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27 January 2005

Members of Congress Censure Sudan on Continued Violence in Darfur

Following visit to region, congressional delegation calls for sanctions

By Matthew Pritchard and Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Writers

Washington – Despite having signed a much-heralded North-South peace accord ending 30 years of civil war in the country, the government of Sudan is still tolerating genocide in Darfur, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers declared on returning from a visit to the region.

Within days after returning from a trip to the region, Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce (Republican of California) told a January 27 news conference, “The killing continues in Darfur, including the bombing of a Darfur village by the Sudanese government that killed 150 refugees while the delegation was still in Sudan.

"The killing goes on day in and day out" by militias supported by the Khartoum government called the Jingaweit, he said.  "We know of systematic rape.  It is racial in nature."

“Last summer the House of Representatives went on record labeling the killing in Darfur as genocide.  [Now] having seen Darfur, nothing changes my view," Royce declared.

Royce led a congressional delegation that visited refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad January 21-26.  The delegation included Representatives Jim McDermott (Democrat of Washington), Barbara Lee (Democrat of California), Diane Watson (Democrat of California), and Betty McCollum (Democrat of Minnesota).

The group was joined by African-American actor Don Cheadle, who has just been nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film "Hotel Rwanda," which tells the story of a hotel manager in Kigali, Rwanda, who saved the lives of more than 1,000 people during the massacres in 1994 that took more than 800,000 lives.

“In Rwanda small acts could have made a big difference, Royce said.  In order to avoid a repeat of what happened in Rwanda, Royce declared, “international pressure must be put on Khartoum to stop the killing.

Above all, Royce added, Russia, which sells arms to Sudan and China -- both members of the U.N. Security Council -- must make the effort to put pressure on the Sudanese government.

In an equally blunt assessment, Jim McDermott said, “The Sudanese government is committing genocide and they won’t stop unless there is a global effort to stop them."

It is imperative that the United States and its allies maintain constant pressure on the Sudanese government to end the genocide in Darfur, the lawmaker said.

“This is not a situation where we need to get in there and start another front of a [global] war, he said.  “This should be stopped right in the capital of Khartoum.  They can stop it by telling their troops, ‘Stop it.’

Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke forcefully about the effects of the genocide she witnessed in Darfur.  “I saw the missing limbs, she said.  “I looked in the eyes of the girls who had been raped.  The sheer force of the human suffering we witnessed has strengthened my conviction that we must take action to end the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

She suggested that both China and Pakistan, which have oil interests in the region, must make efforts to stop the genocide.

“We need a strong U.N. resolution, backed by sanctions, and we must provide the resources and logistical support necessary for the peacekeeping force to do its job effectively, she said.

One action Lee proposes is to divest money from companies that do business with the Sudanese government.  In December 2004, one of the largest state pension funds in the country, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), agreed to look into whether they invest in any companies doing business with the government in Khartoum, and encourage the companies to end their business with the government.

Congresswoman Diane Watson said she recently met with President Bush, with National Security Advisor (now Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, and then with the Congressional Black Caucus, and informed them of the continuing genocide in Darfur.  She asked Rice if she would lead a delegation, to which, she said, Rice had nodded she would.

Watson also said the press holds a very important role in informing the world of what’s happening in the region and expressed her disappointment over the limited coverage of the crisis in the American media, noting the failure of her own hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, to cover even this press conference.

Cheadle added that everyone from the press, to governments, to people all over the world can make a difference to help save the people of Darfur.  “The human spirit is amazing and it can overcome, he said, “but it can also be stamped out if it is not supported and helped.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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