By now, you have no doubt heard that George Clooney, several members of congress, and a bunch of other activists were arrested protesting outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.
Here’s why George got sent to the slammer:
You’ve probably heard of Darfur, the region in western Sudan where the Sudanese government used genocide as a tactic to surpress a rebellion. And you have also probably heard that there was a 20 year civil war between Sudan and South Sudan. That civil war ended with a 2005 peace agreement. Per the peace agreement, South Sudan became an independent country last June. It is the UN’s newest member state.
The border region between South Sudan and Sudan is called the Nuba mountains. This area is largely populated by ethnic groups that supported the South during the civil war, but now find themselves living on the north side of the border. For several months, the Sudanese military has been trying to purge their former adversaries and disarm rebel groups. Some of the tactics the Sudanese government has used are very reminiscent of Darfur: namely, targeting the civilian populations to get at the militias.
But that’s not really why Clooney got himself arrested. The fighting I describe has largely subsided. The Sudanese government has basically won. Now, they are punishing the civilians who still live in the Nuba Mountain border regions by blocking humanitarian access to suffering people. The Sudanese government is not letting groups like the World Food Program, UN Refugee Agency, or Red Cross/Red Crescent bring in food or medicine. Meanwhile, the UN is warning of a looming famine and mass starvation in the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan. About 200,000 people on the Sudanese side of the border are at immediate risk of starvation.
So, the “demand” that George Clooney and the other protesters made to the Government of Sudan was to let humanitarian agencies access vulnerable people in the Nuba region. Blocking food aid is a tactic that the Sudanese government used to destroy populations in Darfur, and now it is repeating that same tactic in the Nuba mountains.
George and the others got themselves sent to the slammer to draw attention to this very urgent humanitarian emergency. Hopefully, people will take notice of the underlying reason why Clooney is spending his Friday afternoon in a DC jail cell.