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US Congress Addresses Africa Issues Before Adjournment

U.S. lawmakers have focused on two situations in Africa as they wind down their business in the 109th Congress . VOA's Dan Robinson has a report from Capitol Hill.

On two issues, the situations in Darfur, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, lawmakers wanted their voices heard before Congress adjourns for the year.

In a news conference, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, representing African-American and other minority lawmakers, reiterated their determination to see progress on Darfur in 2007.

Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey says the group intends to continue its efforts to push both the Bush administration, and other governments, to be more aggressive in dealing with the Darfur situation and the government in Sudan.

"We do expect that we will see results," said Donald Payne. "We are not satisfied of course. As a matter of fact there have been outbreaks between the North and the South [in Sudan] just last week, and that is in violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in Naivasha [Kenya] a year or so ago. And so there is deterioration and we want to see that stopped and to have a clear picture of where the U.S. and the United Nations and the African Union will be going."

The deterioration he refers to includes an upsurge in violence that forced the United Nations to evacuate dozens of workers out of the town of El Fasher in Darfur.

Recent developments prompted U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland to describe the conflict in Darfur as being in a state of free fall, with spillover effects in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic.

In recent months, Black Caucus members met with ambassadors and officials from the Arab League in an effort to step up pressure on the government in Khartoum to allow peacekeeping efforts in Darfur to transition from a seven-thousand-strong African force to a larger United Nations operation.

Congressman Payne did not offer any specifics as to what those talks have produced, but said contacts will continue.

"We will continue top meet with the Arab League," he said. "We had a meeting with the ambassador from the People's Republic of China because of their position in the oil fields in Sudan and this will continue to be a number one issue."

Current Black Caucus chairman Melvin Watt informed reporters about another meeting (Wednesday) with President Bush's Sudan envoy.

"We will be meeting with Andrew Natsios, President Bush's special envoy to the Sudan," said Melvin Watt. "Many of you know that we have been actively involved in the Darfur issue, and that is part of our ongoing and continuing effort."

Before lawmakers leave town, they will also have addressed another Africa trouble spot, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fighting between rebels and government soldiers has also forced thousands from their homes.

The House of Representatives was to approve a bipartisan measure, passed last June by the Senate, called the Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act.

In addition to addressing the fighting, it seeks to clarify U.S. political, social, civil and economic goals in that country and says the U.S. should support increased humanitarian and development aid.

However, the non-binding measure states that the government in Kinshasa must be committed to achieving specific objectives international efforts are to be effective, adding that U.S. aid could be halted in the absence of progress.