Two members of Congress just back from Sudan's Western Darfur region have described a humanitarian emergency requiring the strongest possible reaction by the international community.
Congressman Frank Wolf and Senator Sam Brownback spent three days touring five refugee camps and spoke to survivors of attacks by Janjaweed, an armed militia thought to be receiving support from the government in Khartoum.
Comparing the situation to that existing in Rwanda before genocide there in the early 1990s, Senator Brownback says pressure must be brought and maintained on the Sudanese government.
"The government of Sudan has the chance to stop this but they must act now," he said. "And if they fail, we could see death on a massive scale, even larger than what we have seen to date. We must keep the pressure on the government and the international community and not let the suffering Darfuris slide out of our view. The world must not forget them in this time of need as we did in Rwanda about a decade ago."
A video of the lawmaker's visit showed burned houses and members of the Janjaweed militia on camels or horseback within a short distance of refugees. It also showed Russian-built helicopters and one Antonov aircraft, which refugees say were used in attacks, parked at an airport.
Congressman Wolf and Senator Brownback also displayed crayon drawings by children showing men with machine guns shooting people, and aircraft attacking houses and people and the ground.
The United Nations and aid workers estimate as many as 30,000 people may have been killed and more than one million displaced in Darfur.
Congressman Wolf calls what has been happening a clear case of ethnic cleansing based on race. "You would see an Arab village totally intact and you would see an African village totally burned out," he added. "Woman after woman would tell us the rape had been because of race. The [refugees told] stories about [militiamen talking about] making lighter-skinned babies. It is ethnic cleansing. This is Bosnia, this is Ssrebrenica, this is Kosovo."
Mr. Wolf says recent visits to Darfur by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Secretary of State Colin Powell helped pressure the Sudanese government to loosen restrictions on aid.
Among recommendations made in a report on their visit, Congressman Wolf and Senator Brownback say the United States should work with the United Nations for an official investigation into atrocities and hold Sudan government officials accountable.
They call for the immediate disarming of the Janjaweed, removal of all barriers to international aid and a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the government in Khartoum.
Sudan's government says it has now lifted restrictions on aid workers. However, although it has pledged to disarm the Janjaweed, it continues to deny supporting them.
As for African Union involvement, Congressman Wolf says even a 300-member protection force the organization has pledged to send will be insufficient to ensure that attacks on civilians and atrocities stop.