Business, Finance & Economics

George Clooney angers Sudan regime


George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010.


Tim Freccia

George Clooney has done it again.

The Hollywood actor and director has once again used his high wattage star power to shine light on the unsexy but critical situation in Sudan.

And Sudan President Omar al-Bashir doesn't like being in the glare of Clooney's limelight.  

In case you haven't read enough about Clooney, the Los Angeles Times has published a profile of the Hollywood star that concentrates on the star's activism for the people of Sudan.

His continued engagement with Africa is, of course, why we are interested in Clooney. His sustained interest in Sudan — in Darfur, in South Sudan, in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan — has helped to keep the general public's attention on those troubled areas.

And Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project has achieved a great deal by exposing the abuses and military transgressions committed by Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's regime. The satellite images have shown illegal border incursions in Abyei. High altitude photos captured by Clooney's satellite project have shown disturbing proof of mass graves in Sudan's South Kordofan province.

The satellite images are now being used by human rights groups like the Enough Project to make a case against the Bashir regime. In fact 62 members of Congress have recently signed a letter to US President Barack Obama, citing the Satellite Sentinel Project's work in providing evidence of mass graves in 8 locations in South Kordofan province.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan battles rebels in Blue Nile state

The Sudan government shot back by criticizing those Congressmen and women for their letter and for listening to Clooney. "It does not reflect well on the U.S. government when its officials have to rely on activists and movie stars like George Clooney to provide the 'facts,' " said the statement issued by the Sudan Embassy in Washington.

The facts are piling up against the Bashir government. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has just requested an arrest warrant for Sudan's defence minister for alleged crimes in Darfur. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003-04.

The Hague-based ICC has already indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges in Darfur. A senior Sudanese official dismissed the new warrant for the defence ministerf as "ridiculous."

In another development, Kenya and Sudan have resolved their diplomatic row triggered by a Kenyan court issuing its own warrant for Bashir after he was allowed to visit Nairobi in August in defiance of the ICC request. After the Kenyan court issued a warrant for Mr Bashir's arrest on Nov. 28, Sudan ordered the expulsion of Kenya's ambassador in Khartoum, and threatened to expel Kenyan peacekeepers from Sudan and not to allow planes flying to Kenya to go through Sudanese airspace.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula made an emergency trip to Khartoum on Dec. 2 and on his return said that relations with Sudan are now "back to normal" and that no diplomats would be expelled. He said that while the Kenyan government respected the court, he said he would guarantee that Bashir will not be arrested on Kenyan territory. 

Sudan can be confusing. There are the abuses by Bashir's horseback Janjaweed militias in Sudan's western Darfur province, where thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. There is the violence by Bashir's forces along the border between Sudan and South Sudan in which whole villages have been razed. There is the violence against Sudanese opposition groups in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Maybe it's not so confusing at all. Bashir and his henchman do not flinch at using violence against those in Sudan who oppose his rule, especially those who are black Africans and Christians.

Thanks go to George Clooney for helping the public understand what's going on in Sudan.

More from GlobalPost: Clooney's group makes new charges of mass graves