- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

The scenes from the village of Yei in the southern Sudan were gruesome. Moments after a government Antonov bomber from northern Sudan had bombed men, women and children one November afternoon last year, a video camera captured the bloodied bodies strewn across the marketplace as their countrymen wailed and tried to push past one another in frenzied shock. Less than two months later, Rep. Frank Wolf, Virginia Republican, was there as another bomber neared the village, sending the people into panic. The fear of the Antonov has become a part of daily life, and the people of Sudan are calling on the new administration for help.

"We don't know why the United States doesn't stop the genocide of these people,'' Bishop Paride Paban from southern Sudan said. "Colin Powell, we don't know why this has not been stopped. Is it because of our race, is it because we're black?" he asked.

The question is not one unique to the Sudan, and must also be asked of greater Africa: Do the African countries affect the strategic interests of the United States, and if so, what can the new administration do to help them more? Mr. Powell, the new secretary of state, aptly voiced his desire to make Africa a priority in his confirmation hearings, but the proof will be how soon the Bush administration develops a consistent policy for the continent.

There is no better time than the present for the United States to be a stabilizing force in Central Africa, where the Congo is at the center of a violent conflict that has killed 1.7 million and displaced 1.1 million. The war involves six foreign armies within the country Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia that are involved in a struggle involving ethnic factions and control of natural resources.

Among the Wolf recommendations that the Bush administration should consider seriously:m The United States should pressure the foreign troops in the Congo to leave the country.m Egypt's influence over Sudan's government cannot be underestimated. The U.S. government, which has given the Egyptians $45 billion in foreign aid since 1978, should pressure Khartoum to stop starving and bombing innocent civilians.m A presidential task force should be created to craft policy on Africa. Subjects such as AIDS, human rights, terrorism, trade and economic development would be key themes the appointees could study to help strengthen the United States' partnership with Africa.

The process of engaging an African nation such as the Sudan may be strenuous and costly. But it must, as Tennessee Sen. William First said at Mr. Powell's confirmation hearings, remain at the center of the American conscience. This should be done not only to prevent the spread of terrorism and AIDS, but to forge a partnership with a people whose ideas and resources are valuable to the United States. The new administration should be able to give the persecuted people of Africa, including Mr. Paban an answer, and soon, that the United States has not forgotten Africa.

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