South Sudan
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Former U.S. Special Envoy for Sudans Princeton Lyman—still pushing expedient, mendacious claims about Khartoum regime

Former U.S. Special Envoy, Princeton N. Lyman. Photo: Reuters

By Eric Reeves

May 6, 2017 (SSNA) — If anyone thought that the views expressed by former Special Envoy for the Sudans in December 2011—arguing that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime is capable of “carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures”—might have been chastened by the dramatic increase in domestic repression in Sudan, as well as continuing genocide in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile, they would have been sadly mistaken, as Sudan Tribune has recently reported:

Human Rights Watch calls to delay revocation of Sudan sanctions, Sudan Tribune, May 3, 2017 | Khartoum |

Rights groups and defenders regret that the process does not include human rights situation and focus mainly on counterterrorism cooperation, humanitarian situation and other regional security matters including South Sudan. “Sudan has a long record of demonstrating disregard for the most basic human rights,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, before to call for the delay of sanctions’ revocation. “The U.S. should delay any final decision about revoking sanctions, and take more time to insist on tangible improvements in human rights,” she said in a statement issued on Wednesday…

[F]ormer U.S. Special Envoy, Princeton Lyman, insisted that the permanent revocation of the partial embargo is “an opening to a more serious and intensive dialogue with the Government of Sudan about peace, democracy, and development.”

This claim is a perverse restatement of an earlier one, made in a December 3, 2011 interview with Asharq al-Awsat. Lyman then gave us our clearest view of just how expedient the Obama administration was prepared to be in dealing with the Khartoum regime, despite what Senator, presidential candidate, and President Obama called “genocide” in Darfur—a “stain on our souls,” as he unctuously declared. Lyman made the following enormously consequential statement about the preposterous “desire” that would guide Obama administration policy and, by default, that of the incompetent and woefully understaffed Trump administration.

“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | )

This represents nothing less than a vicious expediency put in service of improving counter-terrorism cooperation between Khartoum and the U.S. intelligence community. The “deal” was consummated with Obama’s lifting of longstanding U.S. sanctions on Khartoum in his last week in office (January 13, 2017), justified in part by the outrageous falsehood of his ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power: “we have seen a sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan | There is not a shred of real evidence to support this claim, and yet it stands uncorrected by any U.S. government official, past or present. The reality is that Khartoum continues to use the denial, obstruction, and manipulation of humanitarian assistance to desperately need civilians as a weapon of war and a diplomatic tool.

On what possible basis could Lyman have argued, and continue to argue, that the Khartoum regime is capable of “carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures”? Here as well there is not a shred of evidence to support such a disgraceful claim in the five and a half years since the Asharq al-Awsat interview. Human rights report after human rights report; continual dispatches from Sudan Tribune, Radio Dabanga, and numerous other Sudanese news sources in the diaspora—all make clear that repression has only grown more intense and brutal. One might think particularly of the killing of hundreds during civil society demonstrations in September 2013 or the Nertiti massacre of civilians on January 1, 2017 or the continuing detention of human rights activist and humanitarian Ibrahim Mudawi.

And what of the use of chemical weapons by the Khartoum regime in the Jebel Marra offensive of 2016, conclusively demonstrated by Amnesty International? Lyman’s boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, called the use of chemical weapons in Syria by Bashar al-Assad a “moral obscenity.” We’ve heard nothing from Lyman about what such a “moral obscenity” represents in the Khartoum regime.

Nor have we heard from him anything about the continuing epidemic of state-sanctioned rape as a weapon of war in Darfur—an epidemic in which tens of thousands of non-Arab/African girls and women have been victimized.

It is impossible to believe that Lyman does not know how brutal, how savagely repressive, how indifferent to human suffering and human rights the Khartoum regime is—and has been during its 28 years of tyrannical rule. It is impossible to believe that he doesn’t know that expecting “the regime to carry out reform via constitutional democratic measures” is an utterly preposterous notion—in December 2011, and in May 2017. Just how preposterous such a notion this is has been continuously demonstrated in soul-destroying detail:

Human Rights reporting that should be read by Lyman—all published subsequently to his December 2011 interview with Asharq al-Awsat:

  • Sudan: Mass Rape by Army in Darfur: UN, AU Should Press for Protection, International Investigation| Human Rights Watch, February 11, 2015 |
  • “Men With No Mercy”: Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan |Human Rights Watch, September 9, 2015 |
  • Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur | Amnesty InternationalSeptember 29, 2016
  • Sudan must end politically-motivated attacks on Darfuri students,Amnesty International January 18, 2017 |
  • Border Control from Hell: How the EU’s migration partnership legitimizes Sudan’s “militia state,”Enough Project, April 6, 2017 |
  • Remote Control Breakdown : Sudanese Paramilitary Forces and Pro-Government Militiasby Jérôme Tubiana | HSBA Issue Brief 27/Small Arms Survey, April 2017

…and countless dispatches from Sudan Tribune, Radio Dabanga, Nuba Reports, Radio Tamazuj, and many Arabic-language news reporting, including al-Hurriyat—from December 2011 to the present.

Drawing on these reports and the reporting by Sudanese news sources, I have produced the following syntheses:

  • Continuing Mass Rape of Girls in Darfur: The most heinous crime generates no international outrage | January 2016|
  • “Changing the Demography”:  Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur,  November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 |
  • Violent Mortality in the Darfur Genocide: A matter of international indifference and prevarication–and shame | April 28, 2017 |

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Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.