McKinney Commends Clinton on Refugee Assistance to Africa
June 10, 1998
(Washington) - Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney today commended President Clinton on the recent disbursement of Emergency Refugee and Migratory Assistance (ERMA) funds to Rwanda and Sierra Leone. "This funding is greatly needed to assist the estimated 80,000 Rwandan households now headed by children and women in need of special counseling and economic assistance after the traumas they have suffered due to the 1994 genocide," stated McKinney. The State Department this week announced the disbursement of $14 million to Rwanda and $18 million to Sierra Leone.
Largely responsible for convincing President Clinton to include Rwanda on his visit to Africa, McKinney corresponded with the White House suggesting that the ERMA fund, which then contained an unprecedented $120 million for refugee-related emergencies, be tapped to assist with the massive refugee reintegration and reconciliation needs in Rwanda. Ethnic Tutsi and Hutu returnees to Rwanda are settling into new villages that often lack water systems, adequate roads, health clinics, or schools. In one letter to the President McKinney stated, "A special drawdown of $30 million to $50 million from the ERMA fund to assist Rwandans’ reintegrate would be an appropriate use of moneys and would still leave sufficient funds in ERMA for other emergencies around the world."
Following the president’s historic trip to the Continent McKinney offered testimony before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations suggesting that ERMA funds be disbursed to Rwanda and Sierra Leone. In her testimony McKinney stated, " There are 300,000 Sierra Leoneans dispersed in Gambia, Guinea, and Liberia... U.S. funds should be used for this crisis..." Today McKinney concluded, "Economic development and social stability are the building blocks for democracy. The U.S. can continue to help make this happen."