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Rep. McGovern to Sudan, after arrest with Clooney: "Stop using food as a weapon of mass starvation!"

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Published on Mar 21, 2012

M. Speaker -- In about six weeks, the rainy season will begin in Sudan. Villagers will no longer be able to plant or harvest their crops. The roads will become impassible. It is the time of the year when people live off their harvests, their orchards and the land.

But there is no food in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile inside Sudan. Not because of drought. Not because locusts have destroyed the crops. No, Mr. Speaker, this is a deliberate, man-made catastrophe created by Sudanese President Bashir.

For months, Khartoum has been launching rockets and dropping bombs on villages and fields throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The people of the Nuba Mountains, primarily of black African descent, cannot work their fields for fear of being bombed. They hide in caves as bombers and helicopters fly overhead. Rockets bombard their villages.

Sudanese soldiers march into their villages -- killing, raping, setting fire to their homes -- carrying out a "scorched earth" policy.

The people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are already suffering from malnutrition and a severe shortage of food. Thousands are fleeing south, crossing into the newly-independent nation of South Sudan, setting up refugee camps along the northern borders. Mainly women and children, they arrive traumatized, exhausted and malnourished.

President Bashir has denied humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile for the delivery of desperately-needed food aid.

He wants no witnesses to his deliberate use of mass starvation as a weapon against his own people.

And the clock is ticking, M. Speaker, because the rainy season is coming soon -- and then no one will be able to get food into these areas. But the bombs will continue to fall from the sky.

Take a look at these photographs. The first one is a remarkable satellite image of villages being bombed in South Kordofan. You see the Antonov bomber flying north, back towards the Sudanese military airbase. You also see smoke plumes rising up from civilian villages. Fields and orchards being bombed. These are not military targets. There's not even a truck or a pickup that might be used for military purposes. Just village huts, orchards, and fields.

Antonovs don't do precision bombing, M. Speaker. They just open up the back bay of the airplane and roll out barrels of explosives.

This is an image, M. Speaker, of the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. This is a war crime. It took place on March 8th.

And here are the targets of the bombs and rockets: Children, M. Speaker, hiding and starving in caves.

This photo [of the children in caves] was taken by John Prendergast of the Enough Project and George Clooney, who were in South Kordofan on March 8th. They saw the planes, and rockets striking villages.

The satellite picture is from the Satellite Sentinel Project, set up by Mr. Clooney and DigitalGlobe, which has donated millions of dollars of imagery from its satellites in an effort to provide an early warning system for human security in this region of Sudan.

Last Friday, I stood on the steps of the Sudanese embassy with George Clooney and my House colleagues, Congressmen John Olver, Jim Moran and Al Green. We were all arrested protesting the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

We were joined by:
• George's father and journalist Nick Clooney;
• John Prendergast of the Enough Project;
• Tom Andrews with United to End Genocide;
• Martin Luther King III;
• Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP;
• Nicole Lee, President of TransAfrica Forum;
• Faye Williams, Chair of the National Congress of Black Women;
• Activist Dick Gregory;
• Rabbis David Saperstein and Steve Gutow;
• Fred Kramer with Jewish World Watch; and
• Ian Schwab with American Jewish World Service.

We had a simple message: Let food and humanitarian aid reach the suffering people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Stop raping, killing, bombing and starving innocent women, children and men.

I commend the Obama Administration for pressuring Khartoum to let food reach these desperate people. But more must be done. I urge the President to engage China, at the very highest levels, to also demand unfettered access for humanitarian aid.

M. Speaker -- the world must increase the pressure on President Bashir -- or watch another crime against humanity take place in Sudan.

We must not be silent.

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