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Sudan: Stop Using Food as a Weapon of Mass Starvation

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, in about 6 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, Madam 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, Madam Speaker, because the rainy season is coming soon, and then no one will 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 Sudan. You see the Antonov bomber flying north, back towards the Sudanese military airbase. You see the smoke plumes rising up from civilian villages. You see fields and orchards being bombed. These are not military targets, Madam Speaker. There's not even a truck or a pickup that might be used for military purposes. All you see are villages, huts, orchards, and fields. Antonovs don't do precision bombing, Madam Speaker; they just open up the back bay of the airplane and roll out barrels of explosives.

This is an image, Madam Speaker, of the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. This is a war crime. It took place on March 8. And here, Madam Speaker, are the targets of the bombs and rockets: children, Madam Speaker, hiding and starving in caves.

This photo was taken by John Prendergast, of the Enough Project, and George Clooney, who were in South Kordofan on March 8. 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, Congressman 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; our former colleague Tom Andrews, now 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 the 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.

Madam 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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