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House Lawmakers Seek Sufficient US Funding for Darfur Peacekeeping


Members of Congress who recently visited Sudan's western Darfur region say they are attempting to ensure that sufficient funds are included in spending legislation to help sustain and hopefully expand African Union peackeeping.

Some of the lawmakers who visited Darfur as part of a fact-finding tour of Africa met Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol with members of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of faith-based, human rights, humanitarian and student groups.

"We visited the Sudan and spent time in the Darfur region of that country. We saw first-hand the suffering, the displacement, the consequences of violence that has been exacted by the Sudanese government on its own people," said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

James Clyburn, a Democratic congressman from South Carolina, says while Sudanese government officials the congressional delegation met objected to any need for a United Nations or NATO force, everyone else the lawmakers met with on their trip supported it.

"Everybody else we met with thought this ought to be done, that the U.N. or NATO should be there to support the African Union and that we ought to seek to at least double the African Union forces in the area," he said.

Last year, $50 million that would have helped support African Union peacekeeping in coming months was dropped from final congressional legislation.

Congresswoman Pelosi described that as disappointing, adding that lawmakers hope increased visibility given to the Darfur situation will help restore funds in upcoming legislation.

As part of efforts to resolve the Darfur situation, Congressman Donald Payne, a key Democrat on the House Africa Subcommittee, says Sudanese government officials responsible for ordering killings there need to be held accountable.

"In addition to having boots on the ground, people who are responsible for genocide have to be brought before an international criminal court, and have to be tried, or you will be having troops on the ground forever," he said.

David Rubenstein, coordinator of the Save Darfur Coalition, says activism on Darfur continues to gain momentum.

"The people who are going to end genocide have to do it by speaking out, and by letting America know how important it is to end the suffering and violence in Darfur," he said.

"We in this year [need to] stand up, speak out clearly, get the necessary funds for peackeeping in Sudan, to stop the rape, to stop the violence, to stop the death," added Reverend Bob Edgar, a former member of Congress, now involved in efforts to focus attention on the Darfur situation.

President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other U.S. officials have issued strong statements in recent months regarding what the United States has formally described as genocide in Darfur.

Congressman Payne says still more needs to be done, calling it disgraceful that sufficient funds for peackeeping cannot be found at a time when billions are being spent on defense, and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Groups campaigning to stop killing in Darfur plan a Rally to Stop Genocide on April 30, which will include prominent religious and political leaders and human rights activists, as well as survivors of the Holocaust, and genocide from Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Kosovo.

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