We were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Congressman Donald M. Payne. Many knew him as a champion for human rights in Africa. The Washington Post noted that he was “among the first public officials to denounce mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan as ‘genocide,’” and that he led a delegation to Rwanda in 1994, seeking to end the violence there. He helped raise awareness and funding to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria around the world.
At the Latin America Working Group, we also knew him as a champion for internally displaced persons, refugees, Afro-descendants, and indigenous persons in Latin America. In recent years, he traveled to Colombia and spoke out for Colombia’s over 5 million internally displaced persons and refugees, and for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities caught in the midst of a brutal conflict. As the Washington Office on Latin America recalled, Donald Payne “systematically took action to protect the lives of Afro-Colombian activists, human rights defenders, and internally displaced leaders.”
When we needed members of Congress to stand up for peace, justice and human rights in Latin America, Mr. Payne was always there. He will be greatly missed.