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Rights Activists, Genocide Survivors Pressure China to Act on Darfur

Actors, athletes and politicians from Europe and the United States have joined genocide survivors from Rwanda and Darfur to put pressure on Olympic host China to help end genocide in Darfur. For VOA, Thomas Rippe has more from Kigali, where the gathering was held.

American actress Mia Farrow joined human rights activists and genocide survivors in Kigali Wednesday to put pressure on China to take on a bigger role in Darfur. Farrow lit a symbolic Olympic torch in memory of genocide victims.

"This flame was first lit on August 9 on the Chad - Darfur border, where genocide is ongoing," she said. "This flame honors all those who have been lost and those who suffer. This flame celebrates the courage of those who have survived. And this flame symbolizes the hope we all share for an end to genocide everywhere."

In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, China, which is by far the largest foreign investor in Sudan and absorbs almost two thirds of its oil output, has been under mounting pressure to use it influence with Khartoum to ease the suffering in Darfur.

Dream for Darfur, a U.S.-based human rights group, organized the event. It was held at the Ecole Technique Officielle, a school where 2,000 Rwandans were killed in 1994.

According to the United Nations, a total of at least 800,000 people were slaughtered in the space of a few weeks during the genocide.

Director Jill Savitt says China is key to resolving the crisis.

"We believe that the host of the 2008 Olympic games, China, can play a powerful role, and a positive role, in resolving the Darfur crisis," she said.

Omer Ismail is a survivor of the genocide in Darfur. He spoke directly to the Rwandans attending the event.

"I, like you, am a survivor. And us survivors, we know that we cannot leave anyone behind. We must work together to stop genocidal violence wherever it occurs," he said.

U.S. Congressman Donald Payne helped push Congress to call the crisis in Darfur genocide back in 2004.

"Three years later, from the declaration of genocide, genocide is still occurring. And that's wrong," he said.

Activists hope that continued pressure will lead to a strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur.