House Expected to Consider Final Passage of Supplemental FY2006 Bill Tonight

Washington, DC – The Save Darfur Coalition tonight praised the House for passing a coalition-endorsed amendment by U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) to provide $50 million to immediately bolster the peacekeeping mission to stop genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The amendment is in addition to the President’s initial request of $123 million for peacekeeping in Darfur (out of his total request of $514 million for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Sudan) that the House will consider as part of the larger emergency funding bill later tonight. The amendment passed by a narrow 213-208 vote (complete roll call available here:http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll046.xml) after a furious call-in campaign organized by the Save Darfur Coalition that included the Faithful America program of the National Council of Churches, the American Jewish World Service, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, and the Sudan Advocacy Action Forum, among others.

“There is an urgent need for a dramatic increase in funds in order to make the current African Union force a more effective one as soon as possible,” said Brian Steidle, a former Marine captain who served as the U.S. representative to the AU peacekeeping mission from September 2004 to February 2005. “It is unlikely that any UN force could be deployed to Darfur for at least six months, leaving the under-manned, under-funded, and under-equipped African Union peacekeeping mission to try to hold things together amidst the growing chaos.”

Since February 2003, at least 300,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur as a result of what U.S. President Bush and the U.S. Congress recognized in 2004 to be genocide, with 3.5 million dependent on foreign aid for their survival and 2 million forced by violence to live in make-shift camps. The UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has estimated that the death toll could reach as high as 100,000 per month if the security situation is allowed to completely collapse and humanitarian aid workers are forced to leave out of fear for their lives. Just last week, the UN’s refugee assistance agency announced that it is cutting its budget for Darfur by 44%, citing an inability to distribute aid due to security concerns.

“The United States must provide the AU’s Darfur peacekeeping mission with the funds and resources necessary to make sure that genocide doesn’t get any worse than it already is,” concluded Steidle, whose current mission is a U.S. “Tour for Darfur: Eyewitness to Genocide,” to raise public pressure on the Bush administration to end the genocide and build a lasting peace in the Darfur region of western Sudan, and on Congress to provide the resources necessary to do so.

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