Washington, DC — Legislation authored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to provide $20 million in emergency aid to African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces in Sudan passed the Senate today as part of a larger Department of Defense (DOD) spending bill that will soon be signed into law by the President.
“With the severity of this situation growing worse, and as the government of Sudan continues to block the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force to Darfur, the African Union force remains the front line of security,” said Senator Reid. “Now that the African Union has decided to increase its force and extend its stay in Darfur until the end of the year, this legislation will be a good step towards strengthening the African Union Mission in Sudan.”
“In August, I met with AU commanders in Eastern Chad where thousands of Sudanese refugees have fled from the violence that has engulfed their country,” Obama said. “It quickly became clear to me that bolstering the AU mission is critical to short-term efforts to protect innocent civilians and allow humanitarian operations in the region. While we have so much more to do to stop the slaughter of innocents, this funding, combined with recent pledges of assistance from European governments, is an important step in the right direction.”
Reid and Obama’s amendment provides $20 million in emergency military assistance to the AU peacekeeping force. The AU is the only international force in Darfur working to prevent a further deterioration of a situation where 400,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes.
U.S. assistance is crucial to their efforts as the 7,200-member African Union force does not have the resources or mandate to prevent the escalating violence. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir has refused to accept into his country a 22,000 person United Nations peacekeeping operation to relieve the African Union contingent, which recently agreed to extend its mandate until the end of the year.
In late August, Senator Obama visited the Mile Refugee Camp, one of 12 encampments on Chad’s eastern border. The camp is home to 15,000 refugees who crossed the Sudanese border seeking safety from Janjaweed militias who have been terrorizing ethnic African tribes in Darfur. During his visit to Eastern Chad, Senator Obama met with refugees from the Darfur region, AU military commanders, local Chadian officials, U.S. military officers, and U.N. personnel.
The legislation was cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).