WASHINGTON (AP) - A group founded by American actor George Clooney said Tuesday it has teamed up with Google, a U.N. agency and anti-genocide organizations to launch satellite surveillance of the border between north and south Sudan to try to prevent a new civil war after the south votes in a secession referendum next month.
“We are the antigenocide paparazzi,” Clooney said.
Clooney, wearing a photo-vest and three days’ worth of stubble, is in a village in southern Sudan. He stops before a Valentino Achak Deng Foundation school, named for one of Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” the child soldiers who fled the more than two decade-long conflict. It’s now home to 100 high school students, including girls.
“Those ‘Lost Boys’ going back into classrooms - it’s better than a red carpet moment,” Clooney said. “It’s tear-jerking.”
Sudan has been home to decades of civil war. The north-south conflict, separate to the Darfur conflict, has claimed more than 2 million lives.
The southern part of the country, which is largely Christian and black, is likely to break free of the Arab-ruled north in a January 2011 independence referendum.
But the North may not want to let it go: independence would mean the South gains control over 80 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves.
“If the civil war does reignite, it’ll be a blockbuster.” Clooney looks away, misty-eyed. “I shudder to think of the opening weekend alone.”
A Hollywood mega-star, Clooney has appeared in films including the “Ocean’s Eleven” series, “Syriana,” and “Michael Clayton.” This is his fourth trip to the region.
In November, Clooney came to southern Sudan accompanied by Ann Curry, from NBC News. Together with John Prendergast, the co-founder of the “Enough Project,” the group toured regions still scarred by fighting and met with people affected by the conflict.
“In human terms, this has the potential to be the highest grossing civil war in Africa,” Clooney said.
Clooney’s boots-to-suits activism has also led to his meeting with President Obama in October, to discuss the Sudan situation. The US has been spear-heading diplomatic efforts to prevent a renewed outbreak of the conflict.
Clooney came out of the meeting with praise for the president. “His leadership on this issue is Oscar-worthy.”