Clooney Hopes Satellites Will Shed Light on Sudan

Jan 2, 2011 1:33pm

Actor and activist George Clooney said he hopes that technology can bring public attention to the border region of Sudan and prevent potential violence and even genocide after a critical referendum there next week.

In an exclusive interview this morning on 'This Week,' Clooney told me about the goals of the newly-launched Satellite Sentinel Project, a joint effort backed by the U.N., Google and human rights groups to have satellites monitor the border between Sudan’s northern and southern region.

Southern Sudan will vote next Sunday on whether to break away from the northern part of the country, which has been wracked with violence in the past decade. The Satellite Sentinel Project backed by Clooney and John Prendergast of the Enough Project will provide high-resolution images of the border region on the project’s website that the public can monitor, in hopes of drawing attention to the region in case of violence after the referendum.

I asked Clooney what the proper reaction to photographic evidence of violence or human rights abuses on the border region should be if it occurs.

“First of all, if you see actual evidence of those kind of attacks, that's something … that the U.N. can actually work with,” Clooney said. “But for the most part, our job is to say that these things have been happening in the dark for a long time … We're going to be able to, you know, not show it afterwards, but show it beforehand, that there were plans, there are tanks lined up, that there are helicopters online, that are going to…that are about to commit atrocities.”

When I asked how the Satellite Sentinel Project would help ensure that the referendum in Sudan happens as peacefully as possible, John Prendergast of the Enough Project said it is “all about deterrence and about accountability.”

“The history of this government in Khartoum that's been in power for 20 years now is they've used divide-and-destroy methods to stay in power,” Prendergast said. “So we want to make sure that we're watching in the sky and on the ground to deter the government in Khartoum from undertaking these kinds of methods to try to undermine this historic moment in Sudan.”

Clooney said the project, which will cost $750,000 to run, is a cost-effective way to prevent violence, instead of “putting Band-Aids on a wound after the wound has been inflicted.”

“If we're able to prevent atrocities, then we don't have any Band-Aids to put on, and we don't have refugees to feed and take care of,” Clooney said. “Our job is to try and stop it before it starts. It's a much cheaper way of doing it.”

– Jake Tapper

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