(CNSNews.com) - Inaction and hypocrisy on the part of the Clinton administration and a policy of business as usual by Western investors in Sudan is proving deadly for Christians and animists in the North African country, where 2 million people already have died in 17 years of genocidal civil warfare, an expert on Capitol Hill told CNSNews.com.
The policies of Clinton and other Western leaders, notably the Canadians, have only served to further damage the rebels and civilians in Sudan, said the source, who requested anonymity.
The Clinton administration reportedly is now considering whether to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum after its recent decision to no longer supply food directly to rebel forces in southern Sudan.
The U.S. decision against food aid pleased private support groups that object to using food as a political weapon in a civil war. But the decision angered members of Congress who authorized direct assistance to the rebels as part of the foreign aid budget that President Clinton signed in November.
In Canada, lawmakers are bracing for a report that's expected to recommend the imposition of sanctions against Talisman Energy, Inc., the country's biggest oil company, for complicity in Sudanese military action against people in southern Sudan.
A divestment campaign by a loose affiliation of human rights groups against big oil interests in Sudan will continue, even in the unlikely event the oil company is cleared of complicity in the war effort, a Western aid worker recently returned from Sudan told CNSNews.com.
"Even if there's no direct evidence of forced relocations off the oil land, Talisman is still enabling the government of Sudan to earn $450 million a year from oil revenues, which it's using to buy weapons to fight the war," said Dennis Bennett, a former businessman recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Sudan.
John Harker, a Canadian envoy who drafted a report at the request of Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, last week said publicly that Talisman had not done enough to end the conflict in Sudan.
Harker also accused Sudanese government forces of using a civilian airstrip in the Heglig oil fields to launch air attacks against civilians and their property.
Axworthy delayed the release of Harker's official report, which is expected to recommend that sanctions be imposed on Talisman, until the week of Feb. 11. Shares in the oil giant dropped temporarily late last year as investors anticipated sanctions would be brought against the company.
"Either the report will soundly criticize Talisman and call for the Canadian government to impose sanctions, or it could attempt to whitewash the whole thing and say there was nothing terrible about what they were doing.
"But the divestment campaign against Talisman is going to continue, regardless of what that report says," said Bennett, who toured the Blue Nile region of Sudan, where he met with the victims of atrocities committed by government forces.
A Capitol Hill expert on the Sudan told CNSNews.com, "Right after we complained to the Canadians about Talisman, we lifted our restriction on gum arabic imports from Sudan by executive order, which highlights the Clinton administration's hypocrisy on the issue."
Gum arabic is sap from the acacia tree, which grows in profusion in Sudan and is used in the manufacture of inks, adhesives and pharmaceuticals. Sudan has the world market on gum arabic exports, and when the Clinton Administration slapped unilateral sanctions on Sudan, it prohibited the U.S. from importing any Sudanese products. Currently imports of gum arabic run about $40 million a year.
"This is a huge deal for the Sudanese powers that be. It's not like that money isn't going to the government there."
"We can complain about the Canadians all day long, and we'd be right - they shouldn't be pumping oil for the profit of a government that is waging a genocidal campaign against people we are pledged to protect. But American policy is just as bad as the Canadians' and we haven't done anything about that. We have to clean up our own house before we start finding fault with others," the source said.
The recent firing of the Sudanese government by President Omar el-Bashir, which undermined the position of Hassan Turabi, a hard-liner who advocates the imposition of strict Islamic law, should not fool the West into thinking changes are on the way, Bennett told CNSNews.com.
"Terabi is being portrayed as the bad cop and Bashir the good cop. The message is we can control Bashir better since he's Western educated. But Bashir is every bit as hard line as Terabi. When Bashir goes on a 'make nice' tour, people think he's a dove because they don't listen to what he says to his own people. When this shake-up is over nothing will have changed," Bennett said.
The American policy of isolating Sudan began with the closing of the embassy in 1996. After the U.S. embassies were bombed in Tanzania and Kenya, the Clinton administration retaliated by bombing a Khartoum factory it alleged was manufacturing chemical weapons, an allegation that has since been widely disputed.
A source on Capitol Hill said U.S. policy on Sudan was like a drunk walking down the street, careening to the left and right, falling down and picking itself up again.
"There's no coherent plan. We ought to be in there trying to cut a deal with someone to get this thing fixed. The whole point of diplomacy is to talk to people, and we're not even talking to people."
On Thursday, Michael Horowitz, director of the Hudson Institute's Project for International Religious Liberty, was arrested Thursday outside the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. while protesting on behalf of persecuted Christians and animists in Sudan.
Horowitz, who said he was staging a "respectful act of civil disobedience" to highlight "the cynical and indifferent administration policies toward the victims of a holocaust in Sudan," was arrested and fined for failing to obey a traffic officer.