Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Thursday penned the 1,000,000th and 1,000,001st cards in a campaign to halt the genocide in western Sudan`s Darfur region after pressing President George W. Bush to make it a top priority.
‘We don`t need reports, the rhetoric, or, with all due respect to all of us, press conferences. We need action,’ Clinton said, praising the work of the Save Darfur Coalition that collected one million signatures in a nationwide awareness push.
The anticipated 2008 democratic presidential front-runner last week offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill that requires the president to periodically report on the situation in Darfur.
‘It may seem far away from our country, but we have a human link among all of us on this planet of ours,’ Clinton said. ‘Whether we admit it or not, we cannot help but be affected.’
The embattled region needs a stronger multi-national force to be deployed, Clinton said, in accordance with a request by the African Union, which at present oversees a 7,000-strong monitoring operation to prevent further attacks on civilians by Khartoum-backed Arab militia knows as the Janjaweed. ‘We haven`t fulfilled our responsibilities. It is past the time to act… This is the bottom line; if we don`t have more help there the Janjaweed and Khartoum will continue to have their way with the people,’ she said.
Frist, who has traveled to Darfur on numerous occasions, said that it was high time the United States earned the hope he saw in the eyes of those in refugee camps throughout Darfur and neighboring Chad. ‘People had hope. Now is the time for us to deliver on that hope,’ Frist said, adding that he would be sending President Bush a letter asking for a special peace envoy to the region.
Dr. Gloria White Hammond, chairwoman of the Save Darfur Coalition, demanded President Bush compel the United Nations to deploy a peacekeeping force in Darfur by October 2006.
Hammond, who served as a medical missionary in Africa, called on the United States to assist the AU mission in Darfur by providing logistics and resources. Moreover, she called for increased humanitarian assistance to the more than 2 million displaced persons in Darfur and for perpetrators of the violence to be brought to justice. She said those goals would be greatly assisted by a high level envoy for peace in Darfur which could assist aid donors and humanitarian missions as well as help broker a deal between reluctant rebel groups and the Sudanese government.
After a Darfur-based rebel group launched an attack against the Sudanese government in 2003, the government gave the Janjaweed free reign to terrorize the region`s black non-Muslim population.
Violence in Darfur has claimed an estimated 180,000 to 400,000 lives thus far. The number of rapes and sundry human rights abuses is said to be much higher. Chad, where tens of thousands of displaced villagers have fled for their lives, has become the site of spillover violence. Meanwhile, frequent attempts at cease-fires between the Sudanese government and rebel groups have failed, fueling a security crisis that has forced some humanitarian organizations to leave the region. U.N. intervention has been a consideration for several years, but some permanent members of the Security Council — notably China and Russia — have been adamant in voting against action in Darfur.
David Rubenstein, coordinator of the Save Darfur Coalition, said opposition in the Security Council could abate under pressure from President Bush. ‘The Security Council is gaining momentum in that direction,’ said Rubenstein. ‘We don`t believe that China would want to stand up all by itself and say it`s in favor of genocide and mass killings and crimes against humanity.’
While China and Russia have argued against intervention in Darfur with claims of respecting state sovereignty, many political experts believe their stance is related to their weapons trade and oil interests that have fed the conflict. ‘China and Russia are both selling weapons to Sudan,’ said Rubenstein. ‘But I don`t think that`s big enough for China or Russia to be obstructionists to such a clear example of human rights violations while the rest of the world is paying such careful attention.’
Hammond said that the aim of the current campaign was to ‘change the paradigm’ with which the international community interprets the course of action necessary to deal with genocide — a paradigm, she said, that can be traced back to Hitler`s Germany. ‘From Dachau to Darfur, the world`s policy has been hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil and therefore do no good,’ Hammond said.
It’s only a genocide we can stop ….if we want to.