US Representative Donald Payne Dead at 77

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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Representative Donald Payne, the U.S. state of New Jersey's first black congressman, and a dedicated advocate for democracy in Africa, has died after a battle with colon cancer.

Sources close to the 77-year-old Payne say he died Tuesday at a New Jersey hospital. Payne announced last month that he was undergoing cancer treatment.

The Democratic lawmaker had held his congressional seat since 1988 and was elected to a twelfth term in 2010.

Payne was well-known for his work on African issues, serving as ranking member of the House subcommittee on Africa and previously, chairman.

Payne visited the African continent many times for foreign affairs matters. During a visit to Somalia in April 2009, insurgents fired mortar shells toward the Mogadishu airport as he was departing the capital city by plane.

Payne left the airport safely, but there were civilian injuries from the mortar fire.

Payne had been in Somalia to meet with the president and prime minister on piracy, security and cooperation.

About a month later, he led a fast for Sudan's Darfur region, calling on Congress and the Obama administration to increase opposition to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom he accused of “unspeakable atrocities.”

In 2004, Payne helped win passage of a resolution declaring the killing in Darfur genocide, and he also authored the Sudan Peace Act, facilitating famine relief efforts.

Payne also was a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and headed the group's nonprofit foundation.