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George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

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George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Katiedot on Sun May 06 2012, 08:42

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George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Lindsay Novisin

I’ve always been skeptical of Hollywood's celebrity activism. The major players of Hollywood hold tremendous influence, whether they like it or not, and many people around the world look up to the decisions they make; decisions that, let’s just say, are not always the wisest. Over the past few years, George Clooney has consciously chosen to become a celebrity activist, and I have to say, after examining his actions, he’s persuaded me to be a little less cynical when it comes to Hollywood activism.

In a January 2001, interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Clooney explained that his forray into activism occurred in the early 2000s when he was reading Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times columns chronicling the unfolding tragedies in Sudan. While the columns were well written and informed, they just weren’t garnering the attention the crisis warranted. So, in response to this, and the general lack of media coverage for similar events, Clooney decided to bring attention to the issue himself.

Since 2005, Clooney has made six trips to the Sudan and spent a considerable amount of time educating himself on the situation — which is anything but straightforward. In the Piers Morgan interview, Clooney mentioned spending a few hours every day reading up on the conflict -- a practice that speaks to his philosophy that activists should find one cause and dedicate themselves to it fully. He articulates in the same interview, that in order to be convincing you have to know precisely what you're talking about, and be able to field questions from both supporters and skeptics alike. This philosophy has undoubteley helped him as he's testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the UN General Assembly, and the UN Security Council.

This commitment to the Sudanese people lead Clooney to establish an organization called Not On Our Watch, which focuses on shifting "global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world." According to its website, Not on Our Watch focuses on continued humanitarian crises in three areas of the world: Sudan/South Sudan, Burma, and Zimbabwe.

In addition to this organization, Clooney, along with John Prendergast, established a satellite regulatory system called the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) in conjunction with DigitalGlobal satellites, and analysis provided by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The project's website states that the satellites goal is to deter:

"… a return to full-scale civil war between northern and southern Sudan and deterring and documenting threats to civilians along both sides of the border. SSP focuses world attention on mass atrocities in Sudan and uses its imagery and analysis to generate rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns."

As if these efforts didn't demonstrate Clooney's commitment to the cause enough, earlier this year, he was arrested, along with his father Nick Clooney, Martin Luther King III, and several congressmen, while protesting at the Sudanese embassy in Washington D.C. Clooney undoubtedly knew that his arrest would get serious media attention, and it certainly did. Every media outlet, from tmz.com to the New York Times covered his arrest. Impressively, Clooney was insistent upon making the arrest about the Sudanese hunger crisis and human rights abuses in the region, and not about himself.

While his efforts abroad are considerable, Clooney also remains active in select issues at home. Most notably, he has been a strong supporter of Barack Obama since his first election campaign in 2008, and continues to support the President in his re-election campaign. On May 10,Clooney will host what may well be the biggest fundraising event of President Obama's re-election campaign. Tickets to the now sold-out dinner, co-hosted by Dream Works Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, went for $40,000 per seat, and the event is estimated to raise about $12 million for the campaign. Six million of that sum will come from the tickets purchased, while it's estimated that the other half will come from a contest that puts the winner at the same table as Obama and Clooney. Contestants enter the draw by donating to Obama's re-election campaign.

Back in Hollywood, Clooney has appeared as the informal head of a certain unofficial activist’s club, one that is comprised of intelligent, ultra-successful actors that all have a particular focus on bringing awareness to causes around the world. This club is not founded on pretension and narcicissm, but rather a genuine desire to bring attention to under-reported and atrocious crimes against humanity around the globe. Instead of doing activism for the sake of self-promotion, or making themselves look good, these actors seek to use their celebrity to promote the causes of marganilized groups of people. Not including Clooney, the most prominent members are Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and Matt Damon, who also all co-founded Not on Our Watch.

Keeping with his career, Clooney has also helped co-write, direct, produce, and act in several politically driven movies, including The Ides of March, Syriana, and Good Night and Good Luck. It’s clear that even though Clooney repeatedly says he’ll never run for office, he has a strong interest in politics and making sure that his choices in life promote awareness and thought.

It’s commendable that Clooney has consciously chosen to take his celebrity and use it to raise awareness and help others. No doubt, it would be easy for him to retreat into a life of luxury and comfort, never emerging from his famed home on Lake Como, and never giving a second thought to atrocities happening far from bubble of Hollywood. Instead, where others choose to act out against the constant attention that comes with the job, Clooney has chosen to accept it and use it to help others.

While it would be easy to get infuriated at the constant paparazzi coverage of day-to-day life, it’s also a tool that can be used to shed light on otherwise rarely covered issues. This is exactly what Clooney has done; it’s certainly better than sitting back while mass genocide occurs around the world. Clooney continuously references his parents repeated mantra that when you are as lucky as he is, "you have a responsibility to look out for those less fortunate and to challenge the people in power."

While they jury is still out as to whether this outside, celebrity activism will have any positive, long-term affects on crises around the world, for now I think it's commendable that Clooney has chosen to use his celebrity strategically to highlight dire humanitarian situations, rather than being complacent in ignoring and brushing them aside. He supplements this activism by supporting politicians at home that he thinks can get the job done and be proponents of his causes.

And he's certainly made me a little less cynical about activism coming from major Hollywood stars, at least for now.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun May 06 2012, 12:41

And we can add to that list the speaking engagements in Hong Kong, Sydney and Houston which themselves raised thousands which were donated to maintain Satellite Sentinel...........

Amazing man

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by melbert on Sun May 06 2012, 13:53

Absolutely Party! Totally A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!!!!

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sat May 19 2012, 14:32

Does anyone know if there's been any progress AT ALL on the vitally urgent matter of helping all those in Sudan currently being bombed as a matter of course on a almost day-to-day basis and who are very likely to starve in their thousands in a couple of weeks if the International Community don't get their act together??!!

Food corridors? UN? International Criminal Court? G8 summit?


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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by caudata on Sun May 20 2012, 01:57

party animal - not! wrote:Does anyone know if there's been any progress AT ALL on the vitally urgent matter of helping all those in Sudan currently being bombed as a matter of course on a almost day-to-day basis and who are very likely to starve in their thousands in a couple of weeks if the International Community don't get their act together??!!

Food corridors? UN? International Criminal Court? G8 summit?


I was wondering about this was well. I know that people who make it out are being taken care of, but I don't know about the people who are still stuck there. I don't really understand the UN's position of neutrality in this situation. The last I heard, the UN won't go in to give them food unless Sudan, the entity responsible for bombing and starving these people, gives permission. At what point does the UN hand food/aid over to another organization that's willing to go in without al-Bashir's say-so? When it's too late? The ICC issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir two years ago, why he hasn't been arrested, I don't know. Can't the UN just go in and say "hi, we're taking your president, goodbye"? I guess I don't understand world politics.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun May 20 2012, 02:24

Yep, the young American guy who married a Sudanese girl and stayed out there in the Nuba mountains is wondering exactly the same thing, Caudata. George and John Prendergast went to see him in the Nuba mountains. His twitter page (@RyanBoyette) over the last few days says it all. He's been bombed and now believes he is a target of al-Bashir's.

Can't imagine the frustration GTC is feeling, when we feel this from this distance!

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by caudata on Sun May 20 2012, 02:44

You're right party animal-not, it must be incredibly frustrating for people like George, John, and particularly Ryan, who have been there, met with these people, and have spent so much time and effort on trying to save them.

I got this from: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] There hasn't been an update from him since.


Update-May 11, 2012 – Today I was targeted.

Today at exactly 9:50am the Government of Sudan targeted my wife and I in our house. An Antonov airplane flew over the house dropping a total of six bombs in a row. The first bomb landed 30 meters to the west of our house and the second about 50 meters east of our house and the rest of the bombs landed in a line from the first two bombs.

Some friends were visiting me in my house when I heard a Sudanese Government Antonov Airplane. I went outside and noticed the plane was coming directly for my house. When I saw the plane coming directly over me, my friends and I ran behind the house and laid down as quick as possible. We could hear the bombs falling through the air and within seconds there was a huge explosion less than 30 meters from where we were laying down. My wife was visiting our neighbor at the time of the bombing. She also took cover behind a rock very close to where the third bomb exploded. She saw a large piece of shrapnel fly over her as she laid down. After all 6 bombs exploded the plane went back towards the north.

I rushed to find my wife and we were both relived that neither of us was hurt and we quickly checked with people in the area if any one was wounded or killed by the bombing. Despite all 6 bombs landing near homes only one 75 year old woman named Halima had a small wound on her head. After treating the old woman's wound, we then assessed the damage at our house. Some shrapnel from the first bomb hit our house causing minor damage to the outside wall and punching a hole in our roof. My wife and I sat and prayed to thank God that we were ok after the bombing.

Not a single soldier lives in the village that I live in and it is far from any front line.

I realize that I am now a target. I have experienced many bombings here in Nuba but today I realize that someone woke up this morning and got in the airplane with the mission to kill me. This was also the closest bomb that has exploded near me. I realize the fear that men, women and children have when the bombs are falling on them.

I am not surprised that I have been targeted by the Sudan Government as they do not want the world to know the truth about what is happening in Sudan. Recently, Omar Bashir made the statement that he will conduct Friday prayers in the SPLA-N controlled town of Kauda in Southern Kordofan. Omar's Bashir's soldiers are far from Kauda and have realized that Bashir's attempts to overrun the people of Southern Kordofan is his own prideful mission and does not help Sudan as a country. As a result many of his soldiers have no desire to fight with there brothers in Southern Kordofan. Since he was unable to enter Kauda he decided to drop bombs yesterday in Kauda and today at my house. He drops bombs from an airplane very high in the air in rural civilian areas, where he is unreachable by any weapon of the SPLA-N.

What surprises me more is that the international community is doing nothing to stop the bombings that are affecting the lives of some many people in Nuba. Many have died, many have been wounded and maimed and even as I write this email people are dying of starvation because they were not able to plant last year due to the daily bombings. The rainy season is coming. If the bombing continues and people are not able to plant, more will die. But yet the international community does nothing. They write it off as a North / South issue and all they can do is tell Khartoum and Juba to stop, instead of really looking at the core issues of why Sudan has no peace. Why was there fighting for 21 years between the North and the South that lead a separation. Why has there been fighting in Darfur since 2005 up to now. Why is there protest in Khartoum and the east of Sudan. Why is there all out fighting in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan with aerial bombardment every single day. The government of Sudan has failed its own people in Nuba, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other parts of Sudan. The UN, the AU and international governments are failing the people of Sudan by allowing Sudan to bomb its own people. That is what surprises me. I have seen how the government of Sudan acts towards its own people for the past nine years so I expect such behavior but what surprises me is that leaders even in Africa and other international governments are not willing to make a stand against what this government is doing to its own civilians.

I have attached a picture of the bombing.


Ryan Boyette

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by it's me on Sun May 20 2012, 03:59

there are no words

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun May 20 2012, 11:08

Yep. And that's the irony of the whole thing. Unless people who have the power start talking and acting, there will be a even bigger, very horrible silence from that part of the world!! And it's all going on, and on, and on....

(Sorry! Could very exorcised about this......)

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun May 20 2012, 12:52

Ryan Boyette twitter account.

Maybe anyone who has a twitter account
could send a message of support from COH members ?


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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun May 20 2012, 14:01

What a really great idea, Joanna!

Aargh.!! Don't have one, being technically challenged on a permanent basis.

Anyone? Please..............Katie, what do you think?

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by melbert on Sun May 20 2012, 15:16

I just sent one and told him that they are in our prayers.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by it's me on Sun May 20 2012, 17:51

me too sent one
thanks for suggesting us Hug1

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by playfuldeb on Sun May 20 2012, 20:06

The good thing about this is that there must be some extreme pressure on the bad guys if they have to start targeting these people to extricate them from the political interventions. The bad thing is that George may soon become a target on one of his visits.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by it's me on Sun May 20 2012, 20:14

hon
he was
from the first time

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun May 20 2012, 20:22

I've always been concerned that George would be targeted because of his high profile about the Sudan government, where ever he is.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by it's me on Sun May 20 2012, 20:44

he is
someway
too big to fail

so his 'weight' is his... insurance

(or that I highly hope)

well
putting things into a different perspective
somehow he wanted/needed to do something for others

he did

in his way

maybe not fully aware
or not wanting to 'bother' with further implications



at the end
who loves him
have to respect his idea

and support him too
even with big fear
in the heart


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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Katiedot on Tue Aug 07 2012, 12:00

Something thematically related to the above article:

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Firstly, it must be noted that the author of this piece has never been to Sudan in any of its manifestations. Neither does he profess to be an arm chair expert, floating opinions and arguments over twitter and viciously trolling opponents.

However, neither does he seek to make an analysis of Sudan's history or politics, but rather to look at how people who have been there, or at least those who write with the air of having been there, are currently writing about Sudan.

At present, the focus of commentary in non-specialist publications is weighted towards South Sudan which, owing to the recent one year anniversary of its independence, has invited much reflective analysis on what progress (if any) has been made. This has for the most part been gloomy.

Sudan as a whole has been, for at least a decade, one of the African countries that a bigger-than-average constituency of outsiders have known about, cared about and consistently manufactured humanitarian and political campaigns on (see Save Darfur). Owing to the long-running North-South civil war, which it was hoped had been ‘fixed’ through the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the easily vilified Khartoum-based government and high-profile campaign figures, its has maintained an elevated position in the reporting of African current affairs.

Additionally, a marketable narrative emerged which portrayed the South Sudanese as a subjugated black African (Christian) minority existing under the whip-hand of an exploitative Arab (Islamic) elite in the North. Whilst this narrative is rooted in some truth, and I do not intend to interrogate the complexities of Sudan’s many-faceted layers of internal conflict, what has been interesting to observe is how such analyses have changed or expanded over the past 12 months to more fully integrate South Sudan as a political actor with its own internal problems and divisions.

Free at last

Compared with the euphoria at independence in July last year, any reasonably diligent observer of mainstream reporting on Africa will have noticed that things in Sudan have really gone south, and fast. Some examples: this site’s joint-editor Alex de Waal wrote in the New York Times in January, when the Southern government decided to shut down oil production, that this could be ‘South Sudan’s Doomsday Machine’. Not just a bump in the road, or a minor difficulty, but a threat to the very functioning of the state. It should also be noted that this threat was the product of a decision made by the government of South Sudan (SPLM), which effectively suspended the source of 97 percent of its national budget. A tactic which might reasonably be described as ‘risky.’ Such decisions have serious implications – how were government services as fundamental as health and education to be paid for? To put it mildly, international eyebrows were raised.

In April, The Pulitzer Centre, in its introduction to a special reporting project called Milk and Blood: the making of South Sudan, opined that:

‘to many living in South Sudan, peace feels a lot like war. South Sudan looks like a nation on the map, but in reality is a land with no uniting identity, poor leadership, rampant corruption and violent divisions. It’s also at war with its new neighbour to the north.’

But surely such problems were largely predictable and didn’t suddenly emerge post-independence? Were expectations simply unrealistic? Even De Waal seemed a little surprised: “it all looked so good just over a year ago” he said, opening a lecture whilst Sudanese brinkmanship was probably at its height, soon after the Southern invasion of the oil region of Heglig. Admittedly, he was referring largely to the diplomatic situation between North and South, the deterioration of which seems to have triggered the current soul-searching over the internal quality of the new regime.

Ellie Kaufman, writing for the Pulitzer Centre, quotes, Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, who in June 2012 expressed hopes that the international community could hold the conflict in its current stalemate:

“If we, the international community, and the two parties themselves can move towards a situation where things don’t get worse, where they don’t stumble back into conflict, and where they can get to more pragmatic decisions and relationships for each other, I think for the time being that’s pretty good.”

Not particularly inspiring stuff – the best we can hope for being that North and South Sudan will stop fighting each other. So how did we get from the optimism of South Sudanese independence to doomsday thinking and a rather tentative clutching-at-straws?

Events dear boy, events

At independence, perhaps not wanting to spoil the party (or reserving judgement,) many commentators and journalists spoke of South Sudan’s ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities.’ Such language always betrays the fact that whilst a country may have lots of one rather desirable thing (eg oil, gold, young people…) it’s going to be rather difficult turning it in to liberal democracy and the NHS. Richard Dowden however, wrote in a blog post after a visit to South Sudan, that an atmosphere of ‘lackadaisical ease’ hung over Juba’s ministry offices and ‘among the chattering classes’. He pointedly wondered whether the government of South Sudan, the liberators, was actually part of the problem – rather than this simply being the preserve of the evil-doers in Khartoum.

South Sudan’s new government, according to Richard, is ‘largely a list of loyal and long-serving SPLM members receiving their rewards.’ Whilst negotiating the streets of the capital he made the telling observation that:

‘increasingly you have to pull over while a minister’s convoy of fat, dark windowed four by fours roars by, sirens wailing and lights flashing. When this happens the walkers have to jump into the muddy ditch. These smart new roads have no pavements. They are built for the cars of the elite, not for the people.’

The warm glow of liberation could only last so long, and as Dan Large, a writer and analyst on Sudan said to me: “False expectations are being corrected, perhaps, as the circus moves on, but what were folks expecting to begin with: Denmark to be created in a year, complete with nice welfare state?”

South Sudanese academic Jok Madut Jok (now an undersecretary in the ministry of culture) describes his own feelings towards ‘liberation’ after being beaten up by a group of SPLA soldiers – it [liberation] can become a more destructive philosophy when wedded to a reckless militarism and poorly regulated armed forces.

“We liberated it” is now thrown in your face left and right, even if it means taking the liberty to be drunk on the job, loot public property, claim entitlement for a job one is not qualified for, beat or even shoot to kill civilians, over nonsense. Liberators? To what end?

Gerard Prunier, quoted in an article for Foreign Policy (more on which later) described South Sudan as having a “government of idiots” who are “rotten to the core.” This assessment came shortly after Prunier had resigned as an advisor to the SPLM. Prunier, a long-time academic and commentator on the Horn and Central Africa, seems on the whole to be thoroughly disillusioned with the entire Sudan ‘project.’ He wrote, in an earlier New York Times op-ed, that in Sudan ‘we’ should ‘give war a chance,’ it being ‘a lot better than waiting around for a negotiated peace that will never come.’ He also touched on an argument that has been increasingly in evidence of late:

‘The American-sponsored Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 was supposed to cure Sudan’s endemic conflict, but it used the wrong medicine.’

Whilst Prunier is making an argument that extends beyond South Sudan concerning, in his words, ‘ the one-third of the Sudanese people — the African Muslims’, now battling the North Sudanese government in a ‘de facto alliance with southern Christians’ – it is the nature of this analysis that I am most interested in. This being the argument that the so-called solutions for peace were not the right solutions. Did ‘we’ back the wrong horses? Reconcile ‘ourselves’ to talking to the wrong people? And who do we mean by ‘we’ anyway?

The Washington Wonks

Alan Boswell, writer of the aforementioned Foreign Policy article The Failed State Lobby thinks he has the answer. This being, that it was a small group of influential US-based activists, including John Prendergast of the Enough Project. But isn’t this all starting to sound like something of a conspiracy theory, tinged with a hint of anti-Americanism? Cynical journalists crowing at failure, pleased to see people who tried to do something fall on their own swords?

Boswell’s piece is damning on the new state and its swiftly enriched leaders. He describes South Sudan’s first year of independence as being ‘a disaster by all but the lowest of standards.’ Admittedly, even John Prendergast’s Enough Project found it difficult to say anything positive about the one year anniversary in its July 9th post, finally settling on the fact that ‘one marker of progress could be found in the minutiae of the day, in particular, the level of organisation of this year’s ceremony.’ An example of straw-clutching at its most creative.

Rebecca Hamilton, a former lawyer and author of Fighting for Darfur (a book about public activism over the ‘other’ Sudan conflict,) also picked up on the state creation story with her piece, The wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan. Hamilton is noticeably more sympathetic in her narrative than Boswell. For example, on the ‘celebritisation’ of Sudan activism, Boswell treats the entry of George Clooney (brought in by Jon Prendergast, who has something of the film star about him already) with some suspicion – ‘[he] has made Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir something of his own personal white whale,’ says Boswell, whilst Hamilton refers to Clooney simply as ‘an advocate for the cause’, which is certainly true, but does not seek, in Boswell’s style, to analyse the products of this advocacy. Prendergast himself described the regime of Omar el-Beshir as ‘too deformed to be reformed’ – a neat turn of phrase indeed. We can probably hasten a guess as to where Clooney gets his ideas.

Boswell argues that Clooney’s money, which has in part been used to fund a satellite service ‘that publicly spies on Sudan’, does not deliver the same level of scrutiny to South Sudan’s forces. From this statement it is easy to extrapolate the broad tenor of Boswell’s argument: South Sudan was the creation of a bunch of romantics, some of them well-informed but misguided, others simply guided by the misplaced advocacy of the Sudan specialists. But is this true, or fair? Bec Hamilton notes:

‘South Sudan is primarily the creation of its own people. It was southern Sudanese leaders who fought for autonomy, and more than two million southern Sudanese who paid for that freedom with their lives.’

But whilst the liberation struggle undoubtedly forged a national spirit in Juba, it is still necessary to have support in Washington to actually change the lines on the map.

The ‘wonks’ at the centre of the diplomatic effort for South Sudanese independence seem to recognise the state’s current difficulties, but remain convinced that independence was the right thing to push for. Ted Dagne, Ethiopian-born, and perhaps the key advocate for South Sudan amongst Hamiliton and Boswell’s Washington Wonks (he worked at the US Congressional Research Service), states that: ‘All the other issues are minor once you have your sovereignty.’

It is certainly harder for the world to ignore South Sudan now that it has a seat at the UN. But with sovereignty comes responsibility, and the question which seems to be at the centre of much commentary right now is whether South Sudan has demonstrated sufficient responsibility as an independent state to justify the statehood granted to it by its international supporters.

Hamilton argues that it is actually the ‘unresolved diplomatic issues [which] have come back to haunt the region.’ The ‘issues’ are those associated with oil, border delineation and SPLM cadres seemingly abandoned in the rump state of Sudan North, as detailed earlier by de Waal. In this assertion Hamilton would seem to find some common ground with the increasingly cranky Gerard Prunier – the CPA being an ineffective medicine, which did not provide the necessary conditions under which a peace could reasonably be expected to hold. Despite agreement having been reached on paper, warfare between North and South Sudan remains structural.

De Waal, quoted by Boswell, also says that US backing of the South has made the SPLM ‘reckless…They think the rules don’t apply to them.’ Not an attitude most would welcome when coupled with a determined army, disputed border and a lot of oil.

Still not Denmark

South Sudan is not Denmark, and may never be. Perhaps expectations were too high, or perhaps it was always likely that the country would be put under much greater scrutiny after its independence. Whilst Ted Dagne may argue that sovereign states are much harder to ignore, this would seem to swing both ways. As a sovereign state you have fewer excuses. More journalists write articles about your internal affairs. More papers print op-eds by experts (disgruntled or otherwise). Greater scrutiny is paid.

South Sudan is still, to a great extent, defined in the media by its relations with the old existential enemy – the government of North Sudan. But now it seems that more commentators are seeking to approach South Sudan on its own terms, whether this is a good thing for the country, I’ll let you be the judge.


Magnus Taylor is Managing Editor, African Arguments Online.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by silly girl on Tue Aug 07 2012, 12:19

Since you brought it up saw this on Twitter:

Humanity – “Is George Clooney There?”

“Is George Clooney right there, with you? Can you see if we can get an interview with him?”

This wasn’t the request I had been hoping for. Yes, George Clooney was in south Sudan, as was former president Jimmy Carter, but the real reason we were all there as international observers was to oversee the southern Sudanese referendum in an effort to attest to its credibility. It was big international news and had profound implications for all of Africa.

So I was a little taken aback when a Canadian national network reached me near the border of Darfur, virtually ignoring the significance of events swirling all around us and wanting to talk to the famed Hollywood actor. In truth, Clooney was confined to his room suffering from malaria, and Carter was everywhere – a respected international figure of peace and democracy who knew Sudan and its struggles well.

The reality that a people struggling for peace following decades of civil war was being eclipsed by a noted actor in their country was more than a little troubling. If any actor deserved some recognition for his part in drawing international attention to south Sudan and the destitute people of Darfur it is surely Clooney. He has done some credible work that would only be possible due to his notoriety. Yet he continuously struggles with the penchant for individuals, governments and media to focus more on his fame than his passion for the Sudanese.

This is the age of humanitarian celebrities – all attempting to focus our attention on pivotal issues for the survival of all of us. Some take their field work seriously; others appear in little more than photo ops. But the attention on celebrities in such arenas points to two changing realities in our modern world. The first concerns affluent governments and their increasing retreat from aid and development commitments that had been promises only a decade ago. The vacuum left from the loss of serious attention to detail has opened the door even further for international celebrities to try to fill the void. It isn’t working to the degree necessary to curtail the growth of destitute poverty in our world – the numbers continue to escalate.

The second reality concerns our perspective as citizens and our loss of world interest in the plight of others. That isn’t fully true in the area of disaster relief, however. Canadian generosity to places like the Asian tsunami or following Haiti’s devastating earthquake was indeed remarkable and uplifting. Yet in the long-term issues of climate change devastation, generational starvation, growing world hunger, chronic lack of health services, or physical insecurity, we seem to lose interest quickly, as does the media, whose lead we often follow.

As sovereign nations continue to pull into themselves due to the challenge of economic stability, it is only inevitable that we will begin to lose the solid advances we had made in such fields only a few years ago. The implications of this neglect are now ominous and no celebrity culture can save it.

On the other hand, the woman you see at the top of this post is a true hero and celebrity to many of us who have journeyed to Sudan. She poured out of Darfur with thousands of others a few years ago – in most cases without even the clothing on their backs. She was hiding in swamps with the others in order to avoid detection. She had come from much farther in western Darfur. Each time she attempted to settle with her family, militia, trained and supported by Libya’s army of Omar Khadaffi moved her on, but not before killing some of her relatives. When the West determined that Sudanese president Omar Bashir was a war criminal sought by the Criminal Court, the government often took its anger out on people like her.

She began traveling with 12 of her family, but only 4 survived. She lost her husband, sons, daughters-in-law, and her livelihood. But worst of all, by the time Jane and I interviewed her after she had journeyed hundreds of miles to where we were, she had lost her dignity – everything that had once made her who she was. She was a mess and her hair had begun falling out. In a word, she was “empty.” She had given everything to the survival of the children. Only 40 years of age, she looked 70.

There is no need to go into the lengthy list of tragedies she faced on that hectic journey. Our interview with her left us drained, as we realized neither one of us could come close to accomplishing what she had. Looking at her picture now, I see that she was more dynamic that any action figure, had more love for her lost husband than any romantic lead, and possessed a narrative as great as anything Hollywood could put together.

But she lives out of sight of all of us, and for that reason she doesn’t really matter. Her humanity, great as it is, has little effect on our own because we haven’t been paying attention to millions just like her. It’s the George Clooneys that really interest us. Good man that he is, he keeps telling us to focus on the need, not him. But when a national network seeks to track him down in the wastelands of Darfur instead of telling the remarkable story of what was transpiring all around him, it is clear that our present humanity can only journey so far. We have miles to go yet before we sleep, and we have a world of hurt and suffering to consider as walk.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun Aug 12 2012, 16:50

Katie, wasn't sure this was the Sudan thread, but, as a supporter and follower, just wanted to post that Ryan Boyette is still doing great work in South Kordofan (GC and JP went to see him him on their last S Sudan trip) and it looks like WFP are finally getting some supplies through. Yay!!

His Twitter account has some interesting pix! @RyanBoyette

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun Aug 12 2012, 17:43

Thanks for that article silly girl....so so sad a story....I wonder if GTC knew the story at the time.

Pleased to hear that Ryan Boyette is still safe. Hoorah!

Maybe it's time for another Twitter message from
us all here girls ???

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by melbert on Sun Aug 12 2012, 17:45

good idea Joanna!

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun Aug 12 2012, 17:53

Ryan asked for this web site to be publicised to as
many as possible.
It gives up to date reliable news...but it doesn't look too good at the moment unfortunately.


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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by melbert on Sun Aug 12 2012, 18:03

thanks Joanna. I just wish all this bullshit throughout the world would just STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun Aug 12 2012, 18:11

Oh and me mel....

And when we've seen the inspirational international success of the Olympic Games, it's just heartbreaking to see the opposite from mankind.... in places like Sudan & Syria.

I just despair sometimes and wonder what the answer is.

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by melbert on Sun Aug 12 2012, 18:33

and I'm sure that God is crying...

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by party animal - not! on Sun Aug 12 2012, 18:44

A good start might be for the International Community (in all its forms) to freeze Al-Bashir's assets (and I mean monetary, although my mind is working overtime on the odd joke) but goodness knows what's involved in that. Swiss bank accounts, Chinese payoffs for drilling S Sudan's oil - although that historically has come in the form of tanks, guns etc which turn out to be quite useful if you want to crush the odd thousand or so folks in Darfur, Kordogan, S Sudan....All I know is that there's something wrong with the Legislature at the ICC if this man cannot be called to account,,,,,,,,,,,,

I could go on, and on, and on

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

Post by Joanna on Sun Aug 12 2012, 20:25

I thought something like that had been done to to Al-Bashir already ?
Have I got it wrong ?

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Re: George Clooney's Activism in Sudan Recasts the Stereotype of Selfish Movie Stars

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