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George Clooney angers Sudan regime

Actor uses star power to shed light on unsexy but critical Sudan.
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George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010. (Tim Freccia/Enough Project/GlobalPost)

George Clooney has done it again.

The Hollywood actor and director has once again used his high wattage star power to shine light on the unsexy but critical situation in Sudan.

And Sudan President Omar al-Bashir doesn't like being in the glare of Clooney's limelight.  

In case you haven't read enough about Clooney, the Los Angeles Times has published a profile of the Hollywood star that concentrates on the star's activism for the people of Sudan.

His continued engagement with Africa is, of course, why we are interested in Clooney. His sustained interest in Sudan — in Darfur, in South Sudan, in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan — has helped to keep the general public's attention on those troubled areas.

And Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project has achieved a great deal by exposing the abuses and military transgressions committed by Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's regime. The satellite images have shown illegal border incursions in Abyei. High altitude photos captured by Clooney's satellite project have shown disturbing proof of mass graves in Sudan's South Kordofan province.

The satellite images are now being used by human rights groups like the Enough Project to make a case against the Bashir regime. In fact 62 members of Congress have recently signed a letter to US President Barack Obama, citing the Satellite Sentinel Project's work in providing evidence of mass graves in 8 locations in South Kordofan province.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan battles rebels in Blue Nile state

The Sudan government shot back by criticizing those Congressmen and women for their letter and for listening to Clooney. "It does not reflect well on the U.S. government when its officials have to rely on activists and movie stars like George Clooney to provide the 'facts,' " said the statement issued by the Sudan Embassy in Washington.

The facts are piling up against the Bashir government. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has just requested an arrest warrant for Sudan's defence minister for alleged crimes in Darfur. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003-04.

The Hague-based ICC has already indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges in Darfur. A senior Sudanese official dismissed the new warrant for the defence ministerf as "ridiculous."

In another development, Kenya and Sudan have resolved their diplomatic row triggered by a Kenyan court issuing its own warrant for Bashir after he was allowed to visit Nairobi in August in defiance of the ICC request. After the Kenyan court issued a warrant for Mr Bashir's arrest on Nov. 28, Sudan ordered the expulsion of Kenya's ambassador in Khartoum, and threatened to expel Kenyan peacekeepers from Sudan and not to allow planes flying to Kenya to go through Sudanese airspace.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula made an emergency trip to Khartoum on Dec. 2 and on his return said that relations with Sudan are now "back to normal" and that no diplomats would be expelled. He said that while the Kenyan government respected the court, he said he would guarantee that Bashir will not be arrested on Kenyan territory. 

Sudan can be confusing. There are the abuses by Bashir's horseback Janjaweed militias in Sudan's western Darfur province, where thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. There is the violence by Bashir's forces along the border between Sudan and South Sudan in which whole villages have been razed. There is the violence against Sudanese opposition groups in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Maybe it's not so confusing at all. Bashir and his henchman do not flinch at using violence against those in Sudan who oppose his rule, especially those who are black Africans and Christians.

Thanks go to George Clooney for helping the public understand what's going on in Sudan.

More from GlobalPost: Clooney's group makes new charges of mass graves 

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The British humanitarian agency Oxfam has withdrawn its staff from the border of Sudan and South Sudan because of growing violence in the area, according to Reuters.

Violence has surged along the tense border since Juba seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal aimed at ending a decades long civil war.

“New bombing raids and a buildup of troops along the border of Sudan and South Sudan over the past few days threaten to escalate what is already a significant humanitarian crisis in the newest country in the world,” Oxfam said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

The group had been providing clean water to 64,000 people in the area, and the agency said it had noticed a build-up of South Sudan troops near the border. Reuters reported that tens of thousands of people have fled into South Sudan this year because of fighting.

The Khartoum government in Sudan was criticized last week by South Sudan, the United States and the United Nations for bombing sites in South Sudan, including a refugee camp. Sudan believes South Sudan is arming rebels in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, The New York Times reported.

According to Voice of America, four major Sudanese rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement, the two branches of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North — have joined together to topple the government in Sudan.  The group calls itself the Sudan Revolutionary Front.

The attacks and increased tension along the new border have some afraid that the conflict could widen into another civil war.

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Sudan: Ceasefire in South Kordofan state

President Bashir stops fighting but his forces are accused of gross abuses.
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A new recruit for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) takes part in a training session in a secret camp in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan province in preparation for what they call a long war against Khartoum on July 11, 2011. High up in Sudan's Nuba Mountains, hundreds of men train to join fighters aligned to the ex-rebel army of the South, the SPLA. (Trevor Snapp/AFP/Getty Images)

Sudan has been accused of gross human rights abuses in recent weeks in South Kordofan state, which borders the newly independent country of South Sudan.

Now Sudan President Omar al-Bashir announced a two-week ceasefire in South Kordofan state, where fighting since June has displaced 70,000 people from their homes.

"I declare a unilateral two-week ceasefire," said Bashir on state radio, according to AFP.

Bashir's government says the conflict began when government forces tried to disarm ethnic Nuban fighters after elections in the state that borders newly independent South Sudan.

But many sources in South Kordofan charge that the government actions included mass killings of Nubans. Bashir's Khartoum government denies those accusations of ethnic cleansing against pro-southern Nubans.

Fighting has decreased in South Kordofan this month because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It has been very difficult to get accurate information about what is going on in South Kordofan, because journalists and diplomats are barred from the disputed province and the UN is also restricted in the area. 

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Sudan's Nuba People Flee Attacks

The Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan province are facing attacks by President Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and other militia. A United Nations report charges that war crimes and "especially egregious" atrocities are being committed within the region and it urges an investigation into the situation. According to numerous reports, Bashir's government in Khartoum is using the SAF to attack Nubans and to force them out of the Nuba Mountains due to their loyalties to the newly independent South Sudan. The current conflict in South Kordofan has displaced more than 70,000 people.  Trevor Snapp is a freelance photographer who works in East Africa and is based in Juba, South Sudan. He has produced work for The Guardian, BBC.com, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, and National Geographic Traveler.
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