On April 30, Ben Long is set to get on a bus to Washington, D.C., with more than 100 Pittsburghers to do something a bit different:
"What we really want to do is show the Bush Administration we support them."
Long, 25, of the South Side, is program director for Global Solutions, a small educational and advocacy group that is part of the Pittsburgh Darfur Coalition. The coalition is trying to push the U.S. to help stop the terror and ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of Sudan, which in the past three years has claimed about 400,000 lives and displaced three million people, Long says.
April 30 is the U.N.'s latest deadline for reaching a peace settlement in the region. On April 12, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, "[T]he U.S. strongly believes the time has come to designate individuals under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1591 for targeted sanctions ... individuals who are responsible for committing violence in Darfur or impeding the peace process." McCormack also said the administration favors changing the current African Union peacekeepers to a perhaps more effective U.N. force, and is "working on the issue of humanitarian aid."
This month, the House also passed Resolution 3127, calling for "sanctions against individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, to support measures for the protection of civilians and humanitarian operations, and to support peace efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan."
The Pittsburgh Darfur Coalition has collected more than 10,000 postcards to deliver to Washington during the April 30 demonstration. The effort is part of the national Million Postcards for Darfur campaign, which urges the administration to take any of several possible actions: from sharing our intelligence with the International Criminal Court (although the U.S. doesn't recognize its jurisdiction) to working with other countries to censure and sanction the Sudanese government.
Registration for the $40 bus trip will remain open until the week of April 30.
"When there's something in the world we want to do, we can do it," Long concludes. "I think the Bush administration is ready to act on this. I just think they need a push from ordinary people."