What NPR will never tell you about Tancredo … or Obama
October 25, 2010, DENVER – by El Marco
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo is an extraordinary man with no shortage of friends, and detractors. Tancredo has been branded a racist by the political left for being a leading critic of illegal immigration, and yet he earned a standing ovation from the NAACP. Recently I was in New York to photograph the start of the Sudan Freedom Walk, and learned things about Tom Tancredo (and Obama) that few Americans know anything about. I discovered that while many in the Sudanese refugee community feel betrayed by President Obama, they reserve a special place in their hearts for Tom Tancredo.
It was in front of the United Nations Building in Manhattan that I first heard a Sudanese human rights activist mention Tancredo’s name in connection to U.S. foreign policy. When I asked for details, I was intrigued by the depth of feeling for Tancredo in the comments I heard. I learned that in 2001, then Congressman Tancredo was the primary sponsor and author of the Sudan Peace Act, which was later signed into law by President George W. Bush. That act focused on stopping a decades-long genocide as well as Sudan’s slave trade and the Sudanese government’s use of force to support slaving.
I met with escaped slaves and refugees from Sudan who are now community leaders and human rights activists in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. They offered me rare insight into a man who now stands poised to be the next Governor of Colorado. During the time I spent with the Sudanese (Sept. 15-27) Tancredo was not on anyone’s radar as a real contender. Now that Mr. Tancredo has surged in the polls and rearranged the political landscape, I thought it a good idea to ask my new Sudanese friends what thoughts they had about his candidacy and his detractors.
First I called a young man named Francis Bok at his home in Boston. He was taken during a massacre by arab slavers at age seven and miraculously escaped slavery when he was 17 years old. I photographed candidate Tancredo holding Bok’s autobiography after a campaign stop outside Tony Rigatoni’s Restaurant in Golden, Colorado on Oct. 22.
Here is what Francis Bok had to say about Tancredo and Sudan:
He should be considered for governor because he’s someone that has a vision, he’s someone that is always looking years in front of him, he’s someone that is visioning for others. And those others are us. I have met him myself. I have seen him speaking clearly and loudly on behalf of my people. I have no doubt in my mind that he will do something positive for the people of Colorado. He is a leader. He has already shown, and demonstrated that leadership during his time in Congress. And I’m sure If we had someone like him in the leadership in Washington, my people would not have to worry about what will happen on January 9, 2011 (separation referendum thanks to Congressman Tancredo’s efforts), because he would have already begun to start speaking out.
I told Bok that the left have labeled Tancredo a racist:
It doesn’t make sense that people call Tom a racist. After all we have witnessed since 9/11 2001, I don’t think anyone should actually be allowed to come in without being screened, without being asked where are you from, and what are they about. I came here as a refugee myself to this country, I came here legally. I’m on record, I have documents that allow me to live here.
He is someone that we appreciate his work on foreign policy during his time in Congress about Sudan. I think he is very well known. The government knows him, the people of South Sudan, the people of Darfur, and all the other marginalized groups of Sudanese people know who he is, and what he stands for. And I think he deserves a chance to be of benefit to Colorado. I do support him. If I had power, I would endorse him.
Francis Bok speaking about Sudan in New York.
Asked about the Obama administration’s commitment to peace, Bok said:
We are so worried now about how the U.S. is going to protect us on this. Because we don’t see them speaking that much. I am not willing to be once again forced into slavery by the northern Sudanese oppressors. For over 50 years my people have been oppressed and marginalized by these people who reached power in 1956. My people want to be a free nation, and rule ourselves like other societies. Three million southern Sudanese people have been slaughtered by the radicalist, extremist fundamentalist regime in Khartoum.
We know very, very well that we are not being supported like the previous administration has done concerning the issue of Sudan. Both slavery and genocide are in Darfur and southern Sudan, and with this referendum, we’re just afraid. A miracle has to happen to help the people of Sudan. I’m praying every day because I do not want to see my people continue to be kept under apartheid by the radicalist regime.
Simon Deng speaking about the islamization of his homeland on June 6, 2010 in New York
Simon Deng was enslaved as a child after being abducted by an arab. He escaped after three years and is now a leading voice against slavery. He is the leader of the Sudan Freedom Walk and is an associate of the American Anti-Slavery Group. I phoned Deng at his home in Harlem, New York.
Tom did a lot in Congress. He’s a good friend. When it comes to friends, and the friends of Sudan, he is a person the people of Sudan will never forget, especially those who stand up for freedom. I think that Tom is among the few elected officials in Congress that said to themselves, the people of southern Sudan deserve what everybody on earth deserves. That’s freedom.
The government of Sudan went wild for decades massacring and enslaving the people of southern Sudan, and that’s what the Sudan Peace Act is all about. And it’s the courage of individuals, we call them friends of Sudan, that the people of Sudan will never forget. Though we are not there yet. We still need every person of conscience to lead us to freedom. I wish I could be in Colorado to help one who helped us.
El Marco: On Tom Tancredo’s Facebook page, he says the two things he accomplished in Congress he’s most proud of are, first The Sudan Peace Act and second, making the issue of illegal immigration a national issue. What do you think about the issue of illegal immigration and secure borders?
Of course when it comes to immigration, I am an immigrant myself. But I went through the process. I didn’t break any law, I waited for my turn, I followed the process, the way those who came before me followed the process. And of course, for anyone to say ‘let’s break the process’ and let’s dump the system and process”, then we would not have laws on the books guiding us. Of course, everybody deserves a chance for freedom, but we have to do it according to the system and the laws of the land.
Dr. Abdelgabar Adam, founder and president of Darfur Human Rights Organization, speaks to CNN in New York’s Dag Hammerskjold Plaza about the upcoming referendum to determine if South Sudan will separate from the Arab north.
I called Dr. Adam at his home in Philadelphia and asked him to speak about Sudan and Tancredo.
For my organization, I can not endorse a specific candidate. But there are certain people who compel me personally to speak up for them, and Tancredo is one of these. Tom Tancredo was very supportive of human rights issues in Sudan, particularly in Darfur. All the Darfuris remember Bush’s ability to make decisions regarding the genocide in Darfur, and Tom stood behind him. He was very supportive at a time when the issue was not well known to the media. Tom’s name always comes up when we speak about the position of the U.S. government in the issue of Darfur, for him supporting Bush to the end. Bush recognized what was happening in Sudan, and Darfur in particular.
What was the immediate effect on the ground once the Khartoum regime signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement?
The CPA’s short term effects were six years of peace in South Sudan, violence almost was avoided in the south. People had peace, people were moving around, creating infrastructure for the new country of South Sudan. And, in Darfur at least we had a period of almost no fly zone, People were moving around, it was not a real peace, but violence was intermittent. Not like now: air raids every single day these days. That would never happen while George Bush was in power.
How do you see the Obama administration’s current stance towards Khartoum?
Now, this last week, the Obama Administration started talking, at a time when we expect them to walk the walk. Talking itself will not solve the problem. We need someone who can step up the position of the U.S. government and lead the world to stop the genocide in Darfur and bring peace to South Sudan. Obama falls very short of that.
Multilateralism is a failure in international policy at this time. A failure because there is no strong international leader who will step up. When we look at what Bush did during his second term, he was very decisive. At that time we had a no fly zone in Darfur. And the government of Sudan was very much scared and were ready to do what Bush wanted them to do. In about 24 hours, we had this Comprehensive Peace Agreement in South Sudan. It was signed with a warning of just 24 hours. That’s the kind of legitimate international leader we need to see, and Obama is not that person.
When did the situation start deteriorating again?
When the position of the Obama government became unclear. They didn’t know what they wanted, and the tools they were able to use on Sudan. Bush was very clear. Some senators at that time were even calling for military intervention. Some Republicans and some Democrats, including Joe Biden, John Kerry, and a lot of Republican senators. When it comes to decisive action, trust me, Republicans stand first.
Is there any way to influence the Obama administration to change their posture? I notice someone sent John Kerry to Khartoum, and when he came back he was speaking only about cooperation with Khartoum, with all carrots and no sticks.
That’s the problem with the Democrats in power. They want to explore ideas that have been explored and didn’t work time and time again, while Republicans, for us, they make decisions and they stand by them.
Garelnabi Abbas Abusikin
Garelnabi Abusikin is the son of a chief of the Zaghawa tribe. His father was a leader in Karnoi, Darfur. He has seen many atrocities and was separated from his family by war. Speaking the truth about the islamist Khartoum regime is a horrific act of courage for this young man:
In the US, I spoke about Darfur. I testified for the Judgment on Genocide mock court held at the UN Church Center in NY in November 2006. When the government in Sudan found out, they arrested my mother and sister. They beat my mother and shaved my sister’s head bald. They told my mother to tell me to be silent. My mother told me “Don’t worry about us. We are like dead bodies who will never feel the skinning.” She told me to keep talking. To never stop talking. The more people talk about it, the fewer people die. FreeLibrary
I reached Abusikin at his home in Philadelphia.
Obama always kept saying in public and in the news, “I’m going to stop the genocide, and when I become president, no more genocide.” I met Obama face to face in Philadelphia, at the Sheraton Hotel, with the Sudanese community of Philadelphia. We met him, and he promised us, the first thing, he was going to stop the genocide. After he became President, and after we worked for him (campaigning) he forgot us totally, he forgot us. Now every day he talks with the Sudan government, and he gives them more time to kill people. Of course, I feel very bad. And also, this is a shame as a human being.
Obama, his father comes from Kenya, and Sudan and Kenya have a border. Obama’s father’s tribe is called Luo. Luo is the same tribe who also live in Darfur. No matter what, if his tribe lives in Darfur, or doesn’t live in Darfur, he should say something. Now is the time to say something. He doesn’t even say “President Bashir, from today, don’t kill people in Darfur. stop raping the women in Darfur, and stop killing the children in Darfur. If you continue killing children in Darfur, we’re going to take action, we’re going to do something to you. We’re going to do something to your regime.” But he never says that.
The Sudan government killed my father. My family is in a refugee camp for nine years. I have a lot of good friends, more than a thousand, who died in Sudan. I think that Obama is close to the Arab Muslim, more than the African. Because Sudan’s problem is between Africans and Arab Muslims. Arab Muslims, in the north, they kill us. They kill Christian people, more than three million in South Sudan, for no reason. And also, they killed two million in Nuba Mountain. Today, in Darfur, we don’t even know how many people died.
I have to say something very important to Obama. We, the Darfurians in the United States, I am an activist in Philadelphia, in New York, and in Washington we’re going to talk to all the Darfurians. I am an American citizen, and many Darfurians are American citizens. We are not going to vote for Obama at all. Because what he said before is different than what he is doing today. He said, “My father comes from Kenya, and I know what is happening in Sudan”, he went to Darfur in 2006, he visited all the Darfurian refugee camps in eastern Chad, he promised us when he become President, he was going to stop the genocide. Now he never even talks about it. He never says anything about Sudan now, about the genocide. So, next time, from here to 2012, it’s not too far away, we are not going to vote for him.
We need somebody to say something. Because America has the power. We need somebody to open his mouth and say “Bashir, don’t kill people in Sudan.” Bashir and the Arab Muslims kill us for more than 55 years in Sudan. From 1956 to today, we die. An awful lot of people.
Some people in the United States, they think Bush is a criminal. But we, in Africa, especially in Sudan, worship him as a hero. Because he brought peace in South Sudan. When he was in office, he told every day “Bashir, you stop killing the people.” President Bush helped us a lot. And today we feel really bad that Bush is not in office.
All Darfurians, all the Sudanese community in America are angry at Obama. We are 6,000 Sudanese in Philadelphia, and 5,500 are angry at Obama. I helped Obama to become President. I walked house to house. I was a volunteer. At that time I was a student at Rutgers University. I didn’t go to most of my classes, because I helped Obama. Why did I help Obama? It”s not about color, it’s not about African, or white, or black or latino. It’s because he claimed “I understand the Sudan situation.” But he didn’t understand nothing. Even if he understands, he doesn’t want to do nothing.
Tomorrow, when the election comes, he’s going to say, if he sees white people, he’s going to say “Oooo – my mother is from white people”. And if he sees black people, he’s going to say “my father’s from black people.” No, we don’t have time to listen. We don’t have time to think about him. We need to stop genocide in Sudan. We don’t care if you are white or black, it’s enough that you are a human being. Today is 2010. And we’re still dying like animals in the Sudan. Sudan’s government kills people every day. Two hundred, three hundred. Why? He should say something!
I haven’t met Tom Tancredo personally, but I always hear about him. What I hear is that he is a great person, and he always helps people. I hear a lot of people talk about Tom Tancredo,especially Dr. Abelgabar Adam, and also Sudan Freedom Walk’s leader, Simon Deng. Those are two heros from Sudan, those people walked from New York City to Washington D.C. for 21 days.
We, as Sudanese marginalized people, we want to help him. We thank Tom Tancredo a lot, and we hope he is going to win.
Tancredo’s leadership in foreign affairs is relevant to his qualifications to run for governor. Many congressmen and senators (including Senator Barack Obama) travel to conflict areas around the world and treat those trips as photo-ops and subject matter for empty rhetoric. Tancredo’s trip to Sudan propelled him to sponsor legislation that corralled the world’s greatest human rights catastrophe into a framework for peace. Not only did he achieve important action, he did so in a bipartisan way, with co-sponsors on the bill including Democrats as recalcitrant as Barbara Lee and Cynthia McKinney. It’s very telling that his Facebook page says the Sudan Freedom Act is Tom Tancredo’s proudest lifetime achievement.
I first heard Tancredo speak at a tea party campaign stop in Conifer, Colorado, late in the evening of October 20. Started in July, 2010, the 285 Corridor Tea Party is one of the nation’s newest. Tancredo didn’t mention foreign policy, but spoke only of state and national domestic issues to the standing room only crowd. Tancredo is a gifted speaker whose natural humility and detailed plans for Colorado’s future had me completely captivated. It’s no wonder he is surging in the polls. Enthusiastic support is coming from many directions, including a lead in the polls among hispanic voters. The latest polling shows Tancredo with all the momentum in a statistical tie with his Democrat opponent Denver mayor John Hickenlooper.
After a long day of speaking and pressing the flesh, Tancredo still had time to share a laugh with a voter after the crowd departed. Tancredo is a happy man and a happy warrior and Colorado will be lucky to have him as a governor.
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