George Clooney was in Southern Sudan on Saturday to help raise awareness of the region’s historic independence referendum, which began on January 9.
The star – who is a UN Messenger of Peace and is well known for his work in Darfur and the Sudan – has met with President Barack Obama twice about conflict in the region, and recently launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellite imagery analysis and crowd-sourced mapping to monitor the tense border between North and South Sudan.
“Our job is trying to keep this on the front burner of the news,” Clooney told The Associated Press. "I’m the son of newsman. I understand how hard it is to keep stories on the front of news, and sometimes entertainment and news can be meshed together if you do it properly.
The conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur began in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. Sudan’s regime is accused of retaliating by organizing a militia of Arab nomads, known as the Janjaweed, to reign terror on the region’s African inhabitants, an allegation the Khartoum denies. It has been estimated that over 200,000 people have been slain since the conflict arose, and the United Nations now states that the humanitarian crisis in Darfur is the worst in the world.
“It’s important as any other individual in the country or in the world to engage in life and in the world,” says Clooney. “You know, a celebrity is absolutely no different. I wasn’t a celebrity my whole life. I was an individual citizen for most of it, an unemployed citizen for a lot of it. … I don’t forfeit that just because I’ve happened to get lucky in my career.”
George Clooney seems to have one of the most charitable hearts in Hollywood, and, alongside his current mission to stop the human rights atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan, he focuses much of his energy on helping those suffering from poverty.
He founded Not On Our Watch with his Ocean’s 11 co-stars Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, and producer Jerry Weintraub. The organization’s main goal is to stop the genocide occurring in Sudan. Clooney has visited the area personally, and spoken with victims of rape and torture. His charity has donated millions of dollars to help those suffering in the region, with much of the funding going through the United Nations World Food Programme.
Clooney is not scared to use his celebrity to make the world a better place, saying: "Bono sort of led the way in terms of really being informed on the specific issue. Brad and Angie do it well, Matt Damon, I have a lot of friends who do it pretty well and really get involved. I see Ben Affleck doing it in the Congo now more and more. I find that people who pick a cause and stick to it, get to know something about it."
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