Updated with additional insights from Omer Ismail.
Mourning the loss of U.S. Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ) on March 6, 2012 at the age of 77, Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast stated:
"The world has lost a true champion of human rights and social justice with the passing of Congressman Don Payne. He treated every job equally, whether it was helping a constituent in New Jersey or helping to create the world's newest country in South Sudan. And he treated all people equally as well, from people in prison to people in the White House. He was an honorable, kind, decent, modest man. And he made an impact that will take years to fully calculate."
Omer Ismail, a Sudanese activist on Darfur and a senior advisor to the Enough Project, stated:
"It is a sad day for freedom fighters everywhere. For the Sudanese people, we have lost a champion and an ally, a person who fought along side us for liberty, human rights, and the right to live with dignity. Congressman Payne will be greatly missed."
Ismail recounted a poignant memory of traveling with Congressman Payne:
One time, in Kigali, Rwanda, we met two Darfuris who were deported from England after they failed in their asylum case. They were tortured and abused by the security authorities in Sudan. Upon their release, they left Khartoum in a hurry, and found their way to Rwanda. After knowing about the story, he asked me if I could arrange a meeting with the young men, so I did. He met and listened to them and promised them he would talk to the Rwandan authorities at the highest possible level and will raise their case. He did, and the Rwandan government granted stay to the young men, until they later choose to resettle in a different country.
After serving in the U.S. Congress for more than two decades, Congressman Payne died from complications with cancer, according to a statement issued by his office today.
Photo: Congressman Payne visits with community in Eritrea (Office of Congressman Payne)