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Congress Passes Resolution Declaring ‘Genocide’ in Sudan

The U.S. administration, including President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have not formally characterized the Darfur region as genocide. If the U.N. does categorize the crisis as genocide, it would automatically commit member nations to taking action in the region.

“While the world debates, people die in Darfur,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., according to Reuters. “We could actually save some lives instead of lamenting afterward that we should have done something.”

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., called the congressional resolution, “an important statement to make.”

“The administration needs to hear it,” he said. “The international community needs to hear it, and certainly the Sudanese government, which tolerates if not assists genocide, needs to hear it.”

The Sudanese government in Khartoum, headed by President Omar Bashir, has been accused of backing Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, or horsemen, and has failed to disarm the group despite promises to do so.

On Friday, Sudanese Arabs in Khartoum criticized the U.S. government for the draft resolution.

“Is Iraq not enough? Do they want to destroy us too?” asked Ismail Gasmalseed, a 34-year-old driver in Khartoum, according to Reuters. “Americans want everyone who is Arab (in Sudan) to pay. They do not understand anything.”

An estimated 30,000 people have been killed since the conflict started in February 2003. More than a million villagers have fled their homes for refugee camps, where aid agencies say a major humanitarian crisis looms because of lack of food and poor sanitation.

“From a medical and nutritional point of view we’re already facing a very major acute emergency with the potential for major epidemic outbreaks of diarreahal diseases, malaria and a worsening, nutritional situation, in particular malnutrition being on the rise,” Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of the U.S. office of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said in a NewsHour interview.

The U.S. administration has said the situation in Darfur is a serious humanitarian crisis. Officials have begun circulating a draft U.N. resolution that threatens sanctions against Sudan if the government fails to prosecute the Janjaweed.

“The resolution demands that Sudan apprehend Janjaweed leaders and bring them to justice,” U.S. Deputy Ambassador Stuart Holliday said, according to Reuters. “In 30 days, if there is no compliance, the council will look to take action, including the imposition of sanctions.

“We would like the government to work with us to honor their commitments,” he added.

The United States’ commitment in Iraq and opposition by Arab League members to any kind of military intervention or sanctions in Sudan, makes the passage of any U.N. resolution unlikely.

Though Germany and France support an immediate arms embargo on Sudan, Russia, China and Pakistan oppose it, as do several Arab nations.

“Any discussion of intervention in Sudan would be looked at very carefully by governments and I am not sure how quickly and how enthusiastically one would get support for that initiative,” Annan said Wednesday.

A vote on the resolution is expected next week.

Despite international focus on the conflict, aid groups in the region say violence against the mostly black African farmers, now in a spate of refugee camps throughout the country and in neighboring Chad, continues.

Sudan has sent a force of 3,000 police into Darfur, but the U.N. special representative in Khartoum Jan Pronk has said Janjaweed attacks are ongoing and that little progress has been made on the humanitarian front.

Pronk said “no progress whatsoever” has been made “as far as the security of the people themselves is concerned.”