Friday, July 23, 2004

African-American political figures protest Darfur atrocity

Since the beginning of July, mainstream African-American organizations and elected officials have increasingly begun to agitate for urgent action to stop the ongoing atrocity in western Sudan (which contrasts with the pussyfooting by most of them regarding Sudan over the past several decades--but better late than never, for sure). This development has not received nearly as much press attention as it should have, but it strikes me as potentially quite important. US diplomatic initiatives in such matters are driven to a considerable extent by considerations of domestic politics and public opinion, and the outspoken involvement of black political forces in these protests strengthens the political constituency pressing for a serious response to the Darfur atrocity.

(What is missing up to now, as far as I can tell, is any comparable mobilization in western European public opinion. Given the hard realities of international politics and diplomacy, that will probably turn out to be a crucial factor in determining whether or not any serious action is taken before most of the black population of Darfur has died from murder and/or starvation.)

I was also struck by one formulation in Congressman Charles Rangel's speech (quoted below, and available in full on his Congressional website). Rangel criticized Colin Powell for "constructively engaging" the Sudanese government, and expression that may not have rung a bell with all readers (and may even have struck some as puzzling). In black American politics, this is a powerful set of code words. "Constructive engagement" was the phrase used by the Reagan administration back in the 1980s to describe their policy toward South Africa, which was denounced by opponents of the apartheid regime. Rangel is a shrewd and intelligent politician, and his use of this phrase in connection with Sudan was almost certainly no accident. Instead, framing the issue in these terms sends an important signal.

Jeff Weintraub

====================== (US Dept. of State news release)

Congressman Arrested Protesting Sudan Regime's Actions in Darfur

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
July 13, 2004
Posted to the web July 14, 2004

By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington, DC

Rangel compares "genocide" to Jewish Holocaust, vows further action

Representative Charles Rangel (Democrat of New York) was arrested July 13 as he blocked the entrance to the Sudanese Embassy to protest the Khartoum government's support for militia groups that have killed between 15,000 and 30,000 people in Sudan's Darfur region while making a mockery of international efforts to stop what the lawmaker termed "genocide."

Standing with crossed arms in front of the embassy's door on Washington's Massachusetts Avenue at high noon, Rangel and a band of about 50 protesters sang the defiant civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," evoking similar protests against racism in America during the 1960s and against apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.

The protesters, joined by Armenian-Americans who claim their people suffered a similar genocide under the Turks last century, also unfurled a large banner that proclaimed: "Slavery & Genocide = Sudan" while they chanted: "Stop the Genocide. Free Darfur Now" and "Every Life Is Precious. Stop the Genocide in Sudan."

Rangel told the crowd: "I am protesting today to urge the United States government and the United Nations to take immediate action to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan."

Showing impatience at recent efforts by the United Nations and a "troika" of nations including the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia to rein in the Khartoum regime's support for the Jingaweit militias, Rangel said, "While I applaud Secretary [of State Colin] Powell for his efforts, I am worried that our government is constructively engaging a government who has, by almost all accounts, been the primary sponsor of genocide in Sudan."

According to the influential lawmaker: "The situation in Sudan has clearly reached the level of a genocide. U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios has declared that at least 300,000 people will be dead by year's end in the best-case scenario, and over a million will perish if things continue on their present course. We must take immediate actions to condemn the government of Sudan for their complicity and save the lives of these innocent people."

Rangel warned: "We acted too late to save million of Jews during World War II. We didn't act at all when hundreds of thousands of innocents were slaughtered in Rwanda. We have the opportunity now to stop a genocide and we must act."

After being asked several times by uniformed members of the Secret Service to step aside, Rangel declined to do so and was handcuffed and carried away in a police van. It was almost 20 years ago to the day that the congressman was arrested down the street at the South African Embassy while protesting against the apartheid regime.

The Reverend Walter Fauntroy, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, vowed to continue the protests, with more arrests of prominent African-Americans in the offing. "We will prick the conscience of the American people and their elected officials to declare it what it is and then go in to stop the genocide," he declared.

Fellow protester, radio talk show host and social activist Joe Madison said he would begin a hunger strike that would not end until the Sudanese government stops its obstruction of humanitarian aid to the stricken Darfur region.

The crisis in Sudan has become a hot foreign policy issue in a humid and steamy Washington. While Rangel was being arrested on Embassy Row, across town on Capitol Hill Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas) told a news conference that Congress would introduce resolutions that day declaring the Khartoum government's actions in Darfur to be genocide.

Meanwhile, at a White House ceremony in which he signed the latest African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA III) earlier in the day as Congressman Rangel looked on, President Bush said: "I'm deeply concerned about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, Sudan. For the sake of peace and basic humanity, I echo the sentiments of the secretary of state. I call upon the government of Sudan to stop the Jingaweit violence."

The president added: "I call on all parties of the conflict to respect the cease-fire, to respect human rights, and to allow for the free movement of humanitarian workers and aid. The United States and the United Nations and the leadership of the African Union are working to bring relief to the suffering people of that region. America will continue to strongly support these efforts for peace."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


Sudan Tribune
July 13, 2004

US Congressman Charles Rangel Arrested at Sudanese Embassy in Washington

Tuesday July 13th, 2004.

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2004 (ruthout) -- Congressman Rangel, along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), are calling for an end to the genocide in Sudan. The CBC is demanding sanctions against the government of Sudan. Many of the protesters are planning to get arrested. In addition to being arrested, radio talk show host and civil rights leader, Joe Madison, will launch a hunger strike.

Madison demands an immediate end to the Sudanese government's obstruction of humanitarian aid to victims of the Sudanese genocide. Madison says if trucks filled with food and medicines are not allowed through to the victims before rainy season begins hundreds of thousands of people could die needlessly.

Sudan Campaign organizers pledge to continue demonstrations until the Sudanese government stops the genocide and returns over one million displaced civilians to their homes. Demonstrations are also planned in Boston, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, and Toronto.

On Wednesday, July 14 the Hon. Robert Edgar, former Member of Congress and current President of the National Council of Churches will be arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy at noon.

The Sudan Campaign calls on the Security Council of the United Nations to adopt Chapter 7 sanctions on Sudan, to suspend the membership of the government for Sudan on the U. N. Human Rights Commission, and to enable slave and other victims of the Sudanese government's declared jihad against Black Africans to return to their homes.

The Sudan Campaign is the direct action effort of a coalition of organizations working on behalf black Africans in Sudan that have suffered violence and slavery at the hands of their government.

Partner organizations include The Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the American Anti-slavery group, the Wilberforce Project, Christian Solidarity International and others.

Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is a Christian human rights organization for religious liberty helping victims of religious repression, victimized children and victims of disaster.

CSI was founded by Rev. Hans St 5/8ckelberger, following silent demonstrations in Switzerland in support of persecuted Christians in 1977. It is based in Zurich, Switzerland but has office in several countries, including the U.S.

========================== (Africa Action press release)

Congressional Black Caucus Joins Africa Action in Call for US Intervention to Stop Genocide in Darfur

Africa Action (Washington, DC)
June 23, 2004
Posted to the web June 23, 2004

Press Conference Highlights Urgency of Crisis; Promotes Petition targeting Secretary Powell, Calls for 10,000 Signatures

Leading Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) joined Africa Action today for a press conference on Capitol Hill, where they called attention to the genocide taking place in Darfur and urged the US to lead an immediate intervention to stop the killing. Speakers at the press conference included eight members of the CBC, among them: Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Chair of the Caucus, Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), Caucus Whip and Africa Action Board member. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also spoke at the press conference.

Africa Action's Executive Salih Booker said today, "Pressure is building on US officials, as they consider whether what's happening in Darfur meets the legal definition of 'genocide'. As was the case a decade ago during the genocide in Rwanda, the US refuses to say the word. If we fail to act, a million people could die before the end of this year. We urge Secretary of State Powell to support an immediate intervention to stop the killing."

The Congressional Black Caucus supports the petition, launched by Africa Action last week, calling on US Secretary of State Colin Powell to use the word 'genocide' to describe the crisis in Darfur and to support an urgent intervention. Also today, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will add their names to Africa Action's petition in a signing ceremony at 5:30pm. The petition has already gathered more than 3,000 signatures, and is being circulated widely in the US and internationally. Africa Action aims to collect more than 10,000 signatures by the end of June.

Booker continued, "The Congressional Black Caucus has long been known as the 'Conscience of Congress', and their support for this petition drive makes this a powerful force that Colin Powell cannot ignore. Already thousands of people around the country have signed on, because they understand that genocide is a crime in international law and they believe that the US has an obligation to respond to the crisis in Darfur."

CBC Chairman Cummings said, "We choose to stand up and speak out when others choose to sit down and remain silent. We are the voice for the voiceless."

Representative Donald Payne, who has been deeply involved in US relations with Sudan for more than a decade, has accused the Sudan government of pursuing a "scorched earth" policy in Darfur. Payne asked, "What good is it to sign a peace agreement in the South if you engage in ethnic cleansing in Darfur?"

Representative Barbara Lee said, "I stand in solidarity with the people struggling for survival in Darfur. The United States and others in the international community must make Darfur a priority and act immediately to stop the atrocities taking place."

To sign the petition, visit Africa Action's website at