WASHINGTON – Members of Congress,national leaders and advocacy groups urged President Bush on Tuesday to take action with “a robust international force” to stop the genocide in Sudan.
“Genocide is something that needed to be stopped yesterday,” said Salih Booker,executive director of African Action,which is coordinating the effort of 80 groups and eight Democratic members of Congress who signed the letter.
The signatories criticized the Bush administration for not responding with urgency to the genocide in Darfur.
“President Bush's senior aides said they have more important things to do than Darfur,” Booker said. “We are here to ask,‘What can be more important than protecting citizens in Darfur?'”
The letter says that “unless there is an urgent international intervention in Darfur,up to a million people may be dead by the end of this year.”
The group urged the administration to work through the United Nations to get other countries involved and to “assemble a robust international force” to deploy with African Union troops.
It called for a four-part strategy:
* stop the killing and provide security,
* deliver humanitarian assistance,
* enforce a cease fire and provide stability so peace talks can go forward and
* help displaced persons return home and rebuild their homes.
“It is past time for this administration to take action when it comes to Darfur,” said Emira Woods,co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus,a global policy think tank. “Approximately 400,000 people have died. Were these not African people,would the international community still stand by and do nothing?”
The government-sponsored genocide against three ethic groups in Sudan began in 2003. Estimates of deaths have been unreliable during the upheaval,but in written materials the groups sponsoring the letter reported that about 215,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced.
Former secretary of State Colin Powell announced last year that the United States viewed the actions in Sudan as genocide.
The White House and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment on the letter.
Rep. Donald Payne,D-N.J.,said that he recently read a long government document about the war on terror,and “a little note at the bottom said,‘Oh,try to help Darfur'”
“It's been eight months now,and what have we seen?” Payne asked. The policy shift brought no action,said Payne,who is the ranking member of the subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations.
Payne called the genocide “a campaign to rid Africa of all of its black inhabitants.” He said that it is disturbing that the United States has placed the war on terror,in which no weapons of mass destruction have been found,above the genocide in Sudan.
Eric Reeves,who has been on leave from his job as an English and literature professor at Smith College in Northampton,Mass.,to work on Sudan issues,said if President Bush would step in other countries would do so as well.
“President Bush needs to stand up and say that the ultimate crime will not continue on his watch or ours,” said Reeves.
The group has received more than 16,000 signatures and hopes to get 400,000 more by Sept. 9,the first anniversary of the Bush administration's declaration of genocide in Sudan. Every Wednesday,members of Africa Action hold vigils in front of the White House.
“We have to continue to move forward despite the attitude at 1600” Pennsylvania Avenue,Payne said.