- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

Protesters rallied yesterday outside the Sudanese Embassy, shouting “Save Darfur” and “Stop the Genocide Now,” to draw attention to the ongoing problems in the western Sudan region.

Secret Service agents stood nearby as a few dozen people converged on the steps of the embassy, in the 2200 block of Massachusetts Avenue Northwest. The demonstration began a block away, at the Church of the Pilgrims, then protesters marched to the embassy and pitched a tent in front of the building.

Mohamed Yahya, a Darfur refugee and the executive director of the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy, said he lost more than 20 relatives in one day when his family’s village was destroyed in an attack.

“I don’t know if my parents are alive or dead,” he said. “There are 5-year-old girls getting raped, thousands of people getting killed every day. … Unfortunately, the United Nations failed to send the peacekeepers.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced since African rebels took up arms in 2003 to protest a perceived bias from a government dominated by Arabic speakers. The rebels say that Sudan’s oil revenues are held in Khartoum and that the other regions are left impoverished.

In response to the rebellion, Sudanese government forces armed and organized Arabic-speaking tribesmen into Janjaweed militias, which rape, torture and kill the civilian population.

“The atrocities that are happening right now are horrible,” said John Crossi, 24, an employee with the National Institutes of Health who participated in the protest. “The rapes, the dumping of bodies in the water sources, the burning of villages. … I can’t put it into words, it’s so disturbing.”

The Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, chairwoman of the Save Darfur Coalition’s “Million Voices for Darfur” campaign, went to the region in November. She promised that protesters would not go quietly.

“It’s already too late for the 400,000 who died in Darfur, for the 2 million who died in south Sudan, for the women who have been raped,” she said. “But we are standing here today on behalf of those who are yet alive, and we will not be silenced. We will not sit down in the face of genocide. We want it stopped now.”

The protesters took President Bush and others in the U.S. government to task for what they called an ineffective response.

“It’s been nearly three years since the world has recognized genocide in the region of Darfur, as well as earlier genocides in southern Sudan,” said Jim Fussell, of Arlington. “It is too long to wait three years to take action. If our governments will not act, we will act. This embassy is conducting business as usual. That’s not acceptable.”

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