Menendez Offers Amendment To Support U.N. Peacekeeping In Darfur

Menendez Offers Amendment To Support U.N. Peacekeeping In Darfur

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) tonight offered an amendment to appropriations legislation currently under consideration by the Senate to provide $60 million to fund a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people have been murdered and another 2 million displaced in Darfur. African Union troops in the region lack the financial and logistical resources necessary to control the situation.

After the world learned the horrors of the Holocaust, America and the international community vowed never again, Menendez said. After we saw the gruesome slaughter of approximately 800,000 Tutsis in less than 100 days in Rwanda, we said never again. Never again is an empty promise if we do not take action to stop the murder of innocent people when we know it is happening.

The amendment would match the funding provided by the House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to vote on it later this week.

The full text of Senator Menendezs statement to the Senate follows:Last Sunday, thousands of Americans gathered here in Washington, DC and in other cities around the country to focus our attention on the horrific acts being committed a world away in Darfur, Sudan.

But this wasnt a gathering of the powerful, although politicians and celebrities were there. This was a gathering of the American communityof high school students, members of synagogues and churches, college students, people of all races, ethnicities, and religions.

In fact, the movement to stop genocide in Darfur has been led by some of the youngest in our society. In New Jersey, students in middle schools have raised funds for refugees. Young people at colleges have led the movement to divest from Sudan. These are not the leaders of the future; they are the leaders of today.

And I know that as I stand here calling for action, I am not alone. In my home state of New Jersey, high school students started a non-profit organization called Help Darfur Now, which raises awareness and funds for the refugees in Sudan. Newark, New Jersey is the headquarters of the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, a national group started by Sudanese people living in the United States that lobbies for humanitarian aid, intervention, and conflict resolution in Sudan. And across the country, Americans are signing petitions, participating in marches, holding town hall events, and contacting their elected officials to demand that the dire needs of the Darfurian people be addressed. As representatives of the people, it is our job to act.

Here in the Congress Senators Brownback, Obama, Dewine, Leahy, Levin, Durbin, and Representative Payne, and former Senator, now Governor Corzine, have led the fight for real action to address the genocide in Darfur. And I thank all of them for their hard work.

The Situation in Darfur

When we talk about genocide, it is almost impossible for any of us to take the intellectual understanding of genocidethe number of people killed, over what period of time, and for what reasonand comprehend the reality of such atrocities. The truth is that each of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people murdered in Darfur was a father, mother, sister, daughter, or son slaughtered by their own countrymen whose ethnic makeup and religion was similar to their own. Each of these people has a family who mourns them, and a community who lost them.

Many of us here cannot imagine what life is like for the at least 2 million people who have been displaced in this conflict. Those who have survived are left with the scars of watching their relatives and neighbors murdered, raped, and subjected to other horrors we cannot imagine. And for the hundreds of thousands of people who fled to Chad, the terror continues as they face new attacks in the expanding conflict. Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize winning expert on genocide, has pointed out that many women face a Sofies choice. They can either leave their villages and camps to gather firewood facing the likelihood of rape or attack by the Janjaweed or starve inside the camps.

It is in this dire context that the World Food Program announced that it will be forced to cut the rations to feed those who are affected by the conflict in Darfur.. This means that people already facing a humanitarian crisis will now only receive half of the recommended level of calories per day.

Even worse, are reports that at least 200,000 people have been displaced since January and that many of those cannot be reached or helped by aid agencies. A recent article in the New York Times quoted one senior humanitarian aid official, The situation for humanitarian workers and the United Nations has never been as bad as it is now, The space for us to work is just getting smaller and smaller.

Not surprisingly, the Sudanese government, who is supporting the groups that conduct this campaign of death and destruction, continues to hinder any attempts by the international community to assess the situation or provide aid to the millions of needy refugees. Just this month, the Sudanese government denied entry into the country to Mr. Jan Egeland, a top United Nations official on humanitarian issues. And last week, Sudan refused to grant visas to officials who intended to conduct a UN military assessment on planning a peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

So, in a region the size of Texas, seven thousand African Union troops have been put in place to protect the people of Darfur. While I believe the African Union force is better than nothing, their troop numbers are clearly too small. They are under-funded, under-equipped, and lack a mandate to protect civilians. I agree with many of the experts who have said that we need to at least triple the size of the African Union force as a bridge until we can get a UN force operational in Darfur. I also think the President, and others, have the right idea of using NATO forces to provide logistical support while letting countries with Muslim populations take the lead on the ground.

Of course, we face many obstacles to getting a UN force into Sudan and controlling the situation. First, the Chinese continually stand in the way of UN action. Lets make it simplethe Chinese buy oil from the Sudanese and they dont want to stop. In fact, China, because of its rule that it doesnt involve itself in any way in the domestic affairs of other countries, has no problem buying oil from a government committing genocide in Sudan. Then there is the issue of Osama bin Laden, who has denounced the idea of UN troops, and, in his most recent audiotape broadcast, called on Muslims to fight such a force.

In the past, some steps have been taken on the part of the United States and the international community to address the crisis in Darfur but the violence continues. Congress has appropriated funds for African Union peacekeeping, food aid, and support for refugees. The United Nations Security Council has passed various resolutions raising concerns about war crimes committed in Darfur. The government of Sudan and the two rebel groups involved in are now in negotiations. I know that Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick is there now trying to reach a final agreement with the rebels.

Yet, despite all of these measures, the sad truth remains that the people of Darfur face a bleak future of uncertainty, suffering, and possibly death. It is time that we take additional action to stop the genocide in Sudan.

Amendment

That is why Im offering an amendment that would provide $60 million to support UN peacekeeping in Darfur. And I would like to thank the cosponsors of this amendment Senators Leahy, Durbin, Sarbanes, Dodd, Obama, Lautenberg, Wyden, and Stabenow.

The African Union troops in Darfur are clearly overwhelmed by the challenge at hand. This amendment would provide critical funding to equip international troops and restore law and order to the region of Darfur. Although the intervention of UN troops has not yet been authorized, this amendment would ensure that when it is accomplished, the money is there and will increase pressure on the African Union, the Khartoum government, and the international community to make sure that a UN force is put in place in Darfur.

For those who would question the amount proposed in this amendment, I would like to point out that my amendment adds the same level of funding to the Contributions to International Peacekeeping Account (CIPA) that has already been approved in the House supplemental appropriations bill. There is no other way to get these funds to protect the people of Darfur. They are not in the current funds appropriated for Fiscal Year 2006. I think we can all agree that genocide in Darfur does constitute an emergency, an emergency which this body has a moral obligation to respond to.

Genocide

Genocide is not a new phenomenon. We have witnessed this hatred and inhumanity many times over the past century. After the world learned the horrors of the Holocaust, America and the international community vowed never again. After we saw the gruesome slaughter of approximately 800,000 Tutsis in less than 100 days in Rwanda, we said never again. "Never again" is an empty promise if we do not take action to stop the murder of innocent people when we know it is happening. And once again we find ourselves in a position to make that choice.

For even as I stand here today, I know that the number of dead and displaced persons in Darfur continues to grow. Genocide is not Sudans problem it is not Africas problem it is the worlds problem. And by failing to take part in a solution, we have become part of that problem. As Americans and as human beings we have a moral obligation to help those who are suffering and who cannot help themselves. Now is not the time to forget that obligation. And history will judge us by the actions that we take or fail to take today.

Conclusion

Jan Egeland, one of the top UN humanitarian officials has said that "Africa is the biggest drama of our time; nowhere else in the world are so many lives at stake as in Africa. Now is the time to act.

Some people might say that the Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal allocates sufficient funds to help the people of Sudan. I would say that you cannot put a price on human lives. Genocide is not a horror of the past--it is a reality of the present. It is an emergency we must face today. The $60 million my amendment offers will help put an end to the senseless murder and displacement of the people of Darfur. If it were American lives at stake, I am certain we would find the money to act. Simon Wiesenthal said that, For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing. Let us act now to put an end to this evil. I hope my colleagues will see that, in the face of genocide, this is money well spent. And I ask that you support this amendment.

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