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Engel Works with NAACP New Rochelle President to Protect Cultural Heritage in the Republic of the Sudan

Written By: Robert Cox

“As we celebrate Black History Month, I want to recognize and thank Congressman Engel for his role in helping to preserve African history and cultural heritage” – Minister Mark McLean

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — When Minister Mark McLean, President of the NAACP New Rochelle Branch, went on a pilgrimage to Ancient Kemet (Egypt) and visited a Nubian Village in 2019, he learned about the destruction of countless archeological treasures and the displacement of tens of thousands of Nubian people due to the building of the Awsan Dam more than 50 years ago. The story broke his heart, and much to his great dismay he learned that this same process could possibly happen all over again in the northern part of the Sudan, with the long-delayed Kajbar Dam project.

“The Kajbar Dam was scheduled to be built by a Chinese company and would again displace thousands of Nubian people and destroy 500 archaeological sites in the Northern Sudan region,” McLean said. “When I returned home, my colleague Mr. Clifford Sparks of Dallas and I were determined to raise awareness of the issue, and try and get the African-American community and our government to weigh in to preserve our history and cultural heritage.”

Upon returning to the United States, Minister McLean reached out to his Member of Congress, Representative Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to see what could be done. In response, Engel hosted a Foreign Affairs Committee briefing titled “Preserving Cultural Heritage and Human Rights While Advancing Energy Projects” focused on the dams being built in the Sudan, Guatemala and Turkey, led by a panel of experts including International Rivers, Julia Harte of Reuters and the Guatemala Human Rights Commission. In January 2020, Engel wrote a letter to the Administration expressing his concerns about the potential creation of the Kajbar Dam.

“Minister McLean brought the Kajbar Dam to my attention after seeing firsthand what was threatened by its creation,” Engel said. “I have been a long-time supporter of cultural preservation and stand opposed to the development of any dam that does not take into account the communities and property that will be affected, along with the environmental impacts. The continued protection of the Nubian people and their cultural heritage must remain a priority in the Sudan. The Kajbar Dam is a hydropower project that has been met with protests since it was announced under the country’s former regime. The Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government has made significant progress in distinguishing itself from the former Bashir regime, so I am optimistic that this long-delayed project will remain on ice. But I will continue to monitor the situation should plans to resume construction of the Kajbar Dam be revisited.”

The development of the Kajbar Dam is not being actively pursued by Sudanese leaders. Minister McLean said he was thankful for Chairman Engel’s work in educating Congress on the consequences of building the Dam.

“Congressman Eliot Engel proved to be an invaluable government resource in successfully addressing this issue,” McLean said. “His Chairmanship of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs made it possible for his office to directly address the dam issue and deliver positive results. Through his willingness to use the power of his office to preserve ancient history that is important not only to the African-American community, but  indeed the world community,  Congressman Engel ensured that America’s voice was heard on the side of helping the Nubian people of the Sudan.

“As we celebrate Black History Month, I want to recognize and thank Congressman Engel for his role in helping to preserve African history and cultural heritage.”

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