U.N. vote on Security Council seat for Sudan mobilizes opposition

Friday, October 6, 2000 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

6 October 2000 (Newsroom) — The prospect of Sudan gaining a seat on the United Nations Security Council may help galvanize opposition against a repressive regime that condones slavery, religious persecution, and bullying its African neighbors, human rights and religious freedom activists contend.

If the General Assembly votes on Tuesday to grant Sudan a two-year seat on the 15-member Security Council, despite last-minute lobbying by the United States, the action will demonstrate “how indifferent the world has been to the holocaust taking place in its midst,” observed Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

It will be “a scandal, a moral outrage beyond description,” asserted Eric Reeves, a professor of English language and literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. “What this means is that the National Islamic Front that governs Sudan from Khartoum, a regime that is among the very worst violators of human rights anywhere in the world, will take its place in the world body’s most important forum for discussions of global justice and security.”

Sudan and Mauritius were nominated to replace Namibia on the Security Council, and the majority of sub-Saharan African governments reportedly endorsed Sudan during a July meeting of the Organization of African Unity.

The endorsement of African nations reflects the weakness of American foreign policy regarding Sudan, Horowitz contends. “They get pressure from Sudan and lip service from the U.S.,” he said. “If the rest of the world were clear about the U.S. position in dealing with this regime like we dealt with the apartheid regime in South Africa, African countries would not have supported Sudan.”

Last month, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told journalists that Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with various U.N. and Security Council members to express the U.S. view that “Sudan is an unsuitable candidate for the Security Council.”

In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom called Sudan “the world’s most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion and belief.” Sudan also was one of seven nations that made the U.S. State Department’s annual list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The U.S. repeatedly has condemned Khartoum for its conduct during a 17-year war against rebels in the south. Up to 2 million people are estimated to have died in the fighting, in attacks on civilians, and because of war-related starvation. Nearly 5 million more have been displaced. Reports from relief agencies and refugees persist about government bombing of undefended schools, hospitals, emergency feeding stations, and refugee centers.

“Khartoum has corrupted the world body (U.N.), twisted its mission, and pressured it to commit evil. All this as a regular member,” Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, charged last week at a briefing at the U.N. sponsored by Freedom House, a U.S. non-governmental organization that promotes democracy and civil liberties worldwide. “If the U.N. honors Sudan with a seat on the Security Council, things can only get worse. … How the U.N. acts will tell the world whether it is to be a seat of justice and humanity, or the tool of oil, greed, and the basest sort of world-body politics.”

Reeves, who has written a number of articles about Sudan, said if the country is granted a seat on the Security Council, African nations will lose credibility when it criticizes the West for failing to intervene in devastating conflicts on the continent. “Such criticism is certainly well deserved,” he said. “But in supporting the bloody and cruel Khartoum regime, African nations will be perceived as tacitly accepting the immense destruction and suffering in southern Sudan. This in turn will give an inevitable hollowness to appeals that the West do more about the terrible conflicts in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Angola, and the brutally inclusive war in Congo. … African leaders rightly complain about the disparity in the world community’s distribution of humanitarian aid, a distribution that has short-changed Africa in countless ways. But the appeal for humanitarian aid also will have an inevitable ring of hollowness if Sudan is sitting on the Security Council as the consensus choice of African nations.”

What the U.S., and most of the world, continues to ignore is the threat that radical Islamic states like Sudan pose to moderate Islamic states, as well as to Western countries and Israel, Horowitz maintained. “The battle for the soul of Islam is between radical and moderate countries,” he said. “The more the West appeases the radicals, the more the moderate states feel they have to make peace with them.”

Sudan’s participation on the Security Council increases the likelihood of a cut in U.S. funding of the U.N., Reeves predicted. “This will inevitably be felt in the budgets for peacekeeping efforts that must become more robust and better funded if the U.N. is to be an effective agent in African countries wracked by conflict and struggling toward peace,” he said.

“The U.N. better understand … they will pay a heavy price for this one,” Horowitz agreed.

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