13 July 2004

Sudan: Congress Set to Declare Darfur Region a Zone of Genocide

Washington, DC — Senate resolution complements House condemnation

Calling the present humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western region of Darfur an irrefutable example of genocide, Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas) said July 13 that the Senate would immediately introduce a resolution condemning the Sudanese government and calling for international intervention.

"This resolution will require the United Nations and the international community to take decisive action. Sudan will be put on notice. It will become a pariah among nations," Brownback told a news conference.

He noted that the United States had given Khartoum the opportunity two weeks ago to take immediate action to disarm the Arab "Jingaweit" militias and provide security and protection to thousands of displaced persons, while allowing unrestricted access on the ground by NGOs and foreign aid relief workers. "As of today, nothing has changed. The two weeks are up," Brownback said.

The lawmaker added that the government of Sudan continues to deny that there is any form of ethnic cleansing going on in Darfur, even though reliable sources in that region continue to claim otherwise. "Refugees are harassed; foreign aid workers are still being denied access to critical areas. While the world debates what should be done, people in Darfur die," he said.

Brownback drew a parallel between the Rwandan massacre of a decade ago and what is happening in Darfur, saying that "though the world pronounced Rwanda a genocide after 800,000 had perished, here will be a chance for the world to stop the deaths in Darfur now."

Brownback was joined at the news conference by Senator Jon Corzine (Democrat of New Jersey); Representatives Donald Payne (Democrat of New Jersey), Frank Wolf (Republican of Virginia), Tom Tancredo (Republican of Colorado); and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The proposed Senate resolution is similar to House Concurrent Resolution 467, introduced recently by Payne.

"It is time for Congress to act, America to act," said Senator Corzine. "More than 30,000 people have died. This must stop."

Both Brownback and Payne have been recent visitors to Darfur, and Payne recounted instances of government cover-up and obfuscation there.

"We have seen the government and the Jingaweit cooperate on countless occasions in attacks on civilian villagers," Payne said. "Khartoum police shot at student protesters while U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was on an official visit there. They prevented people from approaching both Annan and Secretary of State Powell on their tours of refugee camps by driving these people back with whips.

"We know that this is a government which must be held accountable. We must make this an issue that the entire world will join with us on," he added.

Congressman Wolf declared that the crucial issue is not so much the delivery of needed medical and food supplies, but the actual right of return by a million people forced to flee their farms and homesteads. "And we must monitor all this, and employ forensic experts now to preserve any evidence that may be useful in future war crimes prosecutions," he said.

Wolf said that the United Nations, in conjunction with the African Union (AU), needs to be on the ground to monitor and control the situation.

"While Sam [Brownback] and myself were in the country, we heard from some of the women who had been raped by militiamen, and were told that this was because they were African. One woman said that she was being raped to create lighter-skinned babies," Wolf added.

The chairman of the 39-member Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Elijah Cummings, stressed: "We [the United States] have a duty to act. If we do not act today, we leave the door open for many more women to be abused, many more children to be orphaned. It affects us all. This is not a Democratic issue, nor a Republican issue. It's a humanitarian issue. Our world is a very, very small world. We are all affected."

Congressman Tancredo echoed these sentiments. "We are past the time where we could see the possibility of a genocide-like situation. It is here; it is now. We must recognize this, and act."

(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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