United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
October 25, 2005
Posted to the web October 26, 2005
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
A measure of the growing importance of Africa to American policymakers is the newly established House of Representatives Caucus on Sudan. The body of like-minded lawmakers joins more than 180 other caucuses in Congress focusing on timely issues such as law enforcement, medical technology, the Internet, hunger and foreign affairs.
Representative Frank Wolf (Republican of Virginia), who helped establish the Sudan Caucus along with Representatives Donald Payne (Democrat of New Jersey), Michael Capuano (Democrat of Massachusetts) and Tom Tancredo (Republican of Colorado), spoke to the Washington File October 19, the day of the bipartisan group's first meeting.
The mission of the caucus, Wolf said during a phone interview, is "to serve as a forum for members to discuss and advance U.S. policy toward Sudan."
"Sudan needs a high level of attention," the congressman explained, "especially now after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA]," which ended 20 years of fighting between the North and the South, and because of "continuing violence in Darfur." (Wolf accompanied former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the signing of the CPA in Sudan January 9.) (See related article.)
"It's important that we don't lose focus on what's taking place in the CPA arrangement, to make sure it lasts. â-oe That means supporting the U.N. peacekeeping force deployed in southern Sudan and strengthening the AU [African Union] force in Darfur," Wolf added.
As for efforts in Sudan by the Bush administration, Wolf said: "Personally, I think the president has done a pretty incredible job on Sudan itself. From what I know of the work the president and Secretary Powell did on the CPA, I was ready to nominate both of them [for a Nobel Peace Prize]."
In addition to President Bush's attention to Sudan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in July visited Khartoum and the Abu Shouk Camp in Al Fashar, Sudan, where she demanded that the Sudanese government reduce violence against women in refugee camps. (See related article.)
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has made several trips to Sudan as well. (See related article.)
Since 2003, the U.S. government has committed $1.9 billion in humanitarian and development aid to Sudan. In 2005, more than $500 million in humanitarian aid was allotted to Darfur and refugee camps in neighboring Chad, with a further $204 million in food and disaster assistance requested for the next year.
As for Darfur, whose refugee camps he has visited several times, Wolf said: "It's about as bad as life can possibly be. A lot of the violence has stopped because many villages have been burned," with refugees spilling into camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.
At a reception following the first caucus meeting, Tancredo became emotional, saying: "I make you a promise: All of our days are filled with hundreds of issues â-oe but this issue of Sudan will not be pushed aside."
A major role for the caucus, Tancredo added, will be to exert pressure to keep the CPA on track and end the violence in Darfur.
On October 4, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement saying all "parties must immediately stop all violence in Darfur, abide by the cease-fire they signed in N'Djamena, Chad, and adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions and the terms of the humanitarian and security protocols they signed earlier in Abuja, Nigeria." (See related article.)
Despite the recent spate of natural disasters that have struck America, causing billions of dollars' worth of damage, Wolf believes the American public will continue to support current levels of humanitarian and development aid to Africa. "I know it's important to the administration and to a lot of the members of Congress," he said.
"I know for a fact that the new chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa [International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations], Chris Smith [Republican of New Jersey], is very committed to Africa. Chris was in Darfur not that long ago. He's [very enthusiastic] and really cares about these issues," Wolf said.
"So, I don't sense that Africans are going to be forgotten about. I think there will still be a great interest in Africa in the Congress."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)