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George Clooney, UN Security Council descend on Sudan


George Clooney has been roughing it recently, on the latest of his trips to Sudan to highlight the problems there. 

The Hollywood superstar and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador was touring semi-autonomous south Sudan ahead of a planned January 2011 referendum on whether southerners in Africa’s biggest country should secede from the Khartoum-led north. Tensions are high because of fears the plebiscite could be delayed, sparking a new war between the predominantly Muslim north and the heavily animist and Christian south.

The U.N. Security Council delegation I traveled to Sudan with was in Juba, the scruffy capital of south Sudan, at the same time as Clooney. But we reporters never saw him. The  journalists covering the Security Council’s African trip were barred from the party that Clooney, council diplomats and U.N. officials attended. According to several of those present, Clooney and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, had a long huddle to discuss the problems of Sudan, including the referendum and the 7-year-old conflict in Sudan’s remote western Darfur region. Of course Sudan was not the only interesting thing about the evening — one U.N. official boasted of having seven pictures of her and Clooney on her digital camera.

Leaving south Sudan was not so easy. Our plane had engine trouble and we were all marched to a Russian peacekeeper base. Four local Sudanese reporters with us were told by U.N. officials that there no sandwiches for them and initially ordered to remain on the press bus.