July 13, 2005
Philip A. Weiss
2301 Fairview Ave East, Apartment 107
Seattle, Washington 98102
Thank you for writing me expressing your concern about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. I share your distress about this terrible situation; my recent trip to the Darfur region only intensified my concern about the Bush Administration's apparent unwillingness to intervene in this growing crisis.
Sudan is torn by two major conflicts. The country has been split north and south, between Muslim and Christian, for more than twenty years. The National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Khartoum has promoted this conflict, arming Muslim militias, engaging in slavery, and committing aerial attacks on civilians. This Sudanese government identifies Islam as its state religion, and it aligns itself with Islamic extremist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah. Operation Lifeline Sudan, a United Nations-coordinated relief effort, estimates that 800,000 people currently are affected by this conflict.
A second catastrophic struggle has come more recently to the attention of the international community. Ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region, in western Sudan, has pitted government-authorized Arab Muslim militias, the Janjaweed, against African Muslim settlements. The militias are attacking civilian villages, raping and murdering their citizens, and looting their possessions. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that 213,000 people have been displaced into neighboring Chad by this ongoing attempt to purge the Darfur region of non-Arabs; casualties are nearing 80,000.
In June, 2004, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Sudan to assess the situation in Darfur. He visited a displaced persons camp, and learned firsthand of the unchecked human rights abuses employed by the Janjaweed to force local families from their homes. Following his visit, on July 30, 2004, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1556, a measure calling upon the Sudanese government to disarm the militias and to hold their leaders accountable for human rights violations. The government of Sudan refused to comply with Resolution 1556 and, on September 18, 2004, the Security Council passed Resolution 1564, recording that non-compliance and threatening imposition of sanctions to force compliance. In February, acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Charlie Snyder, visited Khartoum to promote peaceful resolution to both conflicts in Sudan, and he urged the Sudanese government to allow international relief agencies access to Darfur to assist the thousands of sick and injured persons struggling to survive the violence.
Despite these overtures, the NIF government in Khartoum has remained intractable, refusing to act against the militias terrorizing much of the Sudanese population. NIF representatives repeatedly have walked our of negotiations with UN and US diplomats, and they persistently deny the terror and suffering so evident throughout the country. Imposition of sanctions appears to be among the only interventions that will force the Sudanese government to halt the appalling human rights abuses in Darfur, and to cease its efforts to expel its African-Muslim population from their homes.
It is impossible to observe the circumstances in Sudan today and not remember that ten years ago, the international community did nothing as it watched genocide unfold in Rwanda. Once again, we are witnessing horrific attacks on innocent human beings, and the world has failed to intercede. In the absence of action by the Administration, many in the Congress are seeking avenues to intervene in Sudan. On March 2, Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey introduced the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005 (S. 495), legislation calling for United Nations sanctions against Sudan and the immediate admission of relief workers to the Darfur region. I support this legislation, including additional sanctions affecting the petroleum sector, and I will do all I can to ensure its passage. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this issue carefully as the 109th Congress progresses, and I will keep your remarks in mind as I do so.
Again, thank you for writing.
Member of Congress
PS — I have an e-mail newsletter for anyone who is interested in updates on issues and events from the U.S. Congress and the Seattle Area. To subscribe, visit my website at www.house.gove/mcdermott and click on