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US Senator First Bill: Statement on shooting of USAID worker

4/17/2005 4:43 pm

Bill Frist, M.D.

United States Senator, Tennessee
United States Senate Majority Leader

April 15th, 2005 - Three weeks ago, a USAID team member working in the Darfur region of Sudan was shot and wounded. She was traveling in a clearly marked, four-vehicle convoy on a road that was considered safe. The convoy was ambushed and the 26 year old aid worker was shot in the face. As a result of the attack, she has lost her right eye and must undergo facial reconstruction.

My thoughts and prayers go out to this courageous and compassionate young woman, and to her family who must be in tremendous grief. What happened is a tragedy that should deeply trouble us all. I am informed that the shooting was not random. The attackers intentionally targeted a humanitarian convoy in order to intimidate the world.

For two years, Janjaweed death squads have terrorized the people of Darfur. With the backing of the Khartoum government, these criminals have killed nearly 50,000 innocent Darfur Africans.

A British Parliamentary report issued last month says that as many as 300,000 Sudanese may have died since the Khartoum government started the fighting two years ago.

The numbers are difficult to confirm. Access to these areas is very limited. Khartoum simply does not want the world to know.

I was denied permission by Khartoum to travel to Dafur last August. Nevertheless, I went. I went to see with my own eyes what is happening there.

I visited the refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border and met with the survivors. They told me heart rending stories of mass rapes of women and girls, destroyed crops, burned villages, polluted water supplies, and the forced displacement of over 1.2 million people.

It is clear that the raping, looting and mass destruction in Darfur is genocide. The Janjaweed are killing the Darfur people because they are ethnically different and because they do not support Khartoum.

Since October of last year, the State Department has formally recognized the conditions in Darfur as genocide. Congress has also acted, placing sanctions on Sudan's government and authorizing over $100 million in aid.

This week, at a special international donor's conference for Sudan, the United States pledged $1.7 billion in aid over the next two years - more than any other country. As a condition of that aid, however, the Khartoum government must demonstrate that it is taking action to end the killing.

The United States, under President's Bush's leadership, has led on this issue from the beginning.

The U.S. has provided over 70% of the supplies going to the survivors now in Darfur and eastern Chad, and has been providing assistance to the region for years.

Our Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick, is currently traveling to the region to observe the situation on the ground. What he will see when he gets there will no doubt deeply disturb him, as it did me and others in this body who have traveled to that region.

In the last Congress, I worked with my colleagues Senators Brownback, Feingold, and Biden, Chairman Lugar, former Senator Helms and many others to enact the Sudan Peace Act. That bill provided a framework for the peace negotiations in Sudan between the northern and southern regions.

In addition, last year, the Senate voted unanimously to urge the Secretary of State to take appropriate actions within the United Nations to suspend Sudan's membership on the UN Human Rights Commission.

While I am heartened by the aid pledges made this week by the international community, more must be done. Global pressure must be brought to bear.

I urge the United Nations to formally recognize the reality of the Darfur crisis. What is happening there is genocide. The Khartoum government will not stop the killing until it is faced with stiff international pressure.

Every day the world fails to act, Khartoum gets closer to its genocidal goal. And every day the world fails to act, it compounds its shame.

We must not let this happen. We cannot fail the Darfur people. They are pleading for our help. They are pleading for their lives

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