2004-10-08 / Community

Meeks Seeks Funds For Sudan Relief

Calling the mass rapes, abductions, and killings in the Darfur region of the Sudan “intolerable and unacceptable, particularly in light of our failure to act ten years ago in Rwanda,” Congressman Gregory W. Meeks worked extensively with the House International Relations Africa Subcommittee to ensure that $150 million would be available to increase African Union peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian relief to persons suffering in Darfur, Sudan.

The people of Darfur - a remote area in western Sudan, Africa’s largest country, are in the grips of what Secretary of State Colin Powell in recent congressional testimony called genocide. Both U.S. Congress and the United Nations Security Council have said that the Government of Sudan has armed and continues to assist the Janjaweed militia in attacking innocent civilians and undefended villages in this remote region. The Janjaweed militia and government forces are also alleged to have raped women, abducted children, destroyed food and water sources, and carried out mass executions tantamount to genocide.

Meeks’ request to add $150 million to H.R. 5061, a bill providing general assistance to the people of Darfur, would support an expanded African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur as well as humanitarian assistance. The overall bill also holds the Sudanese government accountable for the genocide committed in Darfur and imposes sanctions on the government.

“The most critical thing we can do now is protect the Darfur refugees and put an adequate contingent of peacekeeping forces in place to prevent further acts of genocide by the Janjaweed and Sudanese government forces,” Meeks said.

Currently, only about 100 African Union personnel are monitoring the situation in the Darfur region, an area the size of New York and California combined. Just over 300 Rwandan and Nigerian troops have also been deployed. The African Union and the United Nations are discussing expanding the mission to between 3,000 to 4,000 troops. This month, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1564 supporting an enhanced AU mission and urging member states to provide equipment, logistical, financial, material support, and other resources necessary to support an expanded AU force.

 Meeks said, “We must do more than declare genocide in Darfur. We must stop the genocide in this instance by assisting those member countries of the African Union that are prepared to contribute troops and monitors.” He added that, “Unless we help alter the situation on the ground in Darfur by altering the balance of forces between the Janjaweed and government forces on the one hand, and the victims of genocide, persecution, and oppression on the other hand, we will risk further catastrophe at the possible cost of tens of thousands of lives. If the United States acts, the African Union will be able to act, and following our practical lead, the international community will act, and in this way, avert further genocide.”

HR 5061 has been voted out of the House International Relations Africa Subcommittee. The Meeks $150 million request will be included in the overall bill, which is expected to be sent to the floor for action within a matter of days.

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