Sunday, September 10, 2006
A Cry for Intervention in Darfur
D.C. Demonstrators Call On Bush to Press for U.N. Peacekeepers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 10, 2006; Page A22
Two years after the Bush administration said genocide had taken place in Sudan, protesters marched yesterday on the White House, demanding that the president press for U.N. peacekeepers who could halt the continuing attacks in the country's Darfur region.
The United States and other members of the Security Council have endorsed a plan for U.N. peacekeepers to replace a beleaguered force of African Union soldiers in enforcing a peace agreement signed last year. But the Sudanese government has rejected the deployment, which would be bigger and better-equipped than the African Union force.
With signs that the Sudanese government and its allied militias are preparing to step up their attacks, demonstrators said time was short for President Bush to exert U.S. influence on Sudan's president.
"We need to hurry up; we need to put pressure," Fatima Mohammed Haroun, a Sudanese activist, told a crowd of a few hundred protesters massed in Lafayette Square, across from the White House.
Fresh from a trip to see family in Darfur, Haroun said her besieged homeland is desperate for the help of the international community. "The people are just waiting for someone to come and help them," she said.
Organized by Africa Action, the rally coincided with the group's release of a report comparing the restrained U.S. response to Darfur to the Clinton administration's inaction on Rwanda as hundreds of thousands of people perished there more than a decade ago.
Almost everyone in the crowd wore a shirt with the report's title: "A Tale of Two Genocides." Underneath the title were images of two bloody handprints, one above the word Rwanda, the other above the word Darfur. And below the handprints, an assertion: "The U.S. Has the Power to Protect."
In a planned act of civil disobedience, 30 protesters carrying signs marched from Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue, where they lay down on the sidewalk outside the White House fence and held up the signs.
The protesters were arrested by U.S. Park Police to the cheers of hundreds of fellow demonstrators who watched from across Pennsylvania Avenue, chanting for their cause.
"Stop the genocide! Break the deadlock! Protect the people!" the group called out as the 30 demonstrators lay, still holding up their signs.
A poor region of Sudan, Darfur has been at war since 2003, when rebels attacked government posts, triggering a massive response by the Sudanese military and the notorious government-backed militias known as Janjaweed.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the war, and an estimated 2 million people have been forced from their homes. Their plight has provoked protests across the country over the past couple of years, including a large demonstration in April on the Mall.
Yesterday's protest was aimed at pushing Sudan back into the broader public conscience and onto the president's agenda two years after his secretary of state made what many thought would be a seminal statement on Sudan.
"It's been two years, and Mr. Bush hasn't done anything about it," said Emily Funigiello, 17, who traveled from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington to join the demonstration.
Her friend Melissa Salvatore, 18, said the United States and the president cannot forget what happened not so many years ago.
"We can't let what happened in Rwanda happen in Darfur."
Category: Darfur, Sudan and News.