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Death in Darfur.

IT HAS BEEN A DECADE since the genocide in Rwanda took the lives of over 800,000 people. This tragedy was forever memorialized by the film Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle. A poignant movie, this is an example of Hollywood giving a voice to humanity's struggles against oppression and brutality. It unquestionably alerted the American people to a gruesome civil war that took place half a world away.

Unfortunately, Rwanda isn't the only spot on the globe where genocide has reared its ugly head. The western area of Sudan known as Darfur is experiencing many of the same horrors.

Sudan is the largest geographical country in Africa. The ethnic and religious turmoil there is longstanding, dating back to the country's independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. To understand the Arab and African tribes in the Sudan, how their histories have overlapped, and how changing economic pressures have affected their relationships is complex.

But what is not difficult to understand is the fact that thousands in the region have been murdered since this conflict began. Darfur is a place where rape, slaughter, and starvation are commonplace. Estimates of the situation hold that, since the conflict began in early 2003, more than 100,000 and possibly more than 400,000 people have been killed or lost their lives and 2.5 million have been displaced. Fleeing the hostilities, hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed the border into neighboring Chad.

Noura Moussa, a young woman living in the Darfur region, was engaged to be married. She was raped by a group of soldiers belonging to the government-supported militia known as the Janjaweed as punishment for being of the "wrong" ethnicity. Because of cultural customs, her husband-to-be will no longer marry her and her hope of finding a partner has been destroyed. Hers is but one example of the tens of thousands of women whose lives have been traumatized in Darfur.

Every day Darfur refugees like Noura have their human rights violated by the Janjaweed. The Sudanese government offers little or no protection. The international community has been unable to stop the violence despite a comprehensive peace accord reached between the Sudanese government-funded Arab militia in the North and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement in the South. African Union forces continue monitoring the situation but simply don't have enough troops or strong enough a mandate to prevent acts of violence.

The United States has been engaged in Darfur. The federal government has publicly recognized that the situation in Darfur is genocide. Humanitarian aid and State Department missions have been ongoing to the region. Still, more U.S. action is needed and it will take public pressure to force Congress to become more aggressive there.

Members of Congress need to hear more from their constituents on this issue. Legislation known as the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act has been introduced, which calls for a stronger African Union force, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reinforcement, International Criminal Court involvement, and an arms embargo. The bipartisan bill has solid support, but more is needed to push the legislation through. The Darfur Act was unanimously passed by the Senate (S.1462) but is currently stalled in the House of Representatives (H. R.3127).

As the Democratic representative for the eighth district of Virginia, I recently held a town hall meeting on this topic. The turnout was large. After listening to Joel Charny, vice president of policy and expert on human rights in Darfur from Refugees International, many people came up to me enthusiastically wanting to help. Time is precious in Darfur. No major motion picture is available to enlighten the American public. This means we have to rely on word of mouth. A number of committed human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, are working to raise awareness. Don't hesitate to contact them and your representative or senator today. As Paul Rusesabagina, whose bravery is documented by Hotel Rwanda, would tell you: one person can make a difference.

Jim Moran is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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Author:Moran, Jim
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:The issue at hand.
Next Article:Win the war of ideas through community development.

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