WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. Congressman and activists have criticized the White House for inviting a Sudanese presidential aide, Nafie Ali Nafie, who is accused of human rights abuses, to Washington for talks.
In a letter sent to President Obama last week, Congressman Frank Wolf noted that Nafie has been accused of "torturing enemies" and "cozying up to Osama bin Laden in the 1990s."
The letter said Nafie had opposed the 2005 peace agreement that ended the decades-long civil war in Sudan, and was against allowing U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.
“I just don’t think that the United States government ought to be meeting with people who have been identified with the activities that he’s been identified with,” Wolf said.
Martina Knee, co-founder of ACT for Sudan, an alliance of Sudanese and U.S. activists advocating for "an end to genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan", called the visit a betrayal of Sudanese people everywhere.
"It is a huge disappointment as Sudanese believe that the U.S. needs to take the lead to end all the human rights violations in Sudan and that any visit to the United States is considered a reward. They feel as if they’ve been betrayed by the U.S. government,” she said.
But a spokeswoman for the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. State Department, Hilary Fuller Renner, said the Sudanese delegation was invited to Washington to continue "a dialogue on issues of concern to the US government."
"While we welcome recent steps by the government of Sudan to make progress in implementing its agreements with South Sudan, and to start direct talks with the SPLM, we make it clear that we expect real and sustained progress on these issues and others, including Darfur," she said.
Wolf said in the letter he isn’t opposed to holding talks with Sudan; he just doesn’t think the meetings should take place in Washington.
The Congressman wrote the letter last week, a day after he co-sponsored a bill in Congress calling for a comprehensive U.S. policy for ending human rights violations and promoting peace and democratic reforms in Sudan.
A long-time advocate for the rights of the Sudanese people, Wolf has visited the country half a dozen times, most recently last year.