Obama says Sudan's Darfur plight still 'urgent'
One of our favorite ironies from the endless presidential campaign — which, some may recall, ended only 50 weeks ago — is this photo and the ubiquitous and amazingly similar Obama "Hope" poster by Shepard Fairey, who got in some legal trouble for that same similarity with the original Associated Press photo.
The iconic image shows the future president confidently staring into the nation's future with visions of really good things for his people, whether they can afford them or not.
Now, here are the facts of that photo:
The photo was taken at the National Press Club in Washington by Mannie Garcia, a freelance AP photographer, before Barack Obama was a declared presidential candidate. It was taken at an event of Obama celeb backer George Clooney to draw attention to the genocide going on in Darfur, Sudan. (In some related photos, Big George, in fact, is shown sitting there right next to the freshman Illinois senator, equally rapt.)
The best part is that the dreamy, hope-filled look on the Democrat's face was caused by what he was listening to, remarks from the podium by -- wait for it! -- conservative Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Now, that is bipartisanship to believe in: "Conservative GOPer inspires liberal Dem."
Anyway, today Obama's White House issued a statement on said Sudan, which is once again deemed "serious and urgent." He referred to a newer Sudan strategy. He called on the international community to act with "urgency and purpose." He vowed to extend U.S. sanctions on Sudan sometime later this week.
And Obama praised his special envoy for working so "actively and effectively" to engage all parties, although apparently not actively or effectively enough to change the status of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Here, as usual, is the full Obama text, as provided by the White House:
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Today, my Administration is releasing a comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan.
For years, the people of Sudan have faced enormous and unacceptable hardship.The genocide in....
...Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced. Conflict in the region has wrought more suffering, posing dangers beyond Sudan’s borders and blocking the potential of this important part of Africa. Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken.
Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur.
Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace.These two goals must both be pursued simultaneously with urgency. Achieving them requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners. Concurrently, we will work aggressively to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe-haven for international terrorists.
The United States Special Envoy has worked actively and effectively to engage all of the parties involved, and he will continue to pursue engagement that saves lives and achieves results. Later this week, I will renew the declaration of a National Emergency with respect to Sudan, which will continue tough sanctions on the Sudanese Government.
If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community. As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the Government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction.
Over the last several years, governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals, and from around the world have taken action to address the situation in Sudan, and to end the genocide in Darfur. Going forward, all of our efforts must be measured by the lives that are led by the people of Sudan.
After so much suffering, they deserve a future that allows them to live with greater dignity, security, and opportunity. It will not be easy, and there are no simple answers to the extraordinary challenges that confront this part of the world. But now is the time for all of us to come together, and to make a strong and sustained effort on behalf of a better future for the people of Sudan. ###
Photo: Associated Press