Congress Is Waking Up to the Devastating War in Sudan

For more than a year, Sudan has been riven by a brutal civil war. The scale of misery is shocking: Nearly 18 million people face “high levels of acute food insecurity,” according to a global hunger monitor in March, and nearly five million were close to famine. Roughly three million children have fled Sudan, resulting in the world’s largest child displacement crisis.

The conflict broke out last year between rival camps in Sudan’s military government, the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces—both of whom have conducted egregious human rights violations, according to the United Nations.

“While two armed factions launched this conflict, this is less a civil war between two sides than a war which two generals and their affiliates are waging against the Sudanese people and their aspirations to a free and democratic future,” the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Tom Perriello, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month.

The national security bill approved by Congress last month included broad humanitarian funding, and the Biden administration recently promised an additional $100 million in aid to respond to the conflict. The U.S. Treasury Department has also imposed sanctions on leaders and organizations involved in the conflict, although some in Congress believe the administration could go further: The chairs and ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to President Joe Biden this month asking him to determine whether the RSF and its leader were subject to sanctions for human rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Act.

However, within Congress as a whole, the issue has largely been placed on the legislative back burner amid other international emergencies, namely the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. It was already a monthslong saga to approve the national security funding, and it’s unclear whether an aid package specific to Sudan could pass in Congress.

This past week, Representative Sara Jacobs, the Democratic ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, introduced legislation that would prohibit U.S. arms sales to the United Arab Emirates until the Biden administration certifies that the UAE is no longer providing material support to the RSF. Jacobs, who visited the border between Sudan and Chad in March, said she had been shocked by the fallout from the conflict.

“Before Congress, I worked in international conflict resolution, so I’ve been to many refugee camps, but I had never seen children so clearly traumatized as the Sudanese refugee children I met at the Sudan-Chad border in March. The longer this war goes, the greater the suffering and the higher the possibility of the conflict spilling over,” Jacobs said in a statement. She added that, along with withholding arms sales to the UAE, the United States “must also continue surging humanitarian assistance to the region and hold the RSF, SAF, and other enabling actors accountable.”

Although Jacobs has solicited Republican support for this measure, it is not yet sponsored by any GOP members. Representative John James, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa, said that he believed Jacobs’s legislation was “on the right track.”

“We want to make sure that we are being very specific and very measured,” James told me. “We also have to maintain the fact that America is a reliable partner, but at the same time, you cannot commit human rights violations, commit atrocities, with any semblance of U.S. support.”

James also believes the situation in Sudan should be called a “genocide.” This is not an isolated opinion in Congress; several senators introduced a bipartisan resolution in February to recognize “the actions of the Rapid Support Forces and allied militia in the Darfur region of Sudan against non-Arab ethnic communities as acts of genocide.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Black Africans are being murdered and displaced each and every single day, and it’s not rising to the level of public consciousness that it needs to be,” James said, adding that it was necessary to place “increased pressure on those who are not just complicit but funding the belligerencies.” James said that he was hoping to schedule a conversation with the UAE ambassador: “We should talk quickly, or else consequences are coming.”

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that “the diplomatic effort is likely going to have to be led by African partners.” Indeed, in a joint statement with Kenyan President William Ruto released during Ruto’s visit to Washington last week, Biden said that he “appreciates Kenya for engaging in multiple efforts to de-escalate conflicts” in the region, including in Sudan and South Sudan.

However, Murphy continued, the U.S. will likely continue to play a role in diplomatic efforts, citing the “important role” of Perriello and the humanitarian aid passed by Congress last month. “We need to do more,” he said.

What I’m reading

How pig welfare became a states’ rights issue, by Grace Segers in The New Republic
The untold story of the network that took down Roe v. Wade, by Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer in The New York Times
The obscure federal intelligence bureau that got Vietnam, Iraq, and Ukraine right, by Dylan Matthews in Vox
‘Just brutal’: Why America’s hottest city is seeing a surge in deaths, by Ariel Wittenberg in Politico
The hidden legacy of Indian boarding schools in the United States, by Dana Hedgpeth and Sari Horwitz in The Washington Post
The real “deep state,” by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic
Inside Donald Trump and Elon Musk’s growing alliance, by Emily Glazer, Robbie Whelan, Alex Leary, Cara Lombardo, and Dana Mattioli in The Wall Street Journal

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet is Killer Patches, a tortie with an attitude, submitted by Antonia. Killer Patches loves begging for food, peanut butter, and opened doors. She’s very persistent and doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “no.”

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Kim browne

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