Don’t Forget the Women of Sudan

Below is the transcript of a recent email exchange between the Next Century Foundation’s Education Officer, Mrs Veronica Morris, and her Member of Parliament, Mr Derek Thomas. Mrs Morris implored Mr Thomas to consider offering asylum to Sudanese refugees in light of the horrific accounts of what these people are going through. Both Mrs Morris’ original email and Mr Thomas’ response are transcribed below. We felt they might be of interest:

Dear Derek Thomas,

I am one of your constituents. I was simply horrified to hear of what is happening to the ladies in both South Sudan and the Darfur region of Sudan. It is not even safe for them to go outside in case they are kidnapped or raped. And a colleague of mine has been there and she says what is happening to those ladies is unimaginable. Now we live in a lovely part of the country. Is there any chance of letting some Sudanese refugees come as asylum seekers to this area? I think it would be great for the country to do something like that. This friend said that up to 1,500 women get raped every week.

The Penzance based Next Century Foundation that we work with had an interesting meeting about Sudan and that really opened our eyes to what was going on there and that forgotten part of the world really needs help because nobody talks about Sudan at all.

Another problem is the international banking sanctions against Sudan proper. There is no real hope for the women of Darfur unless those sanctions are lifted because there will never be development. That area really needs development so I would ask for that.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Veronica Morris

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Mr Thomas responded:

Dear Veronica,

Thank you for your email regarding the plight of those in South Sudan and the ongoing refugee crisis. I can only apologise for my delayed response.

I too am horrified by the sickening accounts of the brutal disregard for human rights being displayed in South Sudan, especially toward women, as you rightly raise. I am heartened that in the 18 months since Omar al-Bashir was removed from leadership, Sudan has been set on a good trajectory. Progress is never as fast or as complete as we would like, but the trajectory is solid. Some of the legislative changes brought in so far to end the oppressive legislation of the Bashir era are world class in their scope. I will draw your attention to the fact that female genital mutilation has now been criminalised across the country and the UK was instrumental in funding programmes to help women speak out against this practice on behalf of their daughters. Women have also been given the right to travel abroad with their children without producing proof of permission from their husbands. Whilst these seem like small steps to those of us in more privileged positions, they are giant for places like Sudan where basic human rights have been denied for many years. 

In June of this year the Government committed to pledge £150 million to help the economy, including £75 million of bilateral support and £80 million for the World Bank and IMF’s work on economic reforms. This bilateral support covers not only vital humanitarian assistance but vital funding for health, clean water, media freedom, social programmes, new infrastructure, Government reforms, and, in addition, the coronavirus response.

I appreciate the growing concerns around the international sanctions imposed on Sudan these were put in place, appropriately, because of previous state sponsored terrorism. However, this new civilian-led Government led by Prime Minister Hamdok has taken steps to agree reparations. Sudan has been greatly hampered by being on the United States state sponsor of terrorism list, and I am delighted to inform you that as of December 14th that has been rescinded. (https://www.state.gov/sudans-state-sponsor-of-terrorism-designation-rescinded/). With this movement from the US, Sudan is in a much better place to attract global investment and move toward the development you are asking for. 

Now to your call for increased Asylum support in Cornwall. The Government has committed for 2020/21 for 5000 global refugees to come into the UK. This extends the previous Vulnerable Persons Scheme working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to wider geographical areas to meet more need. The Government has already highlighted Africa – particularly Sudan, the Congo, and Somalia as having the highest need and work is being done to attempt to meet it. The Government is also committed to expanding this work with local communities. It may be helpful to reach out to Cornwall Council resettlement support (RefugeeHelp@cornwall.gov.uk) who are in the best place to answer your questions. In principle I welcome the desire to help these people on a more personal level and will be seeking further advice on what we can do here in this constituency.
Thank you for raising this with me.
 Yours sincerely,

Derek Thomas MP
For West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives)

Push to build Canal to restore Nile water level after Ethiopian Dam

The following has been submitted by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is concerned about the ramifications of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Nile River water levels will be significantly reduced during the years over which the dam is being filled by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This affects the Arab Republic of Egypt, as well as of course the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.

We note recent discussions between the Governments of Egypt and the Republic of South Sudan on the viability of the Jonglei Canal’s construction in the Sudd wetland. This draining of the wetlands could compensate for downstream Nile River water loss caused by dam construction in the short term, and restore the Nile to historic water levels in the longer term.

The Sudd is one of the world’s largest wetlands, but it loses more than 50% of its water to evaporation annually, lessening downstream states’ water availability. The proposed canal (or more probably two canals) could divert approximately 4.8 cubic gigameters that would otherwise evaporate over the wetland. As well as restoring short term water level loss from dam construction, in the longer term it could ameliorate losses as a consequence of drought.

Such a project would be beneficial to the agricultural development of South Sudan. We urge Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to cooperate with South Sudan and investigate the viability of the Jonglei Canal. But we advise countries concerned to remember of the project’s potential ecological and environmental ramifications:

  • The displacement of riparian populations along the Sudd wetlands.
  • Disruptions to seasonal movement of livestock and wildlife.
  • Reduction of rainfall in the Sudd region, spurred by the diversion of water.
  • Any potential increase in the release of global warming associated gasses as the wetlands are drained.

With those caveats we regard this project as urgent.

Encouraging National Dialogue in South Sudan in the Hope of Peace

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 13th of March 2018. Interactive Dialogue on Item 4, South Sudan

Mr President, the Next Century Foundation wishes to speak today about encouraging peaceful and inclusive dialogue for South Sudan and appeals to the United Nations to promote this dialogue. The human cost of the long-running Civil War in the Republic of South Sudan has been catastrophic. Millions of people have been displaced, millions face starvation and even famine and hundreds of thousands have been killed. Progressive steps and a national dialogue are imperative in bringing an end to the human suffering this Civil War has caused.

The Next Century Foundation strongly believes that national dialogue is in the interest of those who wish to see peace in South Sudan. Such dialogue should not be restricted in any way and should be inclusive to all those who are party to the conflict. Therefore, whilst we acknowledge the efforts that have been made via the January and February 2018 establishment of peace talks between the government and opposition delegations, we believe it is important that the former Vice President Riek Machar is included. The perceived opposition leader is currently in exile in South Africa and his access to the South Sudanese peace process is incredibly limited despite being a long-standing key figure in the country’s politics and the Civil War. The NCF believes that it would be beneficial for a national dialogue to include the former Vice President so that all sides can work cohesively to address the great issues facing South Sudan and to finally bring an end to the suffering of the South Sudanese people. The Next Century Foundation calls upon the Government of South Africa to stop its grossly counterproductive detention of South Sudan’s Vice President, an act which is both unethical and illegal.

Despite the push for peace talks and dialogue, there have been continued difficulties in moving the talks forward. The African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on International Development and the UN have asserted that “measures should be taken against the so-called spoilers of peace and negotiation”. Inflammatory and controversial decisions and actions are not conducive to progress and have the potential to hinder the peace process. We urge all parties to observe and respect the December ceasefire. Machar’s spokesperson has recently been sentenced to death by the South Sudanese government for alleged treason, an act which of itself is a violation of the ceasefire agreement and has contributed to tensions.

We understand that the situation in South Sudan is complex and difficult, but we consider peace to lie in the nation’s future. This will require international support and commitment and, most importantly, the commitment and participation of all South Sudanese factions in the realisation of a progressive national dialogue. Thank you.