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Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


DARFUR PEACE AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - April 05, 2006)

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 3127) to impose sanctions against individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, to support measures for the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations, and to support peace efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan, and for other purposes, as amended.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in very strong support of H.R. 3127, the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, and I want to commend the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde) of the International Relations Committee for drafting a bill that has the best chance of becoming law and dealing with the genocidal situation in Sudan. Despite sometimes difficult and complex efforts needed to move this legislation, Mr. Hyde has remained steadfast in moving forward and that is why I have continued to support his efforts throughout this process.

Madam Speaker, no single country in Africa has been subject to greater partisan and bipartisan attention and deliberation by the United States Congress than the Republic of Sudan. Over the past 3 years, at least nine major bills and resolutions regarding Sudan have been passed by this body, including an historic declaration that genocide was occurring in the Darfur region of western Sudan in September of 2004.

For its own part, the administration of President Bush has led both humanitarian and diplomatic efforts to address the crisis in Darfur. The United States has provided more than $617 million in assistance to help ease the suffering of those most affected by the conflict, and more than $150 million to support the African Union mission in Darfur.

I would say parenthetically, last August Greg Simpkins, our expert on the subcommittee, and I went to Darfur. We spent several days in Khartoum and then made our way up to Mukjar and Kalma camp. Mukjar is a very remote camp, where we saw the beneficiaries of that aid, men and women and children, who have suffered so much, lost so many of their loved ones to this genocide. But it was reassuring and quite gratifying, to be blunt, to see American aid providing them with healthy and nutritious meals as well as the medicines and at least some of the security that they so desperately need.

We also knew, especially with Mukjar, that if you traveled just a kilometer outside camp, the Janjaweed and other killers were waiting to continue their genocidal deeds. It was very sobering to know the risks and the security fright that they face each and every day knowing that they cannot go past the perimeters of the refugee camps.

We also met in Khartoum with not only Salva Kiir, the Vice President, who is doing an extraordinarily good job to try to bring peace to the region, but we also met with President al-Bashir. He and his junta continue to be largely responsible for many of the crimes committed both in Darfur and earlier in the south of Sudan.

Let me finally point out to my colleagues that at the direction of the President, President Bush, the United States Ambassador to NATO has pressed for NATO reinforcement of the African Union mission. We all know they do not have enough people to do the job. The mission was designed and configured in a way that almost doomed it to failure despite herculean efforts on their part. We are now pressing for reinforcement of those AU troops.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, continues to seek authorization to incorporate the African Union Mission into a larger, more robust U.N. peacekeeping mission. As Mr. Lantos knows when we traveled to New York just a week ago and met with Kofi Annan and others, that was one of the key topics we talked about: How do we get this AU mission blue helmeted so they can grow the mission, as well as boots on the ground to try to mitigate this misery.

The United States also continues to play a significant role in facilitating peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, between the Government of Sudan and the rebels of Darfur.

Notwithstanding the multiple legislative initiatives and the best efforts of this administration and many of our friends in Europe, and despite the conclusion of a peace agreement for southern Sudan, the passage of six U.N. Security Council resolutions and the deployment of nearly 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur and the conduct of seven rounds of peace talks, the crisis in Darfur continues with catastrophic consequences. This conflict is real. It is ongoing, it is every day, and it demands our resolute attention.

Madam Speaker, as many as 400,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have been forced from their homes. Entire villages have been looted and destroyed, and countless men, women and children have been abducted, murdered, abused and raped. Weapons continue to flow into the region unabated despite the existence of an arms embargo, and attacks against civilians, humanitarian convoys, and African Union peacekeepers increase almost daily as peace talks in Nigeria flounder.

Despite 14,000 aid workers that make up some 82 NGOs, 13 U.N. agencies and the International Committee for the Red Cross, a lack of security and reliable transportation means that food aid and other humanitarian assistance is becoming increasingly more difficult to deliver. While it is clear that something must be done, it is also clear that we cannot legislate an end to the atrocities and no number of forces from the African Union, NATO, U.N. or even the U.S. can impose a permanent peace without the commitment of the Sudanese themselves to lay down their arms.

Still, as humanitarians we cannot stand by idly as the Sudanese government officials and rebel commanders jockey for power while tragedy continues to unfold in Darfur and threatens to return to the rest of Sudan.

According to a recent International Crisis Group report, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party lacks the will to implement the North-South peace agreement and has frustrated the Darfur peace process by ``facilitating increased chaos on the ground and promoting divisions within the rebels.''

We are all aware of the complexity of the situation in Sudan and must respond accordingly to all of its facets and manifestations. This legislation, I believe, attempts a comprehensive effort to deal with the tragedy of that country. The committee amendment before you, which is the result of 8 months of bipartisan collaboration, contains the following measures:

One, while it does not authorize the use of United States Armed Forces in Darfur, it confers upon the President the authority to provide assistance to reinforce the deployment and operations of an expanded AU mission with the mandate, size, strength and capacity to protect civilians and humanitarian operations.

Two, it encourages the imposition of targeted sanctions against the Janjaweed commanders and coordinators.

Three, it calls for the extension of the military embargo established pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1591 to include the government of Sudan.

Four, it amends the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004 to impose an asset freeze and travel ban against individual perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Next, it asserts that existing restrictions imposed against Sudan shall not be lifted until the President certifies to the Congress that the government of Sudan is acting in good faith to:

One, peacefully resolve the crisis in Darfur;

Two, disarm, demobilize and demilitarize the Janjaweed;

Three, adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions;

Four, negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis in eastern Sudan;

Five, cooperate with efforts to disarm and deny safe havens to the Lord's Resistance Army; and

Six, fully implement the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The legislation also amends the International Malaria Control Act to enable the United States Government to continue providing assistance to southern Sudan and other marginalized areas and lift restrictions on imports and exports for those same areas.

It also adds a section regarding the preemption of State laws that prohibit investment of State pension funds in Sudan.

Madam Speaker, Sudan is a very sensitive and emotional issue for Members of this body. While Sudan may be providing the United States with valuable information relevant to the global war on terror, or so it says, it is still on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. It is a country where the government has unleashed campaigns of terror and genocide against its own citizens.

It is a country where slavery still exists. Back in 1996, I chaired the first hearing ever on the continuing use of chattel slavery in Sudan, something that we thought was abolished in the 1860s.

For many, the National Congress Party-led faction of the Sudanese government represents pure evil. Although we may differ on our views on how best to confront the regime in Khartoum, the need to promote peace and accountability throughout Sudan is not a partisan issue. Members, such as the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Payne) and the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo), have been tenacious on this. Of course the ranking member, Mr. Lantos, and all of us have worked on both sides of the aisle to try to ensure that this body remains focused on Sudan in a meaningful and constructive way. Their leadership has been inspiring, and I want to thank them all.

That being said, the bill that lies before you today is the result of 8 months of inclusive consultations and intense negotiations, and represents a truly bipartisan compromise on the efforts to address genocide in Darfur while supporting the consolidation of peace in southern Sudan.

And while it represents a compromise, don't be mistaken. This is a strong bill. It is an important bill. It is an urgent bill. The people of Darfur cannot afford to wait while we continue discussions on how best to confront Khartoum. They need our help now.

I would also like to thank our esteemed ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, the chairman and ranking member, Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Conyers, for acting so quickly to allow us to get this measure to the floor without further delay.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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