Crisis in Sudan cries out for action

July 08, 2004|By Sam Brownback

A LITTLE MORE than a week ago, I sat with sick and grieving families in Darfur, located in the western part of Sudan. Much of region, roughly the size of Texas, has been devastated by death and destruction carried out by militia forces.

The Sudanese government has used old animosities to maintain power by supporting the killing, raping and pillaging of millions of innocent people with government-sponsored militia known as the Janjaweed. We have come to learn, through witness accounts and young children's drawings, that Arab men riding on camels and horseback - the Janjaweed - continue to sweep through black African villages to murder, rape and pillage.

I visited many burned-out villages where time seemed to stand still; an eerie calm surrounded the charred huts, where it was evident that pottery, cookware and plows were left in a hurry as families fled the brutality of the Janjaweed.

In addition to the empty villages, I, along with Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican, visited five camps for internally displaced people. It was there that I witnessed mothers cradling their dying babies, men recovering from brutal wounds and young African women who bravely told stories about being raped and impregnated by the Arab militiamen.

As one rape victim put it, the Janjaweed told her that they wanted to make "lighter-skinned babies" in hopes to make the African population more Arab.

An entire generation of young men between the ages of 18 and 25 simply did not exist in these camps.

If this is not ethnic cleansing, I don't know what is.

The situation in Darfur is a security crisis that has spawned this humanitarian crisis. If the government of Sudan will not solve the security crisis, then the international community must. The crisis not only must stop, it must be reversed immediately. We cannot make the mistake of 10 years ago in Rwanda. It is not enough to simply remember that mistake: We must resolve to act immediately so that we can save as many lives as possible in Darfur.

The United States must continue to provide humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure. I applaud Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's visit to Darfur and would urge others, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to travel there as well.

We should work to identify those responsible for the atrocities, including officials of the government of Sudan, and impose targeted sanctions that include travel bans and the freezing of assets. If this does not remain a top priority, the government of Sudan is sure to fully resume the ethnic cleansing that has claimed as many as 30,000 lives in Darfur.

The United States must pressure the international community through the United Nations to make Darfur an urgent, top-priority issue. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake. The U.N. Security Council should pass a strong resolution condemning the government of Sudan and calling for access to humanitarian aid and immediate protection of civilians. In addition, the United Nations should take immediate steps to seek the removal of Sudan from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

The seeds of genocide have been sown in Darfur. If the government of Sudan fails to act immediately, we will no doubt see death on a massive scale. For months, we have been crying that time is of the essence; we are out of time and we are losing lives everyday.

We must keep the pressure on the government of Sudan and the international community to not let the suffering of the people of Darfur slide from our view. The world must promise to "never again" forget them in their time of need. I could not ignore the cries of the refugees as we drove away from one camp: "They're killing us, they're killing us."

The rest of the world must now listen to this very plea.

Sam Brownback is a Republican senator from Kansas.

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