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Calling On The President To Take Immediate Steps To Help Improve The Security Situation In Darfur, Sudan

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Location: Washington, DC


CALLING ON THE PRESIDENT TO TAKE IMMEDIATE STEPS TO HELP IMPROVE THE SECURITY SITUATION IN DARFUR, SUDAN -- (House of Representatives - September 25, 2006)

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

Mr. Speaker, 14 months ago, Greg Simpkins on our International Relations staff and I visited Darfur and met some of the heroic survivors of genocide at two camps, Mukjar and Kalma. When the helicopter landed at the remote Mukjar camp, thousands of women and children danced, clapped and sang beautiful traditional African songs. The people of Darfur have a remarkable generosity and spirit, and it was awe-inspiring.

At first glance, most of the people had a superficial glow of physical wellness, thanks in large part to the brave NGO workers bearing food, clothing and medicine. However, now even those necessities are disappearing due to the insecurity in the camps, further exacerbating the genocide with even more starvation and more disease.

In addition to the horrific loss of life in Darfur, estimated to be at upwards of 400,000 dead and 2 million displaced, I was struck by the appalling fear and trepidation that is ever present, just below the surface, just below the smiles that greet any visitor. Among the refugees and IDPs, emotional woundedness and brokenness is everywhere.

Like you and me, Mr. Speaker, all that the wonderful people of Darfur want is to love God and their families and friends and earn a living and to live in peace. Yet they have had atrocities imposed upon them that no human being should ever have to bear. Just about everyone that we spoke with, especially the women, told us personal stories of rape, senseless beatings and massacres by the Janjaweed and by Sudanese militias.

On that same trip, Mr. Speaker, I also met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan El-Bashir at his presidential suite in Khartoum. Perhaps like some others before me and after me, I pushed hard for the end of genocide. I argued, if peace and a fledgling reconciliation was achievable in southern Sudan, the other genocide that killed 2 million people and displaced 4 million, why not peace in Darfur?

The exchange was not encouraging. All Bashir wanted was to talk about ending U.S. trade sanctions, not the horrific loss of life.

Mr. Speaker, the very important resolution before us today, authored by my good friend and colleague, Mr. Lantos, H. Res. 723, reflects congressional concern about the recent escalation of violence in Darfur and the government of Sudan's continued refusal to create a permissive environment for the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers. It also speaks to the fear that a security vacuum could be left in Darfur if the African Mission in Sudan, AMIS, is not immediately reinforced and transitioned to a larger, more capable UN peacekeeping mission.

On August 31, Mr. Speaker, the administration's skillful and resolute efforts to build international consensus on the need for action in Darfur resulted in the passage of Resolution 1706 by the United Nations Security Council. This urgently needed resolution approved a robust peacekeeping force for Darfur of up to 22,000 soldiers and police officers to relieve a severely undermanned and overfatigued African Union mission which has valiantly struggled against acute disadvantages to maintain some level of protection for innocent civilians.

Still, every day it becomes clear that the government of Sudan is more interested in imposing its own solution in Darfur than in pursuing a swift and lasting resolution to the conflict. Even as the UN Security Council's Resolution 1706 was being debated, the Sudanese government was preparing a major military offensive in Darfur, in direct violation of a peace agreement that it signed on May 5. And despite the government's agreement to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur upon conclusion of the Darfur Peace Agreement, the government then turned around and categorically rejected the passage of Security Council Resolution 1706, renouncing the UN mission as a ``western invasion of Sudan'' and threatening attacks against peacekeepers.

H. Res. 723, Mr. Speaker, calls upon the Sudanese government to comply immediately with UN Security Council Resolution 1706, to support the transition of AMIS to a U.S. peacekeeping mission and to facilitate the deployment of UN peacekeepers. It also demands that the Sudanese government immediately withdraw all offensive military aircraft and personnel from the region, cease all support for the Janjaweed militias and rebels from Chad and disarm the Janjaweed militias themselves.

H. Res. 723 makes clear that the deployment of a capable UN force is our paramount objective, but also calls on the African Union to work closely with UN and NATO to strengthen its capacity to deter violence in the Darfur region during the interim. And while the resolution does not suggest the introduction of U.S. Armed Forces, it does call upon the President to continue urging NATO to extend and expand upon the support it currently is providing to AMIS.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good bipartisan resolution, and I urge its passage.

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

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