Thursday, April 13, 2006

Weekly News on Darfur 4/7/2006

The past week brought good news here in America and bad news in Sudan, following a pattern which has become all too familiar of late. The good news came from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, as the President endorsed the ongoing “Week of Prayer and Action for Darfur” and both chambers of Congress voted on important legislative priorities. The bad news, not surprisingly, came from Khartoum.

The Week of Prayer and Action, sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, began on April 2 and will run through this Sunday, April 9. Hundreds of congregations across the country are taking part in the national effort, demonstrating the depth of the faith community’s support for action on Darfur. In a written statement, President Bush recognized the depth of support for stronger U.S. action to stop the genocide and reiterated his own commitment to ending the crisis.

The week also saw two victories in Congress, the first of which came on Tuesday when the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment offered by Senators Durbin and Leahy which added an additional $50 million for Darfur peacekeeping to the FY06 emergency supplemental funding bill, matching a similar amendment passed by the House in mid-March. Assuming that the bi-cameral agreement on an additional $50 million survives the upcoming conference committee, it will bring the total for Darfur peacekeeping within this emergency funding bill to $173 million, a significant increase over the President’s initial $123 million request.

On the other side of the Capitol, the House of Representatives passed their version of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (H.R. 3127) on Wednesday, setting the stage for an informal conference to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions. The Act would place further penalties on the government of Sudan and on those persons complicit in the genocide, and also calls for stronger U.S. participation in the Darfur peace process. Speeches on the House measure coincided with an event on the lawn of the Capitol which marked the culmination of the Sudan Freedom Walk. The walk began at the United Nations in New York, and spread awareness of the situation in Darfur and the continuing troubles of South Sudan with every mile of its three-week journey. Even as its elected officals took some substantive action on Darfur, America's opinion leaders continued to call for the additional necessary steps for peace and security in Darfur.

In Sudan, however, the news was decidedly less positive. Earlier this week, Khartoum barred UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, from a planned trip to Darfur, only to reverse its decision yesterday following intense international pressure to allow the visit. Khartoum also this week refused to renew the permits of a Norwegian humanitarian aid agency, a possible trial balloon for future attempts to bar access for international aid organizations to the millions of Darfuri civilans still dependant on them for survival.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was also in Sudan this week for a meeting with Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir concerning the situation in Darfur and the possibility of increased international Arab support for Darfur peacekeeping. The security situation on the ground, meanwhile, remained tenuous, as attacks and displacement of civilians continued unabated, despite the best efforts of the under-funded African Union peacekeepers.

Categories: Africa, Politics/Debate, Darfur, Sudan.