Faith-based Coalition Praises Senate Committee for Passing Amendment to Add $50 Million to President’s Emergency Funding Request for Darfur Peacekeeping

Durbin/Leahy Amendment Matches House-Passed Amount for Darfur Peacekeeping

Washington, DC – The Save Darfur Coalition tonight praised the Senate Appropriations Committee for passing an amendment offered by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 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. The $50 million in additional peacekeeping funds for Darfur matches the amount in an amendment by U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) that the House of Representatives passed on March 16. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Durbin/Leahy amendment by a voice vote during the Committee’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R. 4939). Theoretically, the full Senate could pass H.R. 4939 before it recesses for Easter on Friday, but is more likely to do so after the Easter break. Following passage in the Senate, the Senate and House will meet in conference to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill.

“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. The UN’s refugee assistance agency recently 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 African Union’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 (www.SaveDarfur.org/Steidle).

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