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Star of <i>Hotel Rwanda</i> Calls for Action on Darfur

On Capitol Hill in Washington, the star of the movie Hotel Rwanda joined members of Congress in calling for stronger international action on the situation in Sudan's Darfur region.

Five U.S. lawmakers visited Chad, where thousands of refugees are receiving international assistance, and also crossed the border into Darfur for a first-hand look at the situation there.

Congressman Ed Royce, long-serving chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, headed the delegation and says it is clear that killing continues: "This killing goes on day in, day out. I saw young children who had lost their hands, I asked one how, he said by the sword, by the janjaweed. Many others have lost their hearing from the bombardment," he said. "We saw many crippled people. We know of the systematic rape that has occurred throughout this region, the plunder of crops and cattle. And right now there are over 1.4 million displaced people wandering around in Sudan, about a quarter of a million over the border now in Chad as a consequence of this genocide.

Mr. Royce says it is clear the Sudanese government continues to arm Arab militia known as janjaweed, and that aerial bombardments continue, despite the presence of African Union troops. In addition to an aggressive push at the United Nations for sanctions against Khartoum, he says the number of African troops should be sharply increased to 10,000.

Appearing with Mr. Royce and other lawmakers in a packed hearing room, actor Don Cheadle said his role in the movie Hotel Rwanda, for which he has been nominated for an Academy Award, gave him a unique opportunity to speak out on problems such as Darfur. "What we are seeing are tsunamis of violence, and we will continue to see these unless people step up, unless people step forward and demand from their leadership demand from the international community that this not stand," he said.

The violence in Darfur, as well as that in Rwanda in the 1990s, was raised in separate comments by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives.

She spoke while noting the 60th anniversary of the freeing of prisoners who survived the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz. "We must always remember that man's cruelty to man has no place in a civilized society, it is outside the circle of civilized human behavior. That is why I am so pleased that all of the attention is being placed on Rwanda, now past tragedy, but focusing on Darfur which challenges the conscience of us all and gives us no excuse for taking the appropriate action," she said.

Last year, the United States formally declared that it considers violence in Darfur genocide, and Congress followed with resolutions to this effect.

In passing a law called the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act last year, lawmakers stated that it should be extended to Darfur. They also linked U.S. assistance for the North-South Sudan peace accord with Sudanese government action to end atrocities and demobilize militias, and allow international investigation of events in Darfur.