Gov Richardson Calls for US Leadership and Action to Stop Darfur Genocide

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today challenged the Bush administration to take significant and meaningful action to help end the deadly violence taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Governor told the crowd of people attending the Global Darfur Days rally in San Francisco that the people of Darfur want to know when the world is going to help.

"Time is running out for the people of Darfur. The people there cannot wait much longer, for waiting means more death, more broken families, more children without a future," said Governor Richardson. "This is a defining moment for the United States. We have an opportunity to lead the world in taking action to end the killing in Darfur and we must not blow it."

The Governor, who is seeking the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, is the only candidate who has toured the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, negotiated the release of hostages and prisoners from Sudan, and brokered a cease-fire between rebel groups and the Sudanese government.

Governor Richardson outlined his strategies for US leadership on Darfur:

  1. First, America must make peace in Darfur a much higher priority. I agree with Save Darfur--we need full-time, high-level US diplomacy dedicated to ending this crisis.
  2. Second, America must engage Sudan's economic and political partners--China Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Arab League to build a multilateral coalition with real leverage. That could begin by endorsing the Arab League's commitments on Darfur--to aid the African Union's mission, to fund development in Darfur, and to support the UN hybrid force in Sudan.
  3. Third, we should deploy a UN peacekeeping force to eastern Chad to prevent a regionalization of the conflict. America should join other wealthy countries to fund refugee camps in neighboring countries and assure that those weak states bend to accommodate, but do not break from the pressure.
  4. Fourth, we should use our full diplomatic weaponry --offering incentives for compliance and threatening multilateral sanctions for resistance to both the Government of Sudan and the various rebel groups.
  5. Fifth, we must develop agreed upon negotiating positions among the rebel factions, to assure that any common resolution won't be quickly undone by one dissatisfied rebel group.
  6. Last, America should join the International Criminal Court.

"It's time for America to live up to its own ideals. It is time to do the right thing. It is time to Save Darfur," added the Governor.

Governor Richardson has dealt extensively with Africa and Sudan during his career, as a Congressman, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy, and even as two-term Governor of New Mexico:

  • In 1996 Governor Richardson secured the release of pilot John Early of Albuquerque, NM, and two Red Cross workers who were being held hostage by Sudanese rebels,
  • In September, 2006 Governor Richardson negotiated with President al-Bashir and secured the release of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and New Mexico resident) Paul Salopek and two colleagues from Chad. The trio had been arrested and charged with espionage,
  • In January, 2007 Governor Richardson met in relocation camps with Sudanese people displaced by the fighting, and negotiated a cease-fire between the government and rebel leaders in Darfur.

Here is the complete text of the Governor's remarks today in San Francisco:

Global Days for Darfur
San Francisco Rally
Sunday, April 29, 2007

As prepared for delivery

Thank you for being here and showing your support for this urgent and worthy cause. I can tell you from experience the Sudanese people appreciate everything you do, they are crying out for help, and they are calling for the international community, and specifically for the United States to help stop the killing and restore peace in Darfur.

It is time for the United States to answer that call.

Throughout my career- as a Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy, and Governor- I have worked to bring people together to solve crises, to reach agreements, to get things done. I understand tough, direct diplomacy and international leadership. That's exactly what is needed here.

This is a defining moment for this country. The United States has an opportunity to lead the world in taking action to end the killing in Darfur and we must not blow it.

I have been to Sudan and to Darfur a number of times and I know the region well. In 1996 I worked with Sudanese President al-Bashir to secure the release of three Red Cross workers who had been captured by rebels. Last fall I convinced Bashir to release an American journalist and his two Chadian colleagues who had been arrested and charged with spying.

And in January, at the request of Save Darfur, and with their help, I returned to Sudan. I saw with my own eyes the frustration of the African Union force commander who is desperately undermanned and outgunned. I negotiated a fragile cease-fire among several rebel groups and the government forces and pushed Bashir to allow UN peacekeeping forces into Darfur.

We set the stage for an ongoing dialogue that could have, and should have reduced the violence and moved the peace process forward. Unfortunately, there was no on-the ground diplomatic follow-up and that cease-fire did not hold. The US Government dropped the ball- again.

We've wasted time hemming and hawing and hand-wringing about what we should do, when the truth is we need to act. We need to lead. We need to do everything we can to stop the violence.

Time is running out for the people of Darfur. The people there cannot wait much longer, for waiting means more death, more broken families, more children without a future.

400-thousand killed. Two-point-five million people displaced. Estimates are the killing could reach 100-thousand per month if the world does not act. That is not acceptable.

You know, the people of Darfur are remarkable. In the As-Salaam Camp near El Fasher, I met women who had lost everything- their husbands, their homes, and all their possessions. Many wait for weeks, sometimes months, under tents in stifling heat, to be processed into the camp, where they are issued a small plot of land and some meager supplies.

Despite the tragedy they have faced, despite what they have lost, they have incredible spirit- an optimism that you would not expect.

But they asked me a tough question. They want to know why the United States is not doing more to help, why we're not mobilizing the world to come to their aid. I couldn't answer that question.

My friends, we cannot let them down. This is a great human tragedy, time is running out, and we have to act.

America should have been engaged long ago, but continuing a pattern of intermittent and inconsistent, indirect and occasional involvement is not the America that we expect and we need a better, more urgent response.

Even tough guys will listen when you hold a big stick in one hand and have a carrot in the other. Talking to people is no guarantee of success, but refusing to talk is a guarantee of failure.

As Nelson Mandela once told me "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

The White House has for months been working on a plan for Darfur, but for years has failed to assert its influence among our allies and friends to bring an immediate halt to this conflict. The administration's recent announcement falls woefully short of actions backing up words. We need a strategy that's aggressive, bold, and realistic and has a chance of achieving a workable and durable political settlement to this tragedy.

Time is running out.

  1. First, America must make peace in Darfur a much higher priority. I agree with SaveDarfur--we need full-time, high-level US diplomacy dedicated to ending this crisis.
  2. Second, America must engage Sudan's economic and political partners--China Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudia Arabia, Jordan and the Arab League to build a multilateral coalition with real leverage. That could begin by endorsing the Arab League's commitments on Darfur--to aid the African Union's mission, to fund development in Darfur, and to support the UN hybrid force in Sudan.
  3. Third, we should deploy a UN peacekeeping force to eastern Chad to prevent a regionalization of the conflict. America should join other wealthy countries to fund refugee camps in neighboring countries and assure that those weak states bend to accommodate, but do not break from the pressure.
  4. Fourth, we should use our full diplomatic weaponry--offering incentives for compliance and threatening multilateral sanctions for resistance to both the Government of Sudan and the various rebel groups.
  5. Fifth, we must develop agreed upon negotiating positions among the rebel factions, to assure that any common resolution won't be quickly undone by one dissatisfied rebel group.
  6. Last, America should join the International Criminal Court.

It's time for America to live up to its own ideals. It is time to do the right thing. It is time to Save Darfur.

You can help. Keep the pressure on Congress. Keep the pressure on the White House. We must keep raising our voices until the people in Darfur can hear us.

Time is running out for the people of Darfur. Fortunately, time is also running out on this administration.