What’s the going rate for souls these days? How about $20,000 a month? Such was the deal offered by the National Islamic Front (also known as the National Congress Party) government of Sudan to Washington, DC attorney Bart S. Fisher for help getting Sudan removed from the U.S.’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Act for Sudan, a new alliance of activists against genocide in Sudan,1 alerted U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) to the Islamist government in Khartoum’s hiring of Fisher. When Khartoum had tried the same thing in 2009, Mr. Wolf wrote a scathing letter to President Obama asking him to direct the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to deny any waiver requests by U.S. companies seeking to represent the government of Sudan. An OFAC waiver is necessary because in 1997 then President Clinton issued an Executive Order imposing a trade embargo against the entire territory of Sudan and total asset freeze against the Khartoum government. Clinton cited Sudan for “continued support for international terrorism, ongoing efforts to destabilize neighboring governments and the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and denial of religious freedom.” Not much has changed.2
On Tuesday, December 13, Wolf, who had written once again to President Obama, went to the House floor to condemn Khartoum’s arrangement with Bart Fisher, saying:
Mr. Speaker, I was appalled and outraged to learn yesterday that the genocidal government of Khartoum has hired a lobbyist to represent its interests here in Washington. . . Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan Bashir is an internationally indicted war criminal. Bashir is accused by the International Criminal Court of five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture and extermination, and two counts of war crimes.
But Khartoum’s crimes are not simply a thing of the past… .
My office has received regular reliable reports from individuals on the ground … We’ve learned of ongoing aerial bombardments in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states. We’ve heard nightmarish accounts of extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, disappearances, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Furthermore, evidence gathered through satellite imagery by the Satellite Sentinel Project shows at least eight mass graves found in and around Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan.
Literally thousands have fled the violence. Which begs the question: who is their lobbyist? They are in desperate straits having left behind their entire lives. Who is their lobbyist? They are facing malnourishment and prolonged displacement. Who is their lobbyist?
Further protest of Fisher’s arrangements with Khartoum came on Friday, December 16, when members of Act for Sudan were joined by other Sudan advocates to demonstrate outside of the law offices of Bart Fisher. Act for Sudan reported, “Carrying protest signs and chanting, ‘Mr. Fisher, step aside, you’re representing genocide,’ the activists called on the attorney to stop helping Sudan avoid consequences for ongoing government-sponsored genocide and mass atrocities.” Protestors were buoyed by the participation of Congressman Wolf, who warned President Obama, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the head of OFAC that “history will be their judge if they fail to act.” Jeff Walton, IRD’s representative at the protest, said that the timing could not have been better as lunchtime crowds were very interested in what the protestors had to say.
Stung by the public outcry, Fisher and the Obama Administration insist that he is not a lobbyist. Fisher says that he is providing “legal advice and counsel to the Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan.” David Cohen, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, replied to criticisms by Wolf and other Sudan advocates in Congress such as U.S. Representatives Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Michael Capuano (D-MA) that longstanding Treasury regulations allow Sudan to pay for legal work in the U.S. It does not seem to be a problem that such legal advice includes finding a way to remove Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
But Wolf says that Fisher tried to lobby him on the issue of U.S. sanctions against Sudan, which is not permitted under the license. “I never requested information from Mr. Fisher,” Wolf wrote last week in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “And yet yesterday, he called my chief of staff. And in his letter he tries to convince me, as a member of Congress, that the current sanctions…should be altered. If that’s not lobbying, I don’t know what is.” Capuano declares, “The license should be revoked and it should not be reissued until Sudan has done everything it is required to do.” And in a recent press statement Payne said, “It is absolutely unacceptable that the U.S. has allowed a murderer like Omar Hassan Bashir to hire a Washington emissary to do his bidding.”
Whether or not providing legal counsel to a regime that is in the process of committing serial genocide can be construed as selling one’s soul, it is definitely making a deal with a devil. ICC-indicted war criminal Omer Hassan al-Bashir and his cronies in Khartoum are responsible for the deaths of over 2.5 million and the displacement of over 5 million of Sudan’s own citizens during decades of genocidal jihad against black African Christian, Muslim, and animist Sudanese from South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile State region. Khartoum’s war on the Darfuri of western Sudan has caused the death of at least another 500,000 and the displacement of millions. Under the watchful eye of the Khartoum regime, the Janjaweed have pursued a policy to “change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.”
Even as the newly-liberated Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, all hell broke loose across the remaining un-liberated Islamic Republic of Sudan. Al-Bashir’s campaign to exterminate the black Africans of South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State has resulted in unknown thousands of deaths evidenced by mass graves in Kadugli, South Kordofan. Hundreds of thousands more civilians face incessant aerial bombardment, brutal ground attacks, and violent displacement while the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Northern Sector (SPLA/N) fights against Sudan’s armed forces and Islamist militias to defend them. Khartoum is denying humanitarian access to these refugees, a policy that is nothing less than deliberate starvation.
Marginalized Sudanese from across the country have been horrified by the second genocide in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State. Inspired by the courage of SPLA/N soldiers, Nubians in the far north, Beja in the east, and young freedom-loving Arab Sudanese throughout the country, have joined in the call for regime change. When such calls echoed from Tahrir Square, Tripoli, and Tunis, the Obama Administration was quick to respond: to help crush the regimes and usher in new leadership without a clear picture of just who exactly comprised that leadership. Now, when Sudanese who want freedom and secular democracy could provide new leadership that would be a far cry from the Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda sympathizers now running much of the Middle East, there is no similar regime crushing. Rather than responding to the calls for freedom from Sudan, the Obama Administration is, in the words of Frank Wolf on the floor of the House, “empowering the voice of their oppressors.”
1 Full disclosure: IRD, for which I direct the Religious Liberty Program and the Church Alliance for a New Sudan, is a founding member of Act for Sudan.
2 There are NO sanctions against the Republic of South Sudan.
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