Barbara Lee Arrested in Darfur Protest at Sudanese Embassy
(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) and CBC members Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) were arrested this morning at a protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.
The action was designed to call public attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and to build public support for U.S. and international action to stop the violence. Specifically, Lee and her CBC colleagues were calling for:
An immediate stop to the violence against the people of Darfur by the Government of Sudan and its Janjaweed militias;
A Chapter 7 UN peacekeeping mission to assist the African Union Mission in Darfur;
Protection of civilians who remain vulnerable;
Accountability for government officials and Janjaweed responsible for war crimes and genocide;
President Bush push the Government of Sudan to release its 300,000-500,000 metric tons of grain reserves to feed the starving people of Darfur;
Full implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South;
The Administration work to ensure the Government of Sudan does all it can for the internally displaced and the refugees of Darfur to restore security so they can return to their homes soon.
Lee is the most senior Democratic woman on the House International Relations committee, where she serves on the Africa Subcommittee, and has been a leading voice in the growing movement to divest state pension funds and university endowments from companies doing business in Sudan. She has traveled twice to Darfur, first with Congressional colleagues and academy award nominated actor Don Cheadle in January, 2005 and most recently on a delegation led by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in February.
The transcript of her remarks at the event follows:
“The world stood by when nearly one million people died in Rwanda. We did much of nothing. The most that our country unfortunately did was say ‘I am sorry’, after the fact.
“Now, over four hundred thousand people have died as a result of the genocidal actions of the Khartoum government against the people of Darfur. We are here to say, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and our human rights organizations, Not On Our Watch!
“Not on our watch will we allow another genocide to take place. Already too many, far too many people have died or been displaced, have been raped, villages have been burned down. The people of Darfur deserve to return home.
“Some of us have visited the refugee camps. Personally I have visited on two separate occasions. I saw the desperation in the eyes of the people. I saw the violence, the results of the violence, the results of the genocide. We saw and talked with people who wanted to go home. We saw the gloom and felt the pain and suffering of what is taking place.
“Their pleas came back to us, and we have brought these pleas to this House of Representatives and to our government.
“And so today we are saying, not on our watch, never again will we allow this to happen.
“You see our demands and they are written on this board right here so that you can very clearly understand what we are saying.
“One is that we want a cessation of all of the violence. We want the government of Sudan to totally disarm the Janjuweed militia and to stop the violence.
“Secondly, we want UN peacekeepers. We want to make sure that the government of Sudan supports the United Nations Peace Keepers. People deserve to be secure; right now they are not. They’re continually being harmed and being killed.
“We want accountability. We want government officials to turn over and we also want the Janjaweed and government officials to be held accountable for the genocide.
“We also believe that we need to urgently demand our President and the Sudanese government to release the food supplies. There are about 500,000 metric tons of grain reserves. People are starving in Darfur. They need to be fed. We need to definitely make sure that this food is released immediately.
“Also, of course, the protection of civilians is so important. As we speak, they are totally vulnerable. We need to make sure that they are protected from the violence that is taking place. And of course, people need to be able to return home, and return quickly. So refugee return is of immediate concern and we are demanding that we work very closely with all the appropriate agencies so that people can get home to their villages right away.
“And finally we want a full implementation of the peace agreements, and we are not talking about some shady peace agreements, we mean a full peace agreement which makes sure that all parties have dropped their arms and stopped the violence and are disarmed and allow for an agreement where people can go home and safely return to their lives.
“So let me thank the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressman Mel Watt for turning up the heat. The Sudanese government needs to understand there is a mounting divestment movement taking place. Colleges, Universities, pension funds, states are divesting of their funds. We are going to put the squeeze on the Sudanese government until they stop this horrific genocide.”