was unfolding in Sudan and it had to be the result. Few months later in May, the President himself singled out Sudan for violating religious freedom. From there onward, many Congresspersons began hearing their constituencies’ denouncing Sudan for its records on human rights abuses, act of terrorism, and the harassment of Christians. South Sudanese in American cities encourage their American Christian friends to frequently form rallies in State capitol buildings, demanding immediate action toward Sudan. To hear the voices of American Christians, the Congress, the American public who wrote letters to him, and to demonstrate his sincere concern about human rights, President George W. Bush decided to appoint Senator John Danforth as his special envoy to Sudan on September 6, 2001 to explore what steps should be taken to bring about peace in Sudan.
Danforth is an ordained Episcopal minister who has served twenty years in the Senate. He had been the U.S ambassador to the United Nation full of knowledge of world affairs including the Sudan. After his appointment, extreme Islamist hijacked four American airliners and crashed two into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon and the fourth one was prevented from hitting Pennsylvania government center by some American heroes. More than three thousand people died in this horrific violence which could not be condoned in any sense. On that day as one remembered, all people and even God himself was full of anger and would want to retaliate such an evil act himself. Several weeks later after the attack on the World Trade Center, John Danforth starts his work as a special envoy. He began by touring territories in South Sudan held by the SPLA rebels and proceeded to Nubba Mountains where he successfully negotiated a cease-fire between rebels and the government in the area. He also pushes the government to declare a cease-fire on all fronts with the emphasis on stopping targeting civilians. Then, he investigates the charges of slavery and recognizes zones of tranquility so that none-governmental organizations could be able to carry relief to the needy and start immunization of the population for polio and Guinea worm.
Then in January 2002, the SPLM/A and the Sudan government formally signed the cease-fire. Shortly thereafter, President George W. Bush signed into law a document known as the “Sudan Peace Act.” This piece of legislation was largely the work of the American Christian movement and the Sudan lobby in Congress. It authorized large amounts of money to be used for relief and development in areas controlled by the SPLM/A excluding areas under government control. The peace act law indicates that if one party to the peace does not act in good faith the U.S government will apply sanctions to such a party and that would be damaging to their operational policies. Then if the negotiation broke down, President Bush will use the authority given to him by this act which is seeking arms embargo against the Sudan Government to prevent Sudan oil revenues from being used to purchase weapons anywhere in the world and use them against its own citizens. In this regard, President Omar al Bashir and the NIF government were not pleased. To show their anger, the Sudanese government launched a lengthy statement using abusive language to denounce the “Sudan Peace Act”, claiming that “the SPLM/A was attempting to clean itself from the previous alliances with Marxist-Leninist organization and it should not be supported.” A statement that the State Department responded by singling out Sudanese government as one of principal violators of religious freedom. The United States stood firmly in its decision to support the SPLM/A, and it had enormously applied diplomatic and political pressure on the NIF government to negotiate peace with the SPLM/A, and made sure that NIF negotiators were compromising and granting SPLM/A generous terms. May God rest Gen Powell’s soul in eternal life.
The author is a concerned citizen of South Sudan. He can be reached via: email@example.com.