Number of Sudan peacekeepers might need to be doubled, Bush says
Washington - President Bush February 17 said more troops are needed to stem the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, speculating that double the current number of peacekeepers will be required to bring security to the area.
Speaking in Tampa, Florida, Bush said he is working with international leaders such as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to encourage more troops "probably under the United Nations," and including a role by NATO.
'[I]t's going to require, I think, a NATO stewardship planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now in order to start bringing some sense of security," Bush said.
The president said he hopes the northern and southern Sudanese people can negotiate a peace agreement that will allow the southern Sudanese to "get their lives back in order, [and] get the oil money moving that was guaranteed to them."
Following is the transcript of Bush's remarks:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 17, 2006
1:26 P.M. EST
Q: It's a small part of the world, but it's very important to me - I'm concerned about the children in northern Uganda who are the victims of the rebel Joseph Kony. And I'm wondering if you can bring any pressure to bear on President Museveni to stop that 20-year war and free those children from the bondage that they're under.
THE PRESIDENT: Really interesting question. She's talking about the - northern Uganda, there's a group called the Lord's Group that has been terrorizing both northern Uganda and southern Sudan. I talked to Mrs. Garang, John Garang's widow. John Garang was the head of the Sudanese in the southern part of the country that, by the way, became adopted by a church in Midland, Texas, my old home town, interestingly enough. And early in my administration I got Jack Danforth, a former United States senator, to go and negotiate an agreement between northern Sudan and southern Sudan. And John Garang was a partner in peace. Unfortunately, he died in a helicopter accident about a year ago, I think. And the reason I bring this up is that there's no doubt it would be easier to deal with the Lord's Group if we were able to achieve peace between north and south Sudan. They take advantage of instability.
I have talked to this - I've talked about this issue with Mrs. Garang, as well as - now, there are peacekeepers in the region, by the way, U.N. peacekeepers on the north-south accord. I hope they're effective at helping the people of southern Sudan. I have talked to Museveni, President Museveni, about the issue, as well, and I've been with him, I think, two or three times. I know on two occasions we've talked about this - and will continue to talk to him about it. I'm very aware of the issue.
My hope is that by having a southern Sudanese - having the peace agreement negotiated between north and south so that the southern Sudanese can begin to get their lives back in order, get the oil money moving that's guaranteed to them, will help provide - help drive them out of any safe haven in the south, which will make it easier for all of us to deal. It's kind of a roundabout answer, but I'm aware of the problem, first of all. And secondly, I'm surprised that anybody in this audience would bring it up, and I thank you for that.
We also have got a major issue in Darfur, Sudan. I presume if you're worried about northern Uganda, you're also worried about western Sudan, as am I. The strategy there was to encourage African Union troops to try to bring some sense of security to these poor people that are being herded out of their villages and just terribly mistreated. We need more troops. The effort was noble, but it didn't achieve the objective.
And so I'm in the process now of working with a variety of folks to encourage there to be more troops, probably under the United Nations. I talked to Kofi Annan about this very subject this week. But it's going to require a - I think a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security. There has to be a consequence for people abusing their fellow citizens.
At the same time, part of the issue in the Darfur region is that the rebel groups are not united in their objectives. And so politically, or diplomatically, we have to work to make sure there's one voice from which to speak, so that we can then create kind of the same agreement between government in Darfur that was created between north and south. A lot of talk, but we've got a strategy, and it's of concern, to the point where our country was the first country to call what was taking place a genocide, which matters - words matter.
And so, thank you for bringing up that part of the world. That's very interesting that you would have that on your mind. You're a decent soul, a decent soul. (Applause.)
All right, I've got to go. Thanks for your time. God bless. Appreciate it. (Applause.)
END 2:44 P.M. EST