House Expected to Vote on Amendment to President’s Emergency Funding Request for Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Tomorrow or Thursday

Washington, DC – The Save Darfur Coalition and a former U.S. representative to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan are urging Congress to add $100 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan to the President’s initial request of $123 million (out of his total request of $514 million for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Sudan). The House is expected to vote on an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 emergency supplemental appropriations budget tomorrow or on Thursday.

“The urgent need for the dramatic increase in funds is a result of the African Union Peace and Security Council’s decision at the behest of Sudanese dictator Omar el-Bashir last Friday to delay a formal request for United Nations peacekeepers until after a Darfur peace agreement is reached,” 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-quipped 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 look past its justified disappointment in the African Union’s refusal to stand up to Bashir, and 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. “The unfortunate events of the last week have made it clear that the African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur is going to remain the only option for the foreseeable future unless the US stands up and takes a lead insisting that the AU support a peacekeeping mission with a more robust mandate from the UN and NATO.”

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