New York, NY; March 31, 2009— Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), said it was evident in her meeting yesterday with President Barack Obama and the administration’s new special envoy to Sudan, General J. Scott Gration, that the administration understands the need to ensure the reinstatement of international aid groups into Darfur. Messinger also said that President Obama clearly indicated that finding a political solution to end the conflict and restore peace to all of Sudan is a top priority of his administration.
The administration called the meeting so General Gration could hear directly from a group of leading anti-genocide, peace and human rights advocates and several members of congress before departing for the region today.
The genocide in Darfur has claimed more than 400,000 lives and displaced more than two million people over six years. Most recently, the Government of Sudan expelled 13 international humanitarian organizations and three local organizations operating in Darfur, resulting in the loss of health and nutrition services for 1.5 million people, the loss of food distribution for 1.1 million and interruptions in water, hygiene and sanitation services for 1.6 million. There is now grave concern that a massive wave of disease, death and population shifts could begin within months.
“The President reiterated that he recognizes the immediacy of the problems in Sudan and that he intends to address them without delay,” Messinger said. “He explained that his immediate goal is to restore lost humanitarian aid while also working to end the violence. This would include initiating meaningful peace talks between Darfuri rebel groups and the government in Khartoum and conducting the census and planning for the elections that are part of the 2005 agreement between North and South Sudan.
“The President made it clear that General Gration carries the full authority of the administration, and there was a real sense that the special envoy appreciates the need to act urgently to get the aid groups reinstated.
“I also spoke with General Gration about the unique needs of the tens of thousands of rape victims, and I’ve rarely seen anybody listen so intently.”
AJWS has been a leader in efforts to end the genocide in Darfur. It has mobilized the American Jewish community and worked with others in the international development, human rights and faith communities to pass state and federal divestment legislation as well as increase U.S. funding for humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping.
In addition to Sen. Durbin (D-Ill), Sen. Isaacson (R-GA), Sen. Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Nelson (D-FL), Rep. Payne (D-NJ) and Rep. Berman (D-CA), Messinger was joined at the White House by five representatives of the Save Darfur Coalition and the Enough Project. The group included two Darfuri activists.
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David L. Marcus