Sudan, a republic with an estimated population of 39.4 million, is governed according to a power-sharing arrangement established by the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the 22-year civil war between the north and south and established an interim Government of National Unity. The government's mandate extends until scheduled elections in 2009. Despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) by the government and Minni Minawi's faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) in May 2006, the ethnic conflict in Darfur continues. Government forces, government-aligned militia (janjaweed), Darfur rebel groups, and tribal factions continue to commit serious abuses. Human rights abuses in Darfur include rape, attacks on humanitarian workers, abductions, and the recruitment of child soldiers. More than 200,000 persons have died, 2.2 million civilians have been internally displaced, and an estimated 240,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Chad since the conflict began in 2003. In Southern Sudan delays in CPA implementation, particularly the provisions governing redeployment from the border areas, as well as demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration, continue to foment insecurity. The government's human rights record remains poor. Human rights abuses include: abridgement of citizens' rights to change their government; extrajudicial and other unlawful killings by government forces and other government-aligned groups throughout the country; torture, beatings, rape, and other cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention of suspected government opponents, and prolonged pretrial detention; executive interference with the judiciary and denial of due process; obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance; restrictions on privacy and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; harassment of internally displaced persons and of local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations; violence and discrimination against women, including the practice of female genital mutilation; child abuse, including sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers, particularly in Darfur; trafficking in persons; discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities; denial of workers' rights; and forced labor, including child labor, by security forces and both aligned and non-aligned militias in Southern Sudan and Darfur. Members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) also commit serious abuses.
The U.S. priorities for promoting democratic principles and human rights in the country include leading international efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur and working to ensure the robust and credible implementation of the CPA. Responding to humanitarian needs is also a strong U.S. priority. The United States is the largest humanitarian donor to the country.
These high level priorities are linked to several other democracy and human rights issues that are important for the United States to continue to address. Such issues include DPA implementation, efforts to combat violence against women in Darfur, free and fair elections through the development of political parties and improvements to the legal framework promoting governance capacity in the south, the completion of the national census, civil society capacity building, and grassroots participation in conflict mediation.
The United States continues to respond to the crisis in Darfur by providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, enabling the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, and promoting a lasting political settlement. U.S. assistance promotes the rights of vulnerable civilians affected by the conflict, particularly women. This assistance includes capacity building projects for Darfuri women activists, programs that address gender-based violence, and the provision of food aid. In support of peacekeeping operations in the region, the United States provided African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces with substantial financial and technical assistance, including airlifting, training, housing, and equipping troops. Peacekeeping operations in Darfur transitioned from the AU force to a joint AU-UN hybrid force (UNAMID) on January 1. The United States will pay more than one-fourth of the total cost of UNAMID through UN assessed contributions. The United States continues to support efforts by the international community to promote a political settlement through peace negotiations. The U.S. deputy secretary of state underscored the need to resolve the situation in Darfur during an April 2007 visit. The former U.S. Presidential Special Envoy traveled to Libya to participate in the November 2007 Sirte talks aimed at advancing a political solution to the conflict. Both the current and former U.S. presidential special envoys have visited Darfur, as has the U.S. charge d'affaires. The United States also provides training to young SLM members on the transformation of the group from an armed movement to a viable political party.
The U.S. democracy assistance strategy to support the implementation of the CPA focuses on the agreement's protocols: power sharing; wealth sharing; resolution of the status of the Three Areas (Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile); and security arrangements. The United States supports capacity building for key Government of Southern Sudan ministries; promotes independent media and community radio stations; and provides technical assistance on the electoral framework and support for the census, including funding technical assistance on data processing, mapping, logistics, and human and financial resource management. The United States is facilitating the transformation of the SPLA to a more professional and accountable military force that respects human rights. This includes providing technical advisors to work with the SPLA to improve transparency and the division of labor between the SPLA and Southern Sudan Police Services. In September 2007 the United States funded an orientation visit to the United States for senior SPLA leadership that included a focus on human rights and the laws of land warfare. U.S. assistance also includes programs for the Three Areas to increase state and local government capacity to provide services and to engage in critical participatory planning and budgeting. CPA implementation is also supported by U.S. activities to teach communities to monitor implementation of the agreement, advocate for their rights, and learn about free and fair election practices.
U.S. programs also support civil society efforts to promote human rights and democracy. In 2007 the U.S. Embassy provided funding for a prominent opposition politician to take part in a participatory democracy program; a peace studies scholar to attend a conflict resolution program in the United States; and for four women to participate in a summit in South Africa on women in civil society. U.S. assistance also supported training journalists from Al Sahafa, Sudan Vision, and the Khartoum Monitor newspapers, and Radio Mango. The United States also sponsored a delegation of officials from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the main political party in Southern Sudan, which observed and monitored the 2007 national elections in Kenya.
U.S. officials, including the charge d'affaires, continue to discuss the rule of law with Sudanese officials and to stress the need to follow the human rights guarantees provided by the Interim National Constitution. In 2007 the embassy issued numerous statements condemning government human rights violations, including the detention of two prominent opposition political party leaders. U.S. officials are engaged also with international organizations monitoring the return of abductees from South Darfur and Southern Kordofan to Bahr el-Ghazal state. Mostly Dinka women and children, the several thousand remaining abductees were taken in raids during the protracted civil war. The United States also continues to emphasize the importance of and the monitoring of government efforts to stop child trafficking for the purposes of serving as camel jockeys, as well as ending the use of child soldiers. U.S. officials engage with the government on religious freedom, and commissioners from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom visited the country in late 2007.