U.S. veteran Senator Edward Kennedy is calling on his colleagues in Congress and the international community to do more for Sudan's troubled region of Darfur. He drew attention to the crisis while presenting an award honoring his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, to a prominent doctor and human rights advocate in Darfur. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Capitol Hill.
Speaking in Washington Friday, Senator Edward Kennedy said the United States has a moral obligation to address the crisis in Darfur.
His appeal came during a ceremony presenting the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdallah, Medical Treatment Director of the Amel Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture in Sudan, a leading Sudanese human rights group.
Kennedy praised Dr. Ahmed for his work and said the world can learn from his example. "Through his own heroic acts of humanity, Dr. Mohammed has singlehandedly created thousands of ripples of hope for the innocent victims of the horrific genocide in Darfur. His work is a call to our own collective conscience to do more to reach an enduring peace for Darfur that is true to the fundamental principles of human rights," the senator said.
Dr. Ahmed and his organization provide medical care and support to survivors of torture and rape in Darfur and documents human rights abuses blamed mainly on the Sudanese government. He has also participated in peace negotiations as a representative for the Fur tribe, Darfur's majority ethnic group.
Accepting the RFK Human Rights Award, Dr. Ahmed said he is grateful for the recognition of his work to help the people of Darfur.
He said peace cannot be achieved in the region until they are protected. "People are now starved, people are suffering from diseases, no humanitarian services are now supplied to these people. I think this a critical moment. We need the people of the United States to stand and support us. We need the people of Africa. We need the people of Asia, just to put aside their interests and look what happens to people of Darfur," he said.
A joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force of 26,000 is set to be deployed to Darfur next year. The force will replace an existing African force of seven-thousand that has been ineffective in stopping the region's bloodshed.
The United States has said it would like to see more cooperation from Sudan in the deployment of the force.
Since 2003, violence in Darfur has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced about 2.5 million others.
The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights grants the RFK Human Rights Award to one social justice seeker each year. The award, created in 1984, includes a monetary contribution to the laureate's cause.