George Clooney, President of United to End Genocide and former Congressman Tom Andrews, Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-MA), Al Green (D-TX), Jim Moran (D-VA) and John Olver (D-MA), Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast, and other human rights and faith leaders were arrested today for civil disobedience outside of the Sudanese Embassy while protesting the escalating humanitarian emergency in Sudan that threatens the lives of 500,000 people.
These leaders demanded that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir immediately end the blockade that is preventing food and humanitarian aid from reaching the people of Sudan's Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions. Bashir's forces created the dire food shortage in the region--predicted by USAID to reach near-famine levels this month--by bombing fields and preventing villagers from planting crops in July and August last year.
After speaking on the steps of the embassy to hundreds of activists, members of Congress and activist leaders were asked by police to leave the scene. When the protest continued, officers arrested those who would not comply. Additional participants arrested in the civil disobedience included Nick Clooney, Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism Director Rabbi David Saperstein, Jewish World Watch Executive Director Fred Kramer, and American Jewish World Service Associate Director of Policy Ian Schwab.
Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail, a Nuban leader from South Kordofan, Sudan addressed the crowd at the embassy, along with Darfuri activist and United to End Genocide Director of Global Partnerships Niemat Ahmadi, and Sudanese activist for Darfur and Enough Project Senior Advisor Omer Ismail. Dr. Richard Land, President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and TransAfrica Forum President Nicole Lee also spoke.
"We are protesting to make sure the Sudanese government knows that the world is watching," states Congressman Jim McGovern. "The United States Congress is watching. And we will be back again and again until they stop using food as a weapon; stop slaughtering innocent men, women and children; and stop spitting in the face of the world community."
John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, says: "George Clooney and I just returned from the Nuba Mountains, where the Sudan government regularly bombs civilians and blocks humanitarian aid to the war-torn regions along the border with South Sudan. It is urgent that the Khartoum government allow aid access. More broadly, the window is now open for a comprehensive political settlement on all the issues that divide Sudan and South Sudan, and the U.S. is playing an important role in supporting that effort."
"It is unacceptable and inexcusable that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir--an internationally criminal wanted for war crimes and genocide--is getting away with bombing, starving and displacing hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Sudan's Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State," says United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews. "We need to hear the outrage from President Obama and see robust international leadership. The United States should immediately do everything in its power to get food to the region before people starve and increase sanctions on Bashir and his forces."
"We should not allow the tragedy of Darfur to be repeated. Hundreds of thousands of people died before the international community and United States took action. The question for the people in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile is will the U.S. government act now, or will the response be too little, too late," states United to End Genocide Director of Global Partnerships Niemat Ahmadi who is originally from Darfur, Sudan.