George Clooney to U.N.: End
'Genocide' in Darfur.
Oscar-winning actor George Clooney brought some Hollywood glamour to the
United Nations as he used his star power to turn the spotlight on
Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.
Together with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Clooney urged
members of the U.N.'s Security Council to help end atrocities in the
U.N. staffers gathered outside the basement meeting room Thursday to
catch a glimpse of the actor burst into applause as Clooney, dressed in
a sober suit and tie, arrived with Wiesel for the informal briefing
organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
Inside, Clooney told the U.N.'s most powerful body that it must send
replacements for the African Union's 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur when
its mandate expires at the end of the month. If it did not, aid workers
would have to leave and the 2.5 million displaced people who depend on
them would die.
"After Sept. 30 you won't need the U.N. You will simply need men with
shovels and bleached white linen and headstones," the 45-year-old actor
The Sudanese government has refused to approve the replacement of
African Union peacekeepers by a U.N. force, saying it would violate the
More than 200,000 people have been killed and over 2 million have fled
their homes since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the
Arab-led Khartoum government.
A May peace agreement signed by the government and one of the major
rebel groups was supposed to help end the conflict in Darfur. Instead,
it has sparked months of fighting among rival rebel factions that has
added to the toll of the dead and displaced.
"The United States has called it genocide," Clooney told council
members. "For you it's called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake - it
is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked
it will not be the last."
In stark words he told the U.N. diplomats: "In many ways it is unfair,
but it is nonetheless true that this genocide will be on your watch. How
you deal with it will be your legacy, your Rwanda, your Cambodia, your
"We were brought up to believe that the U.N. was formed to ensure that
the Holocaust could never happen again. We believe in you so strongly.
We need you so badly. If not the U.N., then who?" Clooney asked.
Wiesel also urged council members to send peacekeepers. "You are the
last political recourse of Darfur victims and you can stop it."
"Remember Rwanda?" Wiesel said. "I do. Six hundred thousand to 800,000
human beings were murdered. We knew then as we know now they could have
been saved and they were not."
Clooney and Wiesel gave a brief press conference after the meeting
ended. Clooney tried to hang back, saying, "We'll let the Nobel Prize
winner do the talking," but most of the questions were directed at him.
Clooney said had he chosen this cause because it was "the first genocide
of the 21st century."
Wiesel, however, stopped short of calling the killings in Darfur a
genocide. "I call it a process of genocide," he explained. "If we let it
continue it will end in genocide. Genocide is not a one-time action.
It's a process. They began a process. And therefore I think the United
Nations will have to accept that definition. I am usually very, very
careful in using that word."
Clooney and his journalist father, Nick Clooney, spent five days in
Darfur in April, gathering personal stories of the death and suffering
that has ravaged the African region. Both Clooneys have continued
working since their return to publicize the plight of refugees.
The actor told reporters at the U.N.: "Of course you are emotionally
attached once you are there. It's one thing to talk about murder and
rape and justice and it's another thing to see it on a mass scale and
see how cruel people can be to one another."
Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald
during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the
world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
"Because we went through that period of suffering and humiliation we
must do something so that other people should not go through any
suffering and humiliation," he said.
Sep. 15, 2006