Legislation imposing sanctions against the government of Sudan and Arab militia responsible for killing tens of thousands of people in Darfur, has been approved by Congress. The House of Representatives approved a measure passed earlier by the Senate, as lawmakers urged intensified U.S. and international efforts to overcome Sudanese government resistance to a U.N. force for Darfur.
The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act won House approval earlier this year and then went to the Senate, where it sat until just last week.
That is when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Republican Senator Richard Lugar, removed from the bill a provision referring to state divestment from Sudan.
Lugar and like-minded senators asserted the single paragraph would have doomed chances of getting the legislation to President Bush's desk before Congress adjourns at the end of this month.
The full Senate approved the change, sending the legislation back to the House, where lawmakers focused on challenges facing U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios.
Congressman Chris Smith is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Human Rights.
"The special envoy's mandate should include all efforts to consolidate peace throughout Sudan, including by ensuring full implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [for Sudan]," he said.
Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, says the Darfur situation will require aggressive diplomacy.
"Sustained and intensive diplomatic efforts at the highest levels are needed," he said. "The special envoy must not only engage the parties to the conflict in Darfur, he will also need to galvanize the international community to bring lasting peace to Darfur."
The sanctions in the Darfur Act include freezing the assets and banning entry of Sudan government officials or members of Arab militias found to be complicit in atrocities and banning them.
It would also ban the U.S. from providing assistance other than for humanitarian needs to countries providing military aid to the government in Khartoum.
Sanctions would remain in effect until, among other things, Khartoum takes concrete steps to disarm Arab militia blamed for killing and displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
"We continue to say to Khartoum that they must stop the genocide, it will not be tolerated," said Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat. "President Bashir, the National Congress Party officials, Janjaweed [Arab militia] commanders and murderers, and others responsible for genocide must be held accountable and will be brought to justice."
On the issue of divestment, lawmakers such as Congresswoman Barbara Lee say they are not finished, and have proposed separate legislation to keep international companies operating in Sudan from receiving U.S contracts.
"We are coming back on divestment, because it makes no sense to allow companies with holdings in Sudan to continue to do this type of business," she said. "Pension funds should not have blood in their banks, and that is exactly what has happened."
The Darfur Act, which now goes to President Bush for signature, authorizes the president to support expansion of the 7,000-strong African Union peace force sufficient to protect civilians and humanitarian operations.
It also calls for the U.S. and NATO to provide assets to help African peacekeepers deter Sudan government air strikes, along with logistical and a range of other support.