The final witness was Yasir Arman, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Commander Arman was the popular candidate for president of Sudan, who ran against al-Bashir until the SPLM-N decided to boycott the race to protest election fraud. Arman, a great example to all Sudanese, is a northern Arab who shares the vision of a new Sudan with freedom and equality for all, espoused by the late leader of South Sudan, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. Arman declared that al-Bashir is a terrorist, and although his terrorism “starts with the Sudanese people,” it goes “worldwide.” He revealed that over 140 leaders of the SPLM-N had been arrested and tortured, and that Malik Agar, the governor of Blue Nile State “had been sacked” and replaced by an NCP loyalist. But these besieged areas, in their resistance to the radical Islamists in Khartoum, are the “new South in the North,” Arman promised.
The high level of frustration among members of Congress was evident even as Congressman Wolf, the co-chair of the commission and a long-time advocate for the beleaguered Sudanese people, described the hearing as one of the best ones he has ever been to on Sudan (and he has been to many). Wolf admitted that he was still pessimistic about conditions in Sudan “until Bashir is taken to The Hague and tried.” He declared, as he had done at a previous hearing in August, that “until there is regime change, and Bashir is no longer in power, we will not see change in Sudan.”
U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), co-founder and co-chair of the Sudan Caucus, also contrasted the situation in Sudan with the “Arab Spring.” “We are perfectly happy to shoot missiles at Gadhafi for threatening to hurt his people, but we are doing nothing about a government that has been killing its people for years!” he exclaimed. “None of us really understands why we are not doing more,” Capuano added.
As the hearing came to a close, Congressman Wolf searched the packed hearing room, demanding of the crowd, “How many of you are from the media?” He counted as five hands went up around the room in the Cannon House Office Building. “Of you five, are any of you from Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, or NBC?” he questioned further. Silence.
Wolf lamented that no one in the media had asked any of the Republican presidential hopefuls about Sudan in any of the debates, and since only answers to questions and no opening statements were permitted, it was hard to gauge whether or not there was any interest on the part of the GOP candidates. The congressman said he intended to send the testimonies from the hearing to the five major networks and urge them to air the views of the candidates on this important issue. Perhaps he should send copies to each of the candidates’ campaigns, as well, and seek a direct response.
Increased media coverage from all quarters would help build pressure for change in Sudan as it did for the “Arab Spring.” But the mainstream media that reported breathlessly each protest in Tahrir Square and each NATO air strike to aid Libyan “rebels” has been mostly silent about Sudan’s fight for freedom. It’s up to the rest of us to keep up the pressure.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).
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