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U.S. lobbyist for Sudan nixed
Posted on Nov 24, 2009 | by Cindy Ortiz

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WASHINGTON (BP)--Efforts by the Sudanese government to hire a U.S. lobbyist have been stopped, according to The Washington Post.

An application seeking approval of a lobbying contract was submitted to the Treasury Department but rejected by Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, the special U.S. envoy to Sudan.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a law firm in Atlanta, wanted permission for a lobbyist on behalf of the Sudanese government, which is based in the city of Khartoum. The firm dropped the effort in October after its application was denied.

Sudan's militant Islamic regime has backed genocidal campaigns against both Christians and moderate Muslims over the last 25 years.

During the last six years in the country's western region of Darfur, Khartoum military forces and Arab militias supported by the government have instituted ethnic cleansing against African Muslims, resulting in the killing of about 400,000 people, as well as rampant torture, rape and kidnapping, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has reported. About two million Sudanese are homeless in Darfur and another 250,000 are in refugee camps in Chad and the Central African Republic, according to USCIRF.

While Darfur's crisis involves conflict between Arab Muslims and African Muslims, a civil war of more than 20 years that ended in 2005 involved a campaign by the Khartoum regime against Christians and animists in southern Sudan, as well as moderate, African Muslims. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that closed that war has yet to be fully implemented.

In a letter to President Obama before the application was denied, Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., urged Obama to block the hiring of a lobbyist to represent Sudan.

"This would be a disgrace and must not be permitted to take place under any circumstances," said Wolf, co-chair of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. "Too often lobbyists are viewed as granting access ... the only thing they lack is the political will to bring about a lasting peace in Sudan. And no lobbyist can manufacture that."

Having a U.S. lobbyist for the Sudanese government would not have been a first.

Robert Cabelly, former State Department official, had a contract with Sudan as a U.S. lobbyist from 2005 to 2006. He recently was indicted on several charges -- including violating sanctions and money laundering -- from his involvement with Sudan, according to The Post.

A revised administration strategy on Sudan that refocuses attention on fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will help the east African country recover from its current conditions, officials said.

"The strategy uses all elements of our nation's influence -- diplomacy, defense, development -- to bring about a stability, a security, human rights, opportunities for a better future in Sudan. Our strategy aims to give the people of Sudan a country that is governed responsibly, justly and democratically, a country that's at peace with itself and with its neighbors," said Gration, the special U.S. envoy to Sudan, at an Oct. 19 meeting with other officials discussing the strategy in Sudan, according to the State Department website.

On the day the strategy was announced, the administration released a statement from President Obama on Sudan. He expressed how serious the urgency is for Sudan to receive U.S. and international help.

"The genocide in Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced ... Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken," said Obama in his Oct. 19 statement on the State Department website.

Sudan is one of eight regimes designated by the State Department as "countries of particular concern," a label reserved for the world's worst violators of religious liberty.

At the conclusion of Wolf's letter to Obama, he briefly cited a true story of a Sudanese woman who was raped. Walking with a group of 20 other women to collect firewood, she was raped by a gang and stabbed in the leg in May, according to a recent U.N. report on Sudan. The same woman was raped and shot in 2003.
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Cindy Ortiz, a junior at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.
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