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Remarks of Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) at hearing, “The Escalating Crisis in Darfur: Are There Any Prospects for Peace?”

Feb 8, 2007
Press Release
January 8, 2007

Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021

Verbatim, as delivered

Humankind is failing the sons and daughters of Darfur horribly. We have watched as an entire people has been persecuted, displaced, dispossessed, raped and slaughtered. It defies belief to realize that this has been going on for three long years, and right before the averted eyes of the entire world.

As a survivor of the Holocaust, I cannot bear silent witness to the first genocide of the 21st Century. Our Committee will demand action – from the Administration, from the United Nations, and from our friends and allies in Europe, Africa and Asia.

I am sick and tired of waiting for a diplomatic solution to this crisis. The much-heralded Darfur Peace Agreement did nothing to stop the genocide. Nobody in the Sudanese government has been held accountable for the mass killings. There has been no protection of civilians. And there has been no reversal of ethnic cleansing.

Even targeted sanctions against those responsible for the genocide have had little impact on the Sudanese leaders who find the benefits of their oil dealings with China more profitable than their assets frozen in the United States.

With or without the consent of Khartoum, we need a large number of international troops on the ground to protect the people of Darfur from slaughter, and we need them now. The UN Security Council has correctly authorized the deployment of such a civilian protection force to Darfur to augment the under-gunned and under-manned African Union troops already on the ground.

But President Bashir and his cronies have rebuffed all entreaties to allow for the deployment of these desperately needed troops.

How can we change Khartoum’s mind about the deployment of a civilian protection force? If we are cynical, we can try the approach used by Chinese President Hu Jintao during his recent visit to Sudan. While urging Sudanese cooperation with the United Nations, President Hu made a jaw-droppingly generous offer of $17 million to build a new presidential palace, $104 million in debt forgiveness, and a promise to build a new railway line.

I doubt that Sudan’s leaders lost much sleep after their meeting with the Chinese president. Perhaps that night they dreamed of building the new railway line straight to Darfur to hasten the genocide.

There is a better way. President Bush must call a summit of the world’s civilized nations with a simple goal – strong, multilateral sanctions on Sudan. Investment bans. Prohibition on travel for Sudan’s top leaders.

And most importantly, shutting down Sudan’s ability to sell oil and gas on the international marketplace. I welcome the Administration’s announcement today of a “Plan B” approach to block U.S. commercial bank transactions with the Government of Sudan. This step, if fully implemented, will have a major impact on Sudan’s ability to sell petroleum overseas.

I hope that tough sanctions on Khartoum will force the regime to allow an international civilian protection force to enter Darfur. But we can’t count on it. The United States must therefore work with the United Nations, the African Union and our allies to prepare a contingency plan for the entry of a protection force into Darfur without the Sudanese government’s permission.

If we wait much longer, there may be nobody left to protect in Darfur.

On a growing number of front yards across this nation, we see lawn signs with a simple message: “Not on Our Watch.” These signs express the hope that – in the words of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – the world’s “indispensable nation” will actually succeed in ending the genocide in Darfur.

The task in the months ahead is to turn this grassroots sentiment – and concerted pressure from this Congress – into concrete action by the Administration and the international community. Our patience has been totally exhausted. The innocent civilians of Darfur are crying out for our help. We must not continue to fail them.

I now turn to my distinguished colleague, the ranking member of our Committee to make whatever opening remarks she chooses.

(End)