Hoyer: The International Community Must Not Avert Its Eyes from the Genocide in Darfur

Democratic Whip Says Regional Stakeholders Must Weigh In

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today:

“For three years, the world has turned a blind eye to the genocide in Darfur, the vast region in Western Sudan. Already as many as than 400,000 civilians have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes as a result of violent warfare between the government-sanctioned Janjaweed and the two rebel groups.

“The situation today in Darfur is the world’s worst human rights crisis, and it demands the attention – and action – of the international community. To simply stand by as innocent men, women and children are raped, murdered and displaced is simply not acceptable.

“I am pleased that regional stakeholders such as Nigeria, Senegal and Gabon are attempting to persuade the Sudanese government to accept United Nations peacekeepers. The efforts of those African nations and others to end the senseless suffering are welcome. However, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur requires more than mere words and further negotiation. It cries out for decisive action to protect the innocent.

“That is why I was pleased to add my name to the bipartisan letter authored by two of my House colleagues – Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) – and sent yesterday to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa. This letter urges Secretary General Moussa to encourage Sudanese President Omar Hassan El-Bashir to cease the government’s military campaign and to allow a United Nations peacekeeping force into Sudan.

“This letter is an important call to action. It also recognizes the critical role that regional stakeholders must play in bringing an end to the genocide. The world simply can no longer stand by in the face of such horrific acts in Darfur.”

The text of the Smith-Lantos letter follows. More than 170 Members of Congress signed the letter.

His Excellency Amr Moussa
Secretary General
The League of Arab States
Al Amanah Al Aamah
Tahrir Square
Cairo, Egypt

Dear Mr. Secretary General:

We the undersigned Members of the U.S. Congress are writing to request your assistance with a matter of grave mutual concern requiring urgent and decisive diplomacy.

As you are aware, the devastating crisis in Darfur rages on despite the Tripoli Agreement, N'Djamena Agreement, Darfur Peace Agreement, and numerous United Nations resolutions. This includes UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which authorizes a transition from the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to United Nations coordination of peacekeeping operations, with strong African participation, in Darfur. Unfortunately, the Government of Sudan has not yet accepted UN peacekeepers in Darfur.

As you are also aware, the conflict between Janjaweed, Sudanese government forces and rebel militias has driven more than 215,000 Darfuri refugees into Chad in addition to more than 200,000 Darfurians killed and an estimated 2.5 million displaced in Darfur itself. The conflict has had devastating consequences for women and children who make up the vast majority of victims and are the most vulnerable to further violence. Humanitarian operations have also been attacked and disrupted-leaving millions without access to the most basic assistance.

We are writing to you, Mr. Secretary General, to ask you to use your authority to employ all diplomatic means available to encourage President Omar Hassan El-Bashir to halt Sudan's military offensive in North Darfur, withdraw Sudanese troops from the area, and accept UN peacekeepers as the best option to enforce the ceasefire, protect civilians, ensure access to humanitarian assistance, and begin the path to reconstruction and reconciliation in Darfur. We also ask you to urge other Arab League members -particularly Qatar, which abstained from the last UN Security Council vote - to support Khartoum in taking this important step forward. Arab League voices on this matter could no doubt help to save thousands of lives, and bring peace and security to Darfur.

President Bashir has said several times that the Arab League stands ready to fund African Union forces in Darfur. We trust that this offer, if it is indeed a decision of the Arab League, will not be conditioned on the African Union changing its own decision to transition to a UN peacekeeping force. Arab League support during the transition to a UN peacekeeping mission would be an invaluable contribution to peace and security for the suffering residents of Darfur. We are concerned, however, that to date no Arab League nation has directly contributed funds to the AU mission. A statement from your office to clarify this matter would be greatly appreciated.

As Members of the U.S. Congress, we assure you that our primary objectives, and those of our constituents across America, are to protect civilians in Darfur, find a just resolution to the political conflict, and begin the long path to reconstruction and reconciliation. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, we have begun to see peace and development returning to southern Sudan with the assistance of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). It is now time for us to work together as an international community to make the same progress in Darfur.

Timing is crucial. We therefore appeal to you today to use your significant influence to protect vulnerable citizens of an Arab League state now by encouraging President Bashir to take the best and most reasonable path to peace and admit the UN peacekeepers immediately.

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