- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Clooney on Darfur

Actor George Clooney witnessed the “first genocide of the 21st century,” when he and his television journalist father, Nick, risked their lives on a treacherous journey to the humanitarian nightmare in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Last night, they debuted a shocking documentary of their April journey to refugee camps before a Washington audience at the Atlantic Video Studio.

“We were there for nine days, and there wasn’t a minute I didn’t think we were going to get killed,” the actor-activist said in the film.

Mr. Clooney spoke by a video link while his father introduced the film, “A Journey to Darfur,” which is scheduled to air Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — at 8 p.m. on the AmericanLife TV Network, an independent cable television station. Martin Luther King III addressed the Washington audience along with AmericanLife President Lawrence Meli and Nick Clooney, who described Sudanese President Omar Bashir as an “international villain.”

George Clooney has been trying to use his celebrity status to raise awareness of the crisis and to pressure the United Nations to send peacekeepers to the war-torn nation in the Horn of Africa. Sudanese officials, however, have threatened to fight any U.N. peacekeepers, calling their intervention a violation of their national sovereignty.

After Mr. Clooney and his father returned from Sudan, the actor hit the television talk-show circuit to raise that alarm about Darfur, where Arab militias with links to the government have slaughtered 200,000 black Africans and created more than 2.5 million refugees in an attempt to put down a rebel uprising since February 2003.

Mr. Clooney told Oprah Winfrey on April 26 that he and his father visited refugee camps in neighboring Chad that were crowded with war victims who had no shelter, food or water.

“These people had jobs and property before the Arab Janjaweed militia burned their villages, raped their women and killed their children,” he said. “Time is running out.”

“We’ve all seen the images forever on television late at night,” he added. “It’s all of those thing you imagine, and it’s so much more. There’s absolute hopelessness.”

Later that month he held a press conference in Washington with Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican; Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat; Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; Olympics gold medalist speed skater Joey Cheek; former basketball star Manute Bol, who was born in Sudan; and Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwanda hotel owner who tried to save many Rwandans from genocidal violence in 1994.

In September, he appealed to the U.N. Security Council, where some permanent members, including China, oppose installing U.N. peacekeepers without Sudan’s approval.

“Of course it is complex, but when you see entire villages raped and killed, wells poisoned and then filled with the bodies of its villagers, then all complexities disappear, and it comes down to simply right and wrong,” he said.

Mission to Sudan

In Sudan yesterday, President Omar Bashir rejected a call from a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for him to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

“Our experience with U.N. operations in the world is not encouraging,” Lt. Gen. Bashir told the Associated Press after he met with Bill Richardson, now governor of New Mexico.

Lt. Gen. Bashir insisted that the current force of 7,000 troops from nations of the African Union are sufficient to patrol Darfur.

Mr. Richardson said he succeeded in the second goal of his mission and announced that rebels in Darfur agreed to a 60-day truce with government-backed Arab militias, who have killed thousands of civilians in that region of western Sudan.

He told reporters that Gen. Bashir agreed to support a peace summit with the rebels by March 15, the AP reported.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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