Monday, February 27, 2012 – 2 p.m.
H 309 in the Capitol
(House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Hearing Room)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime advocate for Sudan and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, just returned from a trip to the world’s newest country, South Sudan, where he visited a refugee camp in Yida filled with men, woman and children who have fled the fighting in the nearby Nuba Mountains.
More than 25,000 refugees are living in the camp, which is about 20 miles south of the Sudan border. Wolf heard dramatic stories of ethnic cleansing, mass murder and rape, all carried out by uniformed soldiers of the Khartoum government. Refugees recounted how they lived in fear of the Antonov planes that flew over their villages, dropping crude bombs out of their cargo bays – a trademark of the Khartoum government. The planes now fly over the refugee camp, continuing their reign of terror. “You just prepare yourself for death” when you hear a Antonov fly overhead, a refugee told Wolf. Others asked if they were being attacked because of the color of their skin.
The refugees want the world to hear of their plight and desperately want Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to be arrested. The International Criminal Court has charged Bashir with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and yet he continues to travel with impunity throughout Africa and to countries like China.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and NBC Correspondent Ann Curry also have spent time in the camp in recent days. They left the morning Wolf arrived. Kristof already has written two columns on what he experienced and Curry is expected to report on what she saw next week.
Wolf is the first member of Congress to visit the camp in Yida. He will be joined at the press conference by the Hon. Tom Andrews, president and CEO of United to End Geoncide, and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Both of these organizations have had staff visit Yida in recent months.
Wolf will show video of what he saw, including interviews with several women. He also will release a detailed “trip report” about his visit and make a number of recommendations.
While in South Sudan, Wolf also met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and members of his cabinet. In addition, he met with Rebecca Garang, the wife of the late Dr. John Garang, leader of the SPLM and a key architect of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the North and the South in January of 2005, ending 21 years of civil war. Wolf and Mrs. Garang visited the memorial built to honor her husband, who was killed in a helicopter crash in July of 2005. Wolf met Garang on his second trip to Sudan in 1989. He has been to Sudan four times since then, including leading the first congressional delegation to Darfur in 2004 with then-Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS).