June 4, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – Several rights groups and activists regretted that US President Barack Obama did not tackle questions of human rights, freedom of the press or the situation for millions of displaced people from Darfur in his speech before an audience at Cairo University.
In his 55 minute speech in the capital of Egypt, Obama mentioned something about Darfur, but did not address the ongoing bilateral dialogue between the US and the Government of Sudan.
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is this week providing an update to the Security Council regarding the recent ICC’s investigation in Darfur, Sudan. This is the first briefing following the ICC judges’ issuance of an arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, in response to allegations of attacks and human rights violations on civilians in Darfur.
The Coalition’s for the ICC’s (CICC’s) Omar Ismail, Advisor of the ENOUGH project based in El-Fashir, Sudan said “The Prosecutor is right. Al-Bashir should be brought to justice. We must end this –it has been six years. It is the government of Sudan against its own people with the intention to do harm. I know the women who were raped. The marching orders were given by Sudan, dismembered bodies were thrown in water resources.”
Domestic reaction to President Obama's Cairo speech is filtering in, and given its sweep and ambition, the reviews are decidedly mixed.
Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called Obama's speech "blunt" but necessary to put the United States and Muslim countries on a new path.
"President Obama's blunt, honest address in Cairo was absolutely critical in signaling a new era of understanding with Muslim communities worldwide," Kerry said in a statement. "He shattered stereotypes on both sides, reminded the west and the Muslim world of our responsibilities, and reaffirmed one of America's highest ideals and traditional roles -- that those who seek freedom and democracy, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have no greater friend than the United States of America.
STATEMENT: Obama Should Have Said More About Darfur
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Enough Project, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the Genocide Intervention Network today issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama's remarks in Cairo:
If the Cairo speech was intended to outline shared challenges that America and the Muslim world should confront together, President Obama’s failure to call for a joint push for peace in Sudan is a glaring omission. A passing reference to suffering in Darfur is insufficient.
"The President rightly called the situation in Darfur 'a stain on our collective conscience,'” said Enough Project Executive Director John Norris, "but that is not enough. The president needs to articulate a clear vision of how a lasting peace is going to be achieved for all of Sudan, and demonstrate through his actions rather than just his words that this is a political priority. The situation in Darfur deserves more than a single sentence of the president's attention."
Jerry Fowler, President of the Save Darfur Coalition, noted, "President Obama missed an important opportunity in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world by not reiterating his commitment to lead for peace in Sudan, where 2.7 million Muslim civilians have been driven from their homes and hundreds of thousands have perished because of violence orchestrated by the government. President Obama could have asked all governments in the region to join him in offering a choice to Khartoum between concrete progress toward peace, which will result in improved relations, or continued obstructionism and use of violence, which will lead to increased isolation."
Sam Bell, Executive Director of the Genocide Intervention Network, added, "Candidate Obama promised in his campaign that addressing the situation in Sudan would be a very high priority. I am not sure that all those watching, in the Arab world and at home, will come away with that same impression after today's speech."
Visit the Enough Project’s blog, Enough Said, for updates on this issue.
President Obama promised to take a hard line on genocide and other war crimes during the campaign, but since then he has been slow to tackle some of Africa's most intractable conflicts, leaving many activists impatient and Congress calling for more action.
Most recently, lawmakers have focused on the two-decade-long insurgency in northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army has kidnapped and conscripted thousands of children and displaced more than 2 million people. Obama talked tough on such atrocities during the campaign last fall, pledging to resolve the crisis in Darfur and recognize the Armenian genocide.