For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 8, 2006
President Discusses Peace Agreement in Sudan
The Roosevelt Room
Fact Sheet: Darfur Agreement: A Step toward Peace
In Focus: Africa
11:43 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for joining me, and I also want to thank Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick. He has just briefed me on his trip to Abuja, where he has played a very important role in setting up a peace agreement between the government of Sudan and a major rebel group in the Darfur region.
Congratulations on a job well done, Bob. Thank you.
Last week we saw the beginnings of hope for the people of Darfur. The government of Sudan and the largest rebel group signed an agreement and took a step toward peace. Many people worked hard for this achievement. I'm particularly grateful for the leadership of President Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Sassou-Nguesso of Congo. Deputy Secretary Zoellick told me of their really fine work, and I had the honor of calling both of them to thank them over the phone the other day. Their personal hands-on involvement was vital.
We're still far away from our ultimate goal, which is the return of millions of displaced people to their homes so they can have a life without fear. But we can now see a way forward.
Sudan is one of the most diverse nations in Africa and one of the most troubled countries in the world. A 22-year-old civil war between north and south took more than 2 million lives before a peace agreement was made that the United States helped to broker. About the same time, another conflict was raging in the west, and that's in Sudan's vast Darfur region.
Darfur rebel groups had attacked government outposts. To fight that rebellion, Sudan's regime armed and unleashed a horse-mounted militia called the Janjaweed, which targeted not only rebels, but the tribes thought to be supporting them. The Janjaweed murdered men, and they raped women, and they beat children to death. They burned homes and farms, and poisoned wells. They stole land to graze their own herds. Hundreds of villages were destroyed, leaving a burnt and barren landscape.
About 200,000 people have died from conflict, famine and disease. And more than 2 million were forced into camps inside and outside their country, unable to plant crops, or rebuild their villages. I've called this massive violence an act of genocide, because no other word captures the extent of this tragedy.
A cease-fire was declared in this conflict in April 2004, but it has been routinely violated by all sides. The Janjaweed continued to attack the camps and rape women who ventured outside the fences for food and firewood. The government took no effective action to disarm the militias. And the rebels sometimes attacked food convoys and aid workers.
An African Union force of about 7,200 from the region has done all it can to keep order, by patrolling an area nearly the size of Texas, and they have reached the limits of their capabilities. With the peace agreement signed on Friday, Darfur has a chance to begin anew. Sudan's government has promised to disarm the Janjaweed by mid-October, and punish all those who violate the cease-fire. The main rebel group has agreed to withdraw into specified areas. Its forces will eventually be disarmed, as well, and some of its units will be integrated into the national army and police.
The African Union will meet a week from today, urge its members to help implement this new agreement.
Our goal in Darfur is this: We want civilians to return safely to their villages and rebuild their lives. That work has begun and completing it will require even greater effort by many nations. First, America and other nations must act to prevent a humanitarian emergency, and then help rebuild that country. America is the leading provider of humanitarian aid, and this year alone we account for more than 85 percent of the food distributed by the World Food Program in Sudan.
But the situation remains dire. The World Food Program has issued an appeal for funds necessary to feed six million people over the next several months. The United States has met our commitment, but other major donors have not come through. As a result, this month the World Food Program was forced to cut rations by half.
So I proposed in the emergency supplemental before Congress to increase food aid to Sudan by another $225 million. I hope Congress will act swiftly on this true emergency. To get food to Darfur quickly I've directed USAID to ship emergency food stockpiles. I've directed five ships and ordered them to be loaded with food and proceed immediately to Port Sudan. I've ordered the emergency purchase of another 40,000 metric tons of food for rapid shipment to Sudan. These actions will allow the World Food Program to restore full food rations to the people of Darfur this summer.
Americans who wish to contribute money to help deliver relief to the people of Darfur can find information about how to do so by going to the USAID website at www.usaid.gov, and clicking on the section marked "Helping the Sudanese People."
Moving forward, we cannot keep people healthy and fed without other countries standing up and doing their part, as well. The European Union, and nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Japan have taken leadership on other humanitarian issues, and the people of Darfur urgently need more of their help now.
In addition, the government of Sudan must allow all U.N. agencies to do their work without hindrance. They should remove the visa and travel restrictions that complicate relief efforts. And all sides must cease attacks on relief workers.
And finally, the United States will be an active participant in the Dutch-led reconstruction and development conference. And it's an important conference. It will take place within the next couple of months, to help the people get back on their feet so they can live normal lives in Darfur.
Second, America and other nations must work quickly to increase security on the ground in Darfur. In the short-term, the African Union forces in Darfur need better capabilities. So America is working with our NATO allies to get those forces immediate assistance in the form of planning, logistics, intelligence support and other help. And I urge members of the alliance to contribute to this effort.
In the longer-term, the African Union troops must be the core of a larger military force that is more mobile and more capable, which generates better intelligence and is given a clear mandate to protect the civilians from harm. So I'm dispatching Secretary Rice to address the U.N. Security Council tomorrow. She's going to request a resolution that will accelerate the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. We're now working with the U.N. to identify countries that contribute those troops so the peacekeeping effort will be robust.
I've called on President -- I just called President Bashir of Sudan, both to commend him on his work for this agreement, and to urge the government to express clear support for a U.N. force. The vulnerable people of Darfur deserve more than sympathy. They deserve the active protection that U.N. peacekeepers can provide.
In recent weeks, we've seen drastically different responses to the suffering in Darfur. In a recent audio tape, Osama bin Laden attacked American efforts in Sudan and urged his followers to kill international peacekeepers in Darfur. Once again, the terrorists are attempting to exploit the misery of fellow Muslims and encourage more death. Once again, America and other responsible nations are fighting misery and helping a desperate region come back to life. And once again, the contrast could not be more clear.
In late 2004 in Darfur, the Janjaweed attacked a village of a woman named Zahara. They raped her, murdered her husband, and set fire to their home. One of the attackers told her, "This year there's no god except us. We are your god now." But you and I know that at all times, in all places, there is a just God who sides with the suffering, and calls us to do the same. America will not turn away from this tragedy. We will call genocide by its rightful name, and we will stand up for the innocent until the peace of Darfur is secured.
END 11:56 A.M. EDT