- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

Sudan embassy shut

The Embassy of Sudan, the site of daily protests over the massacres in the Darfur region of the African nation, closed yesterday for an indefinite period.

The closure comes as a vast coalition of demonstrators is planning nationwide protests for tomorrow. Actor Danny Glover, the latest celebrity to join the movement, is expected at the noon demonstration outside the embassy at 2210 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

The embassy Web site (www.sudanembassy.org) issued this brief announcement: “This is to inform that the embassy will be closed starting from Monday, Aug. 23, 2004, until further notice.”

However, the demonstrators say they are not concerned whether the embassy is open or closed. The building is symbolic of the government that Congress last month condemned for “genocide” against black African farmers in Darfur by Arab militias initially armed by the government to fight rebels.

“We have demonstrated every day since June 29, and we will continue to demonstrate whether they are inside [the embassy] or not. They never answered the door, anyway,” said protest leader and radio talk-show host Joe Madison, who is in his sixth week of a hunger strike to draw attention to the crisis in Darfur.

“What we want them to shut down is not the embassy. We want them to shut down the genocide. We want them to shut down the refugee camps. We want them to shut down the atrocities that are taking place.”

Mr. Madison said the Washington-based Sudan Campaign wants President Bush to heed the congressional resolution and declare Sudan guilty of genocide.

The militias, called the Janjaweed, are blamed for killing 50,000 people and displacing 1 million. The U.N. Security Council on July 30 gave the Sudanese government 30 days to stop the bloodshed.

Meanwhile, another group, the Save Darfur Coalition, is urging communities throughout North America to stage demonstrations tomorrow.

Calling the protest a “Day of Conscience,” the coalition said it wants to “raise public awareness about the horrific situation in Darfur and to demand that the international community take immediate and decisive action to stop the killing, the rape and the destruction of villages and to assure that humanitarian relief reaches all those in need.”

In Washington, Mr. Glover intends to add his name to a long list of elected leaders and average citizens who have been arrested on embassy grounds for unlawful assembly, a charge that carries a $50 fine.

Mr. Madison said the list includes an 82-year-old grandmother and a 75-year-old woman who got arrested last week on her birthday.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and several members of Congress also have been arrested.

Mr. Madison, who continues to host his show on WOL-AM from 6 to 10 p.m. on weekdays, has consumed only chicken broth on his hunger strike.

Leaders of the think tanks TransAfrica Forum and Africa Action also plan to be arrested tomorrow.

Afghan deaths

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan apologized for the deaths of three Afghan civilians killed by U.S. soldiers after they failed to stop at a vehicle checkpoint on Saturday.

“I would like to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic incident,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.

“The Combined Forces Command has launched an investigation into the events that resulted in the loss of innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers to out to the victims and to the families who have suffered a terrible loss as a result of this development.”

Two women and a man were killed when they failed to stop their pickup truck at the checkpoint in the central province of Ghazni, the embassy said. Two other men were critically injured.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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