Clooney tells of ‘mur­der and fear and . . . star­va­tion’ seen in Su­dan

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY ASHISH KUMAR SEN

Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Ge­orge Clooney on Wed­nes­day ac­cused the Su­danese gov­ern­ment of com­mit­ting war crimes in a moun­tain­ous bor­der re­gion, which he and U.S. of­fi­cials said was tee­ter­ing dan­ger­ously on the brink of a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

Mr. Clooney, who re­turned this week from a trip to Su­dan, told the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee that he wit­nessed aerial bom­bard­ments by Su­danese forces that sent civil­ians scur­ry­ing to take shel­ter in caves in the Nuba Moun­tains.

He de­scribed see­ing chil­dren’s bod­ies filled with shrap­nel and meet­ing a 9-year-old boy who had had both his hands blown off when 15 bombs were dropped on a vil­lage.

“It is a cam­paign of mur­der and fear and dis­place­ment and star­va­tion,” said Mr. Clooney, who has been cam­paign­ing for the past decade to high­light the hu­man tragedy in Su­dan.

Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar Bashir, De­fense Min­is­ter Ab­del Raheem Muhammad Hus­sein and for­mer In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ahmed Mo­hammed Haroun have been in­dicted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court over war crimes in Su­dan’s western state of Dar­fur.

“And now they are prov­ing them­selves to be the great­est war criminals of this cen­tury, by far,” Mr. Clooney said.

The United Na­tions es­ti­mates that more than half a mil­lion peo­ple have been forced to flee or have been se­verely af­fected by the fight­ing be­tween the Su­danese mil­i­tary and south­ern rebels in the states of Blue Nile and South­ern Kord­o­fan.

Both states abut the bor­der with South Su­dan, which be­came in­de­pen­dent in July. South­ern rebels who re­mained in the north af­ter July have been in­volved in a war with Su­danese forces.

Prince­ton N. Ly­man, the U.S. spe­cial en­voy to Su­dan and South Su­dan, called on the Su­danese gov­ern­ment to end the bom­bard­ments im­me­di­ately and al­low un­re­stricted hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess to civil­ians in South­ern Kord­o­fan and Blue Nile.

Tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Se­nate com­mit­tee, he said the gov­ern­ment of South Su­dan also must halt all mil­i­tary, eco­nomic and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for armed groups that seek to over­throw Lt. Gen. Bashir’s gov­ern­ment.

Gen. Bashir is ex­pected travel to South Su­dan’s cap­i­tal, Juba, for a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir Ma­yardit. The pro­posed meet­ing, ex­pected to take place within the next two weeks, is an at­tempt to defuse ten­sions that have erupted be­tween the neigh­bors.

Mr. Ly­man wel­comed Gen. Bashir’s decision to visit Juba but was cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about the prospects of a break­through.

“The two coun­tries de­cided to step back from the brink. They looked at each other and said, ‘We are go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion,’” Mr. Ly­man said.

“We have seen these recom­mit­ments be­fore. So while we take a great deal of hope from them, a lot will de­pend on what hap­pens over the next sev­eral weeks,” he added.

The meet­ing in Juba likely will fo­cus on two is­sues: the pro­tec­tion of south­ern­ers liv­ing in the north and north­ern­ers in the south, and the de­mar­ca­tion of borders be­tween the two coun­tries.

In Jan­uary, South Su­dan cut off the flow of oil to Su­danese re­finer­ies fol­low­ing a dis­pute with the gov­ern­ment in Khar­toum. The move crip­pled the economies of both na­tions, which rely on oil for a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their in­come.

Sen. John F. Kerry, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said the South Su­danese gov­ern­ment’s decision to shut off the oil may have been jus­ti­fied but also was “self-de­feat­ing.”

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ge­orge Clooney an­swers ques­tions from the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on hor­rors he saw while vis­it­ing Su­dan. With him are hu­man rights ac­tivist John Pren­der­gast (cen­ter) and Jonathan Temin of the United States In­sti­tute of Peace.

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