SEATTLE, Washington — Sudan is a Northeast African country directly south of Egypt, East of Chad, and bordered by the Red Sea. It is the third-largest country in Africa and has a population of 45,561,556 people. Between 1989 and 2019, Sudan was ruled by dictator Omar al-Bashir, who has been accused of human rights abuses and whose regime was responsible for as many as 400,000 Sudanese deaths. In April 2019, protests against al-Bashir turned into a coup d’etat that successfully overthrew the dictator. H.R. 7683 has been introduced at a crucial time of reform, with the aim of improving conditions in Sudan.
Conditions in Sudan
Since al-Bashir was overthrown, the country has been ruled by a temporary “Sovereignty Council,” composed of military and civilian leaders, until a new president can be elected.
As it stands, as many as half of the Sudanese population live at or below the poverty line, mostly due to a reliance on subsistence agriculture, lack of infrastructure and persistent conflict, especially in the Darfur region.
Poverty in Sudan: The Numbers
The average life expectancy for the population is only 67 years.
The infant mortality rate in Sudan is 42 per 1000 births, the 35th highest out of 228 countries.
The maternal mortality rate is 295 per 100,000 births, the 38th highest out of 228 countries.
The unemployment rate was 19.6% as of 2017.
Congress: Improving Conditions in Sudan with H.R. 7683
On May 20, 2020, Representative Eliot Engel of New York introduced H.R. 7683, also called the Sudan Democratic Transition, Accountability and Fiscal Transparency Act of 2020. The bill states: “It is the sense of Congress that the political transition in Sudan, following several months of popular protests against the regime of Omar al-Bashir, represents an opportunity for the United States to support democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Sudan.”
The subtext of the bill states that Congress’ role in improving conditions in Sudan is “To support a civilian-led democratic transition, promote accountability for human rights abuses and encourage fiscal transparency in Sudan…”
The bill lays out strategies for how Congress and the U.S. Government can encourage several positive changes in Sudan, including greater inclusion of women in politics, freer and more transparent elections and greater protection of human rights, among many others.
Immediately after being introduced, the bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As of now, it is still being considered.
The Role of Congress
Congress’ role in Sudan is the same role that the U.S. plays worldwide: to encourage democratic conditions that preserve every person’s human rights and to work to improve living conditions to uplift people in need. H.R. 7683 is a positive legislative step that would definitely help to improve conditions in Sudan. At this pivotal period in Sudan’s history, the atmosphere of change presents an opportunity for Congress to help instate reform and to help improve the lives of Sudanese people by committing to improving conditions in Sudan.
– Dylan Weir