George Clooney joined Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel on Thursday to press the United Nations Security Council to help stop the killings in Sudan’s Darfur region.
“The United States has called it genocide,” Clooney told U.N. Security Council members in New York City at what was called an informal briefing. “For you it’s called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake, it is the first genocide of the 21st century. And if it continues unchecked, it will not be the last.”
He said he was sure some council members had “sensible reasons” for failing to use leverage to get peacekeepers on the ground, but said, “Whatever the reason, it’s not good enough.”
Since February 2003, when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government, state-sponsored militias called Janjaweed have reportedly killed at least 400,000 people and displaced 2.5 million more.
The address by Clooney and Wiesel comes as the African Union prepares to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Darfur on Sept. 30. In August the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution to deploy more than 20,000 of its own troops in the region, but the Sudanese government has refused.
“On Oct. 1, it won’t just be the Janjaweed raping and murdering with impunity, or (rebel leader Mini Arkoi) Manawi’s SLA (Sudanese Liberation Army) slaughtering the Fur tribes,” Clooney said Thursday. “With no protection, all the aid workers will leave immediately, and the two and a half million refugees who depend on that aid will die.”
Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, cited the genocide in Rwanda as a reason for the U.N. to act in Darfur. “Nobody did anything,” he said. “It remains a mark of shame for the U.N. and the whole world.”
Clooney’s crusade began in April when he and his father, retired newsman Nick Clooney, spent five days in Darfur filming interviews with refugees. On his return to the U.S., he addressed top politicians in Washington, D.C., about the situation.
Clooney and Wiesel’s address was organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which recently set up a Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates.
On Sunday, a rally will take place in New York’s Central park organized by the Save Darfur Coalition.