Letter to Secretary of State Powell on Crisis in Sudan, August 19, 2004

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

August 19, 2004 

The Honorable Colin L. Powell
 Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20520 

Dear Mr. Secretary, 

I have recently returned from Sudan which I visited in my capacity as Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on International Policy. Accompanying me was Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Our purposes were to see and assess first-hand the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Darfur, to consult with the bishops of Sudan, to meet with Sudanese government officials, and to seek to identify some of the actions the Government of Sudan, the United States and the international community must undertake to prevent what the U.N. has called "the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times." 

As I mentioned in my letter of June 28, 2004, we are grateful to you for your efforts to help mitigate this human disaster. Your visit to Sudan, U.S. government pressure on the Sudanese, and efforts to mobilize the international community are all welcome and useful steps. But, my visit persuades me that the Sudanese government only responds to strong and continuing pressure. They make promises, but I saw few results on the ground. I believe that the U.S. must exercise even more leadership to prevent a worsening of the crisis. 

As many as 50,000 people have died and more than 250,000 others face an uncertain fate unless the international community, together with the Government in Khartoum, take steps to prevent further loss of life. Current levels of funding account for less than 50 percent of the actual needs. The United States, together with European countries and the United Nations should coordinate strategies to move humanitarian supplies (food and non-food items) to the areas where the need is the greatest. The Bush Administration should immediately release the $95 million in urgent humanitarian aid recently approved by Congress and should work with Congress in defining and funding remaining humanitarian needs. 

The Catholic bishops of the United States are doing what they can. Catholic Relief Services is heavily invested in Sudan with a variety of humanitarian programs. We have called on U.S. Catholics to pray for a resolution of the crisis in Sudan and to participate in a special voluntary collection on Sunday, August 22 (or other convenient date), the funds from which will be administered by CRS for humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan. 

In view of the Sudanese government reluctance to make effective efforts to end what can only be described at the least as the "ethnic cleansing" of Darfur, and the desperate conditions under which the displaced population of Darfur is suffering, we call on the Administration to ensure that innocent civilians are protected and to provide all humanitarian assistance and related support necessary. In particular, we recommend the following: 

1. The United States should call for and work closely with the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Commission for the immediate deployment of human rights monitors. The UN and the U.S. also should work to strengthen the capacity of the African Union's monitoring mechanism to include the monitoring of human rights abuses.

2. The President of the United States should appoint a high ranking individual of the caliber of Senator John Danforth to serve as Special Envoy and coordinator for U.S. policy. The Special Envoy would be tasked to bring the full weight of U.S. diplomacy to bring additional pressure on the Government in its dealings with the crisis in Darfur and to move forward to completion the peace process between the Government in Khartoum and the SPLM/A and its allies.

3.The United States and the international community must continue to insist that the Government in Khartoum take immediate and effective steps to:

A.  Allow for unfettered access of humanitarian relief efforts in all areas of Darfur and must cooperate fully with the international donor community to ensure rapid, safe delivery and protection for humanitarian relief workers.

B.  Put an immediate end to aerial and ground attacks on civilian targets by its own armed forces and the Janjaweed and other armed militias it has employed in its fight against rebel forces in Darfur. It must be clear that such acts will result in serious consequences.

C.  Accept primary responsibility for safeguarding the rights and dignity of its citizens. Failure of the Government to protect its citizens, its participation in the wholesale violence exacted on its people, and its unwillingness or inability to rein in the Janjaweed and other armed militias in the region of Darfur requires that the international community take steps to ensure the protection of unarmed and innocent civilians in Darfur. To this end, the international community should be prepared to provide the African Union with logistical, financial and political support as it conducts its mission of verification of the ceasefire agreements.

4. The U.S. government and the international community must be prepared to support the expansion of the mandate of the Africa Union in Darfur to include protection of innocent civilians, those inside the refugee camps and those outside of these camps, and mandate African Union forces take whatever steps are necessary within the framework of a U.N. Chapter VII mandate. The United States and the international community should provide logistical, financial and political support for this expanded mandate and, if absolutely necessary to preserve human life, provide additional human resources (technicians, logistical specialists, and even armed personnel).

5. Greater efforts must be made to coordinate humanitarian airlifts to regions cut off from other forms of access because of the seasonal rains. This will require logistical support from the United States and other nations and should be provided immediately to prevent increased mortality.

6. The Government in Khartoum must comply with all conditions of protocols on security which it has signed with the U.N. on July 3 and August 10, 2004, including the creation of "zones of tranquility" (demilitarized zones). The effective date of August 30, 2004 should be maintained by the U.N. and the international community before which time the Government of Khartoum must clearly demonstrate that it has made significant and substantial progress toward the achievement of clearly defined benchmarks.

7. Failure on the part of the Government of Khartoum to respect protocols on security (July 3 and August 10) should result in increased pressure on the part of the international community, including the application of targeted sanctions against Janjaweed leaders and Government officials with clear ties to the Janjaweed.

8. Target sanctions on the groups mentioned above might include travel bans, freezing of assets and other appropriate measures. Should the Government fail to make significant progress after the imposition of targeted sanctions, the United States should consider the application of capital market sanctions which would prevent any companies operating in the oil industry in Sudan from listing on American securities markets.

The U.S. and the world must build on what is already being done and take stronger action to avert this ongoing human tragedy and moral crisis. 

I look forward to an early opportunity to discuss my trip with you personally. In the meantime, you have my sincere appreciation for the efforts you have made on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur. 


Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy 

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