(WASHINGTON) — Actor George Clooney argued before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that what happens in conflict-torn Sudan matters to Americans economically.
“South Sudan is shutting off its oil,” Clooney said. “Six weeks ago the South shut down their oil production. They just stopped. And overnight China lost 6 percent of its overall oil imports which means they have to go elsewhere and that raises the price of oil.”
Clooney called on the United States Senate to help toughen the sanctions on the Khartoum government, a government he says is committing “war crimes” against civilians, a bill similar to the House-passed “Sudan Peace Security and Accountability Act.”
Clooney asked the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee to increase America’s engagement in “real diplomacy” starting with China to help solve the cross-border issues together, for “good-solid economic reasons” for both countries. He called on the Obama administration to send a high-level envoy to China to work together on this.
“We can take this moment and engage with China I think for the first time,” Clooney said. “There are economic reasons to do this for both of us and it seems to me that we can use this opportunity, this window of opportunity before it gets too long, too late, by sending a high-level envoy.”
Clooney was just back from a trip to the violent border region between Sudan and South Sudan where he observed the aftermath of Omar al-Bashir’s bombs being dropped on villages and civilians in the Numa Mountains. Aided by a short video of his trip last week, Clooney told the story of villagers forced to dwell in caves out of “constant drip of fear” from the aerial attacks.
“We found children filled with shrapnel including a nine year old boy who had both of his hands blown off,” Clooney said of his trip. “It is a campaign of murder and fear and displacement and starvation.”
John Prendergast, founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellite images to monitor southern Sudan as an “anti-genocide paparazzi” also spoke alongside Clooney. Prendergast says the satellite images are used to “create evidence or future arrest warrants and prosecutions based n the crimes that are being committed now.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH., wanted to know if, given the popularity of the video, Clooney is contemplating a “stop Kony-like” video for Sudan.
Clooney said he was surprised by the response to the video and noted the powerful role that social media can have in raising attention world-wide to all atrocities.
But Clooney noted that there is “donor fatigue,” and “misery fatigue,” and that big pushes around singular events are extremely important to keep momentum going.
Clooney will meet with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Sarah Anderson, Deseret News
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN