Clooney Goes to U.N. to Help Darfur

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George Clooney is a little tired.

It was a long flight back from China. He just met with the outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. And he and his friends are slogging through one press interview after the next in a hallway just behind a noisy cafeteria on the fourth floor of the U.N. building in Manhattan.

They are a foursome formed by a cause -- movie stars Clooney and Don Cheadle, Olympic athletes Joey Cheek (you remember -- he won a gold and silver in speed skating at Turin last February) and Tegla Laroupe (a Kenyan who won the New York City Marathon twice).

What unites them is an impassioned belief that what's happening in the Darfur region of Sudan has to stop -- now.

"You could argue that there's a million places that you should care about," Clooney says. "This is one in particular where the humanitarian crisis is such that these people are all alone. There is no help. There are very few advocates. There's no voice for them and they're going to die and they're going to die in massive numbers."

In the four years of fighting between Sudanese troops and Arab janjaweed on one side and Darfur's ethnic African rebels on the other, more than 200,000 people in the region have been killed and 2 million have been left homeless. According to the United Nations, some 4 million people there rely on international aid to survive.

"We all try to be very diplomatic because we're trying not to tick off or polarize either side so that we can find common ground," Clooney says. "But, you want to just scream and you want to stand there and say, 'What is wrong with you people?' 'Are you kidding?' That no one's, that we're all sitting in rooms talking about this while these people are dying?"

Clooney led his small group to China earlier this week and to Egypt the week before. China buys about 60 percent of Sudan's oil. Egypt is Sudan's northern neighbor. Both have a vested interest in making the situation in Darfur better -- or so Clooney's thinking goes.

At the United Nations on Friday, the group talked privately with Annan about their efforts. Cheadle said it seemed a bit "absurd" that two Hollywood movie stars and two athletes would be the highest-level delegation to visit Chinese and Egyptian officials to talk about the genocide in Darfur.

"We want people who are really more qualified and more experienced and have the power and position to do it to apply themselves," Cheadle says. "We hope they would be embarrassed that it would be us there doing that."

And yet, Cheadle and Clooney readily acknowledge that they are in a unique position to influence world opinion. Even in Egypt, Clooney was hailed everywhere he went as a big star.

"It's like we're perfectly positioned to do it, and as long as people care to stick a camera in front of our face and say, 'What do you think?' we hope that we'll be able to focus the issues on things that are of utmost importance to the world," Cheadle says.

"We're not naïve," Clooney says. "We walked in there. We didn't think that China or Egypt was going to sit down and go, 'Gosh, you know, we never thought if it. You're right.'"

But they do hope some small steps will be made, such as Egypt sending in some humanitarian aid for refugees of Darfur.

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