U.S. Urges Action to Stop the Violence in Sudan
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BILL NEELY: Asha Adam’s life has been short and cruel. She’s one year old and weighs eight pounds. She hovers between life and death in a place many never reach: A clinic in a refugee camp. Her skin is hanging off her. Her mother fled when militiamen attacked their village. For six months, Asha has had little to eat.
The world’s deadline for Sudan to help these people has now passed. Asha’s deadline may be very close.
She’s one of 80,000 refugees in a camp that’s just got bigger. More arrived today. Sudan’s government did nothing to protect them. Last Monday, Arab militiamen attacked their village and killed more than 60.
TRANSLATOR: Sixty-three were killed.
BILL NEELY: Sixty-three?
BILL NEELY: Reporter: This camp, they told me, won’t hold the flood of people who are coming. Darfur’s vast camps are multiplying and squalid.
They’re like this because for months, Sudan kept the aid agencies out. Yesterday, Otash got its first food delivery. It’s enough to ensure the survival of tens of thousands.
LAURA CONRAD, Save the Children: For these people today, life’s got a little bit better, but you know, how long are these people going to be here? And there’s no prospect of them going home. They’ve got nothing to go home to. Their villages were completely destroyed.
BILL NEELY, Reporter: Countless villages now abandoned as the government- backed Janjaweed militia attacked. I caught up with the Janjaweeds — Arabs blamed for killing 50,000 black Sudanese. They attack on camels. They’ve emptied swathes of land and terrified six million people, but these men assured me they’d killed no one.
The government promised and told me just days ago they’d be disarmed. Their automatic weapons are concealed, but clear enough. They roam freely. Just up the road, their victims lie in a mass grave. It’s clear the killing has slowed, but it hasn’t stopped and the terror lives on.
JIM LEHRER: Margaret Warner has more.
MARGARET WARNER: There are more than a million refugees in camps like the one we just saw. And a U.N. survey issued Monday said the death rate in Darfur is rising, with six to ten thousand people now dying each month from violence and disease.
The Bush administration, which now calls the campaign of violence “genocide,” is seeking a Security Council resolution, raising the possibility of new sanctions against Sudan and its oil exports if the government doesn’t help stop the violence.
But the Sudanese government today rejected the draft. For an eyewitness view of what’s going on, we turn now to two people who have recently traveled to Darfur. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee is the Senate majority leader, and Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the U.N. during the Clinton administration; he’s on the board of Refugees International. Welcome to you both.
Senator Frist, just give us a sense of what it’s like, what you saw there. How terrible is the situation?
SEN. BILL FRIST: Well, Margaret, you hear these statistics of 40,000, 50,000 people dead and 1.4 million people displaced, but until you go to a refugee camp, like in Taloum, where I was now four weeks ago, and you interact with thirteen, fourteen thousand people and you listen to their stories about what happened to their children, the total ravaging of a village, the whole burning of a village where hundreds of people once lived, of the murder of the husbands, of the rape of the women firsthand, there is no way you can fully appreciate it, even with the video that you showed.
It really allowed me to come back and say that we’ve got to be even more firm, bolder in this genocide in demanding action directly from the government of Khartoum as well as from the United Nations.
MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Holbrooke, your sense of what it was like on the ground.
You were there… actually, you both were there after there was at least one U.N. resolution that called on the government to let aid in. Was that doing any good?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I went there with Sen. John Corzine of New Jersey. We went to the so-called model camp, which Secretary Powell and Kofi Annan went to. And that was hellish. And then we went to a non-model camp and it was even worse.
What you’ve just seen in that piece is just a fraction of what is happening. But, you know, people have to remember, refugees are dehumanized as individuals. For me the most vivid memory– and I share Bill Frist’s feelings on this– was a young family sitting in the dirt in front of a makeshift hut with cardboard roof.
The woman was nursing a baby and the man was trying to teach the Koran to his son in the dirt. They were trying to keep a family structure in the midst of all this rape and pillaging. In order to get anything done, Margaret, the international pressure on Sudan, which Sen. Frist has played such a big role in throughout his career in the U.S. Senate, has got to continue.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Sen. Frist, was… in the piece we just saw, some food aid arriving. I mean, is the relief effort at least getting any better?
SEN. BILL FRIST: Margaret, there are two things. First of all, there’s the security, and the savagery, the devastation, the atrocity, the murder, the raping is still going on.
So we have to address that. The humanitarian relief in terms of the response, right now there are several issues. First of all, the United States is out there boldly and really leading the way.
About 80 percent of all the humanitarian aid right now going to the Darfur region, a region that is about the size of France in terms of geography, comes from the United States of America. We need to be proud of that. I think, number two, we need to ask other people from around the world to begin to contribute because this tragedy is going to continue.
What happens? You have displaced families, their homes are gone, they’re separated from their crops. Then famine, disease sets in with continued death.
So this is… and I think Richard would agree. In fact, I know his words are, right now this is currently the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times of the moment.
MARGARET WARNER: But while were you there, did you see evidence, for instance, that the government of Sudan is doing any effort to stop the violence?
SEN. BILL FRIST: You know, I… I really base it on lots of interviews in refugee camps, talking to people who saw government come in supporting the Janjaweed, and creating violence.
The refugee camps themselves are predominantly supported by outside countries and not the government in Khartoum.
As far as I’m concerned… that is, the government of Sudan — the government of Sudan, although they’re beginning to open up to humanitarian access, they’re not fully transparent, it’s not fully open yet, and there is a lot more that can be done. There has been a lot of lip service but not nearly as much delivered.
MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Holbrooke, yes. Yes, please.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: May I just add in support of that, that after we met in the refugee camp, Sen. Corzine and I, with a group of women and children who showed us the beatings, said they had been raped, described it vividly, said they couldn’t leave the camp to get firewood without being attacked by these Janjaweed militia, we drove immediately from this camp to the governor’s house, the wally, and we met with him, and we told him what we had seen.
And the wally said to us– this is the Sudanese government representative– said to us, “well, they’re lying, or if they were raped, it was just common criminals.” And he sat there… and this is the man who is overseeing and coordinating the assistance effort in these camps. It reminded me of Groucho Marx’s famous line: “Who do you believe, me or your own two eyes?” It is there for all the world to see.
But the most important point that Bill Frist and I would both want to underline is this: If we it is treated only as a humanitarian crisis, what we will have is another nearly permanent refugee population of over a million people eventually, that will bleed the world’s resources.
It is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, as we both said. But there are a lot of other bad refugee problems all over the world, and there are other great crises.
It must be American leadership to push the Khartoum government into dealing with the political underlying roots or else this thing is going to go on, and it will be with us five or ten years from now.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask to you follow up also on what Sen. Frist said though about the security situation.
There are a few, a paltry number of African Union troops and monitors. Did you see any evidence that they’re having any restraining influence?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I met in al Fasha with the monitors. There are no troops. The Sudanese government will not let in the troops. They allowed in 150 U.N. African Union monitors.
The African Union, led by President Obasango of Nigeria has asked to send in at least 3,000. The United States is supporting that request. But the United States has not yet been as aggressive as I believe they should be. Our embassy in Khartoum is small and understaffed and no one is really in charge right now.
Our embassy in Addis Ababa where the African Union is headquartered does not have strong enough liaison. We need a full court press with the African Union, the European Union, NATO and the U.N. to pressure Khartoum, to threaten Khartoum with sanctions more aggressively, to let in these monitors. Now even when that’s done, it won’t be enough.
You just said in your report something very important. We shouldn’t overlook it — that the rebels broke off the talks today in Nigeria. Those talks are critical because there are two rebel armies in Darfur fighting the central government, and the central government brought in Janjaweed, the militia, to literally depopulate the black African villages in an effort to cleanse the area of their enemy.
So unless the talks in Nigeria are jump started, this thing is going to go on no matter what we do.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Frist, yes, please.
SEN. BILL FRIST: Let me just jump in real quick because we have the humanitarian crisis which we’ve talked about and I’m concerned over the next three months. We need more money and support. On the security side as Ambassador Holbrooke just said, we need to put pressure through the United Nations and directly on the government in Khartoum.
In the United States, the Senate — both the House and the Senate in our Congress in July called this genocide. We surprised the world because our government hadn’t yet called it genocide. Other people have not. Since then, as recorded in your piece, last week, Secretary Powell through the Department of State calls it genocide.
Just today, just this afternoon in the United States Senate, we passed a unanimous resolution that basically said to put pressure on Khartoum that Secretary of State Colin Powell go to the United Nations and basically say that no longer should Sudan participate in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, that you should be suspended. It doesn’t make sense to be doing genocide on the one hand and be sitting on the Commission on Human Rights on the other hand.
That’s legislation the Senate pass today to encourage Secretary Powell to do that. We need to put continued pressure on the United Nations as well as on the government of Sudan in order to accomplish the objectives of terminating, ending this genocide which we both observed occurring today.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: There is a great dispute over whether the pressure will work or backfire. And some of the Europeans, including, I regret to say the French, have gone small on this.
One group Sen. Frist and I would both, I think, agree that has done nothing is the Arab nations. They’ve given no aid. They’re not helping the situation. I like this resolution Sen. Frist led through the Congress today. I think it is a terrific idea.
My impression of the Sudanese government is they were trying to dig their way out of the isolation caused by the South Sudan crisis, the one that Sen. Frist is so familiar with from his own visit as a surgeon. And now they’re re-isolated again and I think this pressure is exactly right.
MARGARET WARNER: So you think it will work?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I believe that the Sudanese will yield to pressure, but always slowly; it’s very much like Bosnia. International pressure matters. They are going to let in more African Union monitors, but there is one other point that we haven’t mentioned.
The African Union has no assets except boots on the ground. They will need U.S., NATO, European Union, airlift, logistics, intelligence, communication, and support and jeeps. Otherwise it won’t work.
And so one of the things that John Corzine and I called for, I don’t know if Sen. Frist would agree, is that although we are not talking about American troops… we are stretched too thin everywhere else as we all know… we believe that the U.S., and the E.U., NATO, South Africa should all get together to help the African Union. It is their first test as an organization.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Frist, would you support that?
SEN. BILL FRIST: Yes, because exactly what Richard said is a very important point. This is an African problem. And the good news, and I had the opportunity to visit the president of Chad to the west and Kenya to the east, it is a regional problem.
And the African Union has been set up, established to deal with these regional problems. They are under funded, but they are the people who will be on the ground. We need to increase the monitors there. The U.S. doesn’t need to send troops in. What we need to do is gather the world community’s resources, encourages other nation all around this globe to invest in supporting the African Union.
It’s a regional problem to be addressed by Africans. What we can do is put the pressure on for government, the government of Sudan to back down, to stop the savagery and then increase the world support.
Right now the U.S. is really carrying the whole load both on the humanitarian side as well as on the security side. We need help from around the world. And specifically I would say, the United Nations, where are you?
MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Holbrooke – and this has to be in a nutshell. You’ve said earlier there is not a lot of international support. There is a lot of foot dragging. What’s the problem?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: The problem is that people were slow to react. But they wouldn’t have reacted at all if it weren’t for massive media coverage. Congratulations to you and your colleagues.
And also one last thing: Sen. Danforth today did an extraordinarily good job on the South Sudan crisis. I would strongly urge the administration to appoint a senior envoy along the Jack Danforth model to get into this issue.
Meanwhile, the more we talk about it, the more we pressure Khartoum, the more we do things like Sen. Frist has been doing in the Senate, I think it will produce results, but, you know, it is going to be too little too late and people will suffer. One last thing: They are $400 million short right now in humanitarian aid. The U.S. does most of it. We need more.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you both very much. We have to leave it there. Thanks.