February 27, 2006
Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Africa where he traveled to Khartoum, Sudan as well as the Darfur region of Sudan. (View photo essay)
Congressman Capuano is an outspoken critic of the Sudanese government and is working tirelessly to call attention to the atrocities occurring in that country. "Congress and President Bush have correctly characterized the horrific acts taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan as genocide. I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to do everything possible to stem the tide of unspeakable violence," stated Congressman Capuano.
Congressman Capuano met with government officials in Khartoum, Sudan, including Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha. He expressed his outrage at the actions of the Sudanese government toward their own citizens and demanded that the government stop the violence in Darfur. During the meeting, Vice President Taha admitted that his government provided funding to the Janjaweed to wage war on the people of Darfur. The Janjaweed are armed militias of the government of Sudan.
"My visit only reinforced my conviction that genocide is still occurring and that the Government of Sudan is responsible," stated Congressman Capuano.
Vice President Taha also expressed resistance to the prospect of United Nations troops participating in peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. While the Congressional delegation was in Sudan, President Bush called for the doubling of peacekeeping troops in Darfur.
"I completely agree with the President's declaration. I strongly urge him to fully support and participate in any peacekeeping mission to Darfur. A large number of troops to protect civilians is desperately needed in Darfur right now," stated Congressman Capuano.
Congressman Capuano also met with relief workers and traveled to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Darfur, hearing firsthand accounts of the genocide. "It was a heartbreaking experience to meet so many people who have lost loved ones to violent acts, lost homes and watched their villages get wiped out. It hardened my resolve to do everything I can to improve the lives of the Sudanese people", stated Congressman Capuano.
Congressman Capuano has been concerned about Sudan for years. In July of 2003 he authored a resolution condemning slavery in Sudan that passed unanimously in the House. In April of 2005 he called on Massachusetts' public pension boards to review their investment portfolios and divest from any companies doing business in Sudan. He co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Sudan in October of 2005 to provide a forum to discuss the issues confronting Sudan and to identify ways to advance U.S. policy in the region. Late last year, he wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding an explanation of U.S. policy in Sudan after a number of troubling developments. 105 members of Congress joined him in that effort. The United States assumed the presidency of the U.N. Security Council for the month of February and Congressman Capuano recently urged President Bush to use that post to push for a UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur.
"Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been murdered in Sudan and millions more driven from their homes. This is happening with the full knowledge and active support of the Sudanese government. This is, quite simply, a moral outrage," stated Congressman Capuano.
While in Africa, Congressman Capuano also traveled to South Africa, Ghana, Liberia and Cape Verde. In South Africa, the congressional delegation met with President Thabo Mbeki. They also visited several facilities on the front lines fighting the war against AIDS in Africa, including the Living Hope Centre, the Desmond Tutu HIV-AIDS and Tuberculosis Research and Treatment Centre and the Salesians Mission. In Ghana, Congressman Capuano met with President John Agyekum Kufor to talk about the country's efforts to greatly expand their farming industry.
In Liberia, Congressman Capuano met with newly elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and attended re-opening ceremonies for the African Methodist Episcopal University, a facility almost destroyed during the war. In Cape Verde, Congressman Capuano met with local officials to discuss the country's compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This compact will help Cape Verdeans address rural economic expansion and infrastructure development. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was established by the US to provide financial assistance to developing countries.
Members of Congress joining Congressman Capuano on the trip included: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC); Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC); Rep. George Miller (D-CA); Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA); Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ); Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).
Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208