31 January 2008 United Nations Messenger of Peace and award-winning actor George Clooney, just back from the war-wracked Darfur region of Sudan, today urged countries to provide peacekeepers serving with the hybrid United Nations-African Union force there enough resources to do their job – “or have the decency to just bring them all home.”
Briefing the press at UN Headquarters in New York after visiting existing or nascent UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the key troop-contributing country India, Mr. Clooney said the Darfur force (known as UNAMID) was still missing key capacities such as helicopters and trucks.
He said the troops in the mission – many of whom also served in the earlier, under-resourced AU mission to Darfur – deserved appropriate resources to quell violence and bring stability to the region, where at least 200,000 people have been killed since 2003.
“Either give them [the UNAMID peacekeepers] the basic tools for protecting the population and themselves, or have the decency to just bring them all home. Because you can’t do it halfway,” he said. “Bring them home and shut off your TV and your radio and your phones and the Internet and go back into the offices and wait until it’s all over.”
Mr. Clooney said that during his visit to Darfur, he noticed that locals witnessing the arrival of UN peacekeepers have started to “feel a new energy in the air. They feel for the first time that this is the moment that the rest of the world, all of the nations, united, are stepping in to help them…
“When I stood in the hospital next to women who had been raped and set on fire two days earlier, they looked up to me and said, ‘Please send the UN.’ Not the US; not China; not Russia; just the UN. You’re their only hope.”
Mr. Clooney, who travelled with Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute, the Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Field Support, and other UN staff, said the Sudanese Government must for its part make sure it does not obstruct the peacekeepers from carrying out their work and provide protection to aid workers from rebel attacks.
“These peacekeepers are not an occupying force. They are not there to spread democracy or infringe on religious beliefs. The [DR] Congo is proof of that.”
He also stressed that Darfur’s vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) held the Government or its allied Janjaweed militia for them having to flee their homes.
“Millions are homeless – not from famine, or disease, or acts of God, but from a well-armed militia intent on ridding the land of its people.”
But he noted that the situation has become increasingly complicated as rebel groups fight each other and attack civilians, resulting in “a vacuum of justice, of civility, of local government, land rights, humanity. As in any apocalypse, the ones left standing begin to fight for survival. The rebel groups can and have engaged in horrific acts of violence.”
Mr. Clooney said a durable peace will only emerge when all the parties sit down together “and begin the long process of talks. There’s 2.5 million people who want to go back to their homes and not live in misery.”
Before briefing the press today, Mr. Clooney was formally presented with a Messenger of Peace certificate and dove pin by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. The Oscar-winning artist was officially designated as a Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on peacekeeping, earlier this month.
He also held talks with Ms. Holl Lute and the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyotaka Akasaka.
Asked about his status as a celebrity Messenger of Peace, Mr. Clooney observed that it was becoming increasingly difficult challenge to get “things that are truly important to us” on the news or the international radar.
“It seems as if at times celebrity can bring that focus. It can’t make the policies, it can’t change people’s minds really. But you can bring a camera where you go because they’ll follow you and you can shine a light on it. That seems to be my job in this.”
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