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Stop The Genocide In Darfur

Location: Washington, DC

STOP THE GENOCIDE IN DARFUR -- (House of Representatives - September 19, 2006)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, after more than 3 violent years, the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan is getting worse. As Jan Egeland, Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs at the U.N., has said, the coming weeks could see ``a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale.''

At the end of this month, African Union forces are set to leave Darfur. Currently the only peacekeeping forces in Darfur, the departure of these troops will only embolden the Sudanese Government and the allied Janjaweed militias to continue to murder and displace Sudanese citizens.

As my colleagues know, the crisis in Darfur began in February 2003 when two rebel groups emerged to challenge the National Islamic Front government in Darfur. Since then, over 400,000 people have died, and nearly 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes. Sadly, it took the United States until July 2004 to recognize that these events in Darfur constituted genocide, and we cannot continue this type of inaction. Far too many times we have seen the horrible consequences of ignoring genocide or failing to get involved quickly.

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear that President Bush has finally appointed Andrew Natsios as the special envoy to Sudan. I joined 88 of my colleagues in cosponsoring a resolution calling for the President to appoint such an envoy to demonstrate the United States' commitment to resolving the crisis. This special envoy to Sudan will ensure continuous high-level U.S. engagement in Darfur, and will work to deter a further escalation of violence and humanitarian disaster in the region.

But there is much more, however, that the administration should do to work towards a lasting peace in Darfur. As the most prominent democracy in the world, the U.S. must step forward and take a leadership role in stopping this genocide. Resolving this conflict and ending the violence should be a high priority for this Congress and for the Bush administration.

The United States must pressure Sudanese allies, particularly those in the Arab League, to ensure that the Sudanese Government agrees to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706. This resolution calls for 22,500 U.N. troops and police officers to be sent into Darfur to bolster the peacekeeping mission.

So far Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has rejected the U.S. Security Council Resolution 1706 and thus rejected calls for U.N. peacekeeping troops to enter Darfur. But if the African Union peacekeepers leave at the end of September, and al-Bashir is successful in keeping U.N. forces out of the region, the situation in Darfur will spiral into a worsening tragedy.

The United States cannot in good conscience stand idly by as the horrors in Darfur approach 1 million deaths and 3 million displaced. Families are being destroyed, and people are being murdered. The U.S. and the U.N. have a moral obligation to stop this genocide so we can avoid the failures of Bosnia and Rwanda. Have we not learned anything from those mistakes?

The U.S. must work with NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Darfur to ensure military offensives and bombings are brought to an end. The Sudanese Government is escalating an air war by turning Soviet-era Antonov planes into makeshift bombers and using helicopter gunships against mud and thatch huts inhabited by many Sudanese people. We cannot allow these killings to continue, and establishing a no-fly zone will take a step in the right direction to lessen the violence in Darfur.

Madam Speaker, the Sudanese Government has improperly imprisoned American reporters and killed aid workers to try to eliminate any international presence in the country. This kind of aggression must come to an end. If the international troops are forced out of Sudan, the country will spiral further into a land of violence and brutality.

Finally, the U.S. has a moral obligation to take all possible steps to end the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. We have seen over and over what can happen if the international community does not intercede when people are being systematically murdered and displaced from their homes.

With the African Union forces planning to depart at the end of the month and the Sudanese Government rejecting U.N. peacekeeping forces, the time for full-scale international involvement is now.

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