PADAK, Sudan – America is on a lonely mission to end the crisis in Sudan.
The United States is pushing for U.N. sanctions against the east African nation. But U.S.-sponsored resolutions have met resistance in the U.N. Security Council — particularly from China and Pakistan, which have major oil deals in the African country. Algeria, which is a fellow Arab league member, also is an obstacle.
John Danforth (search), the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (search), said “the government of Sudan has been complicit in a terrible disaster that’s been imposed upon the people of Darfur,” the western Sudanese province where 50,000 black Africans have died following attacks by government-supported Arab militias.
“The position of the U.S. is that we’re just not going to do nothing,” said Danforth, an Episcopalian minister and former Republican U.S. senator from Missouri, who began his work at the United Nations earlier this year. On Sept. 6, 2001, President Bush appointed Danforth special envoy to Sudan.
The United States doesn't want a repeat of genocide in Rwanda, when 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered. Plus, officials are constantly concerned that instability could attract terrorists like Usama bin Laden (search), who once lived in Sudan.
“Having an unstable and unfriendly Sudan is an invitation for terror groups to come here again. They were thrown out once before, we want to make sure they’re out of here,” said Andrew Natsios, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (search).
Natsios recently surveyed American efforts to help Sudan. He traveled throughout the south to see how American money is being spent to help build the area after more than two decades of civil war with the north.
In Darfur (search), he visited a dozen or more refugee camps. In Khartoum, he met with government officials whom he pressed to crack down on the Janjaweed militia and asked to give better access to aid groups who want to help in Darfur.
The United States this year will spend more than half-a-billion dollars to save the people Darfur and help rebuild the south. The American money goes to feeding and caring for refugees, building roads, supplying hospitals and fighting disease and malnutrition.
'Now There's Peace for You Again'
In Padak in southern Sudan, Natsios looked at the building of roads and a dam that hold back flood waters from the Nile River. The United States is spending $15.5 million on this project -- without the dam, seasonal rains flood Padak and its 300,000 residents, ruin crops and spread disease.
Natsios also met with local officials and villagers -- members of the Dinka tribe -- who cheered him on when they were told he was responsible for bringing aid to their community during and after the civil war.
Daniel Wani, a member of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (search), the political arm of rebels who fought the government of the north, spoke of his appreciation to a crowd of hundreds who came to the airstrip to greet Natsios.
"You were bombed day and night. Now there's peace for you again," Wani said to loud applause and chants.
Wani motioned to Natsios, adding, "much of the food that was coming to you during the bad times was coming from USAID. He is the boss of USAID." The crowd of hundreds continued to cheer. Some pounded on drums, others sang and chanted, showing Natsios and his delegation their appreciation.
In Dinka tradition, the tribal leaders brought out two cows for slaughter, which is considered a great honor bestowed upon visitors. As villagers celebrated, the cows were killed. Natsios and his group (including the team from FOX News Channel) were asked to jump over the dying cows. We all did, careful not to slip and fall.
Relief From the Sky
Touring the troubled Darfur region was not a cause for celebration. For the most part, the people here are nowhere close to even thinking about rebuilding. One-and-a-half million Darfurians are currently living in refugee camps, and more arrive each day.
According to the World Health Organization, between 6,000 and 10,000 people are dying each month from disease and malnutrition in the camps. The United States is making the crisis in Darfur one of its top priorities on the African continent. Natsios said USAID has three major reconstruction projects underway — Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan.
The United States gives more than 70 percent of all aid to Darfur — more than all other countries combined. The assistance goes to agencies like the World Food Program, which then delivers it to hard-to-reach places.
In many cases, the only way to get food to townspeople is to drop it from the sky because there aren’t any roads or airstrips.
The FOX News crew, refugees and villagers watched as 3,600 tons of food — much of it grown in the United States — was dropped into Darfur by a U.N. plane. Once the bags of yellow peas hit the ground, Sudanese soldiers quickly cordoned off the area to guard anyone from stealing them.
Some of the bags split wide open upon impact. Some villagers made their way onto the field once the bags dropped — understanding the importance of the food, they walked to the burst bags, scooped up the dried peas and put them back in the bags. The peas were in bags that say "USA." The third bag says "World Food Program" on the outside, so few really know who the real donor is.
The Sudanese government says the situation in Darfur is improving and officials have made it easier for aid groups to get into the country. But while the United States presses for more action and the United Nations studies the issue of whether genocide has taken place -- something the United States determined a month ago -- 1.5 million Sudanese living in squalid camps wait; 10,000 of them die each month.
“There is a climate of impunity,” Danforth said at the United Nations when discussing Sudanese government claims that it's prosecuting the Janjaweed and other militias. “The government claims people are being prosecuted and brought to justice. They really haven't proven their case and this is the opportunity to do that."
According to other U.S. government officials, refugees won't be safe to return home to their villages until the government cracks down on militias and agrees to provide security in the villages to prevent attacks from happening again.
Editor's Note: This is the third part in a series on the crisis in the Sudan. To read the previous parts written by Heather Nauert, click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.