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“We Must Not Be Silent”: Rep. McGovern Testifies about Human Rights Crisis in Sudan

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“We Must Not Be Silent”: Rep. McGovern Testifies about Human Rights Crisis in Sudan

Posted by Mollie Zapata on March 22, 2012

This post originally appeared on the Satellite Sentinel Project blog.

As part of swell in attention to the ongoing crisis in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan from seasoned advocates in Congress, U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) delivered a speech on the House floor on March 21 calling on the U.S. government to increase efforts to address the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the embattled state of South Kordofan.

McGovern presented two images to support his testimony. The first was of an Antonov bomber flying over South Kordofan, leaving smoke plumes in its wake.

“The satellite picture is from the Satellite Sentinel Project, set up by Mr. [George] 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.”

McGovern explained that the image shows fields and orchards and apparent civilian structures—not a military target in sight. “This is an image, Mr. Speaker, of the indiscriminate bombing of civilians,” McGovern said, “This is a war crime. It took place on March 8th.”

The second image was a photo, taken on Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast and George Clooney’s recent trip to Sudan, of Nuban children cowering in caves in the Nuba Mountains. Civilians have been forced to hide in the mountains since attacks began in South Kordofan in June 2011.

Traditionally, the Nubans live off their stored crops during the rainy season, which will begin in about six weeks. However, because of the constant threat of indiscriminate bombings, the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have been unable to plant and harvest crops.

The Nubans “are already suffering from malnutrition and a severe shortage of food,” McGovern said. He pointed out that this humanitarian emergency is “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.”

The U.S. government, along with the United Nations, African Union, and Arab League, has been pressuring the Sudanese government to allow international humanitarian aid groups access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North agreed to allow international access in February, but Khartoum continues to stonewall aid efforts, and just this week withheld its consent to the humanitarian initiative.

“And the clock is ticking,” stated McGovern. “[T]he 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.”

His powerful testimony concluded with a call for the Obama administration “to engage China, at the very highest levels, to also demand unfettered access for humanitarian aid.”

Watch the video of Rep. McGovern’s testimony on YouTube.