A US Congresswoman says strengthening African Union (AU) forces and divesting US companies doing business with Sudan should be a priority. Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee represents Texas and is serving her seventh two-year term in the House of Representatives. She serves on several key House committees and subcommittees. They include the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. She first told Voice of America Capitol Hill correspondent Dan Robinson that the funds allocated in President Bush’s 2008 budget for supporting African Union Forces “are less than we would like them to be,” even though the president has spoken of his interest in Sudan and in Africa. She says, however, that when she was in Sudan and Chad, AU officers told her, “We can’t do anything,” meaning they had insufficient funds to carry out their mission.
The congresswoman said she observed that many of the AU forces were well trained, motivated and passionate, but very frustrated by the fact that they didn’t have adequate resources. As a result, she says, “We are trying to encourage the president to realize how viable and how important they are, even in a coalition with United Nations troops it is important to support the African Union.”
The Congresswoman has introduced a bill requiring the Government Accountability Office to investigate a U.S. government worker savings plan that invests in companies doing business in Sudan. The investments may provide indirect financial support to Khartoum and its ability to wage war. This is considered the first step toward a move to divest from Sudan or deny these companies the ability to do business with the al-Bashir government. Ms. Jackson Lee says the effort to divest from Sudan is gaining ground in a number of states, including her own state of Texas. She says separate bills are being introduced in the Congress, adding that, “it’s a good, good approach, it’s not a violent approach, it makes a very firm statement, it makes an economic statement, the same kind of statement I believe China should make….”
THE CHINA CONNECTION
The congresswoman also touched on what she sees as the need for China to cooperate with US efforts to pressure the Sudanese government on the issue of Darfur, by describing it as China’s “lack of sensitivity to Sudan’s position and dire conditions and a country who now wants to host – and will host – the 2012 Olympics. We have to put [on] the hardest of pressure – why? Because the longer we wait, the longer Sudan will go down the unfortunate road – steep hill of no return. We can’t allow that to happen….”