Five months ago, I protested in front of the Sudanese embassy to call for an end to the genocide in the Darfur region by the Sudanese government through its support for the Janjaweed militia. In the days that followed, a peace agreement was reached between one of the three rebel groups and the Sudanese government.
Unfortunately, that agreement is on the verge of collapse as violence has once again erupted in Darfur. As the situation continues to worsen, it is time for the U.S. and the international community to end this three-year genocide campaign.
In the last three weeks, Sudan has waged an unprecedented bombing campaign against the people of North Darfur, indiscriminately targeting villages and innocent civilians. The government has rejected calls for a continued international presence in Darfur, arrested aid workers and foreign journalists and censored Sudanese news agencies; actions which signal their disregard for peace and stability in the region.
This all comes on the heels of the Sudanese government’s rejection of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706, a resolution which proposes placing U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur after the African Union’s mandated mission expires on September 30, 2006.
The African Union is considering extending its mission despite admitting that they are ill-equipped and lack the resources to contain the violence. The United Nations force proposed in resolution 1706 would not only monitor the fledgling peace agreement, it would also have the authority to use force to protect the civilians of Darfur.
I recognize that the U.S., as compared to other nations, has played a large role in Darfur. However, while the U.S. provides the bulk of the humanitarian assistance to Darfur – nearly 85% – these funds will do little to actually stop the genocide. Due to the lack of security in the region, this humanitarian aid reaches only 20% of the people affected. Without inserting international peacekeepers to disarm the militia and thereby providing safe access for aid workers and victims, our humanitarian efforts will continue to come up short.
There are actions that need to be taken, some of which are already under way. On Tuesday, after three months with no senior U.S. official specifically assigned to address the Darfur crisis, President Bush finally appointed special envoy Andrew Natsios, who is tasked with reviving the peace agreement and helping the parties work towards its implementation. In Congress, we need the Senate to pass the “Darfur Peace and Accountability Act” with its reference to divestment still intact. And lastly, the United States must apply pressure on our allies and the United Nations to enforce U.N. Resolution 1706 – with or without Sudan’s consent.
It is vital that we continue to stand tall on Darfur, leading the global effort to end these crimes against humanity. If we do not act quickly and decisively, hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children will continue to face the brutal Janjaweed who, without conscience, attack, rape and brutally slaughter innocent people.