CORRECTION: This article on page 1 of last Wednesday’s edition of the Daily should not have identified Donald Steinberg, former U.S. ambassador to Angola, as White House deputy secretary of Commerce.
Donald Steinberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Angola, began his speech in Hutchins Hall last night referring to the humanitarian crimes committed in Rwanda a decade ago when he was former President Clinton’s White House Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
“We heard men were castrated and left to bleed to death. Rape became a weapon of war used to terrorize and traumatize. Every morning, I’d wake up and wonder how many more people were slaughtered as I slept.”
Steinberg’s reflection immediately evoked the gravity of the events that are taking place in Sudan’s western Darfur region today.
“In retrospect, no one can deny that they knew what was going on. Rwanda happened in 100 days. Darfur is that same genocide, in slow motion, and warrants an adequate response from our government,” said Steinberg, who is also the former director of the Joint Policy Council at the Department of State.
In his lecture — which was followed by a letter-writing session — Steinberg stressed the impact an individual can have on Congress and international issues, as well as the international community’s responsibility to act in a unified front to condemn ethnic cleansing and human rights violations around the world.
According to Kathleen Duffy, co-chair of the Student Network on Asylum and Refugee Law, the genocide in Sudan has been largely ignored by the media. “This is an area where we’ve seen alarming lack of awareness,” she said. “We feel responsibility to raise consciousness on campus about this massive humanitarian crisis.”
SNARL co-sponsored the event, along with the Muslim Law Student Association and Students Taking Action Now: Darfur.
Steinberg said more than 300,000 people have died in Sudan and more than 2 million have been forced to leave their homes in Darfur — a situation that the United Nations called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
The conflict between the rebel Sudan Liberation Army on one side, and the Sudanese government and the government-backed Janjaweed militia on the other, has largely been responsible for the killing that has been carried out. The violence has moved several groups on campus to petition Congress in an effort to change the tide of events in Sudan.
Steinberg said that although the humanitarian relief being provided by the international community has been impressive, it is not enough to stabilize the situation in Sudan.
“The U.N. needs to increase the number of American troops in the Sudan from 2,500 to at least 9,000 and extend logistical and organizational support to the African Union in order to begin to turn the situation around in Sudan,” he said.
Among other suggestions for how students can actively work to relieve the crisis in Darfur, Steinberg said writing letters to congressmen is an effective step. “(Working in the White House), when we received 40 letters about an issue, we paid attention to it,” he said.
STAND founder and president Alison Barrall said Steinberg’s speech sparked activism among students. “The goal of this event was to raise awareness about these human rights violations, and I see students writing letters in front of me, and I’m inspired.”