Washington, DC — With the newly-appointed special envoy to Sudan about to assume his responsibilities, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) - Chairman of the House International Relations Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee - called United Nations peacekeepers the next critical step toward bringing an end to the genocide in Darfur and peace and stability to all of Sudan.
"The people of Darfur deserve to live in peace. They are counting on us now. We are today at a crossroads and the international community must act and follow through on UN Security Council Resolution 1706 and get UN peacekeepers on the ground in Darfur without further delay," Smith said during a standing-room only hearing today.
Smith convened the hearing to spotlight how efforts to bring peace to Darfur have given way to escalating violence and a worsening human rights crisis, while examining ways that Andrew Natsios, the newly-appointed Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan, can help put the peace process back on track.
One immediate way to get the peace process back on track is to convince the Government of Sudan to allow the UN peacekeeping force authorized in UN Security Council Resolution 1706 to carry out their mandate.
Academy Award-winning actress and Amnesty International Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino echoed Smith's call for the UN peacekeepers, stating "we must apply pressure with serious consequences to propel them to accept the UN peacekeeping mission," during her testimony before the committee.
The hearing also examined issues slowing the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and addressed the concerns that conditions in Eastern Sudan may ignite a conflict similar to the one that led to the conflict in Darfur. Along with Darfur, resolving these issues will be tantamount among the challenges facing the new envoy.
"The new special envoy has a full plate from the moment he starts this job. Not only is the crisis in Darfur spiraling out of control, but north-south tensions are rising putting the peace agreement that ended the 22-year civil war in jeopardy. This is largely due to the Government of Sudan's refusal to share oil resources as defined by the CPA. The new envoy will have to effectuate positive change within the regime in Khartoum to help settle the protracted disputes that have kept lasting peace from taking hold in the war-torn nation of Sudan," said Smith.