Actor George Clooney has called for action against multinationals, western tycoons and brokers who have profited from South Sudan’s violent instability, warning policy makers that “if you don’t care” what happens in South Sudan its problems “will end up on your doorstep.”
“Global warming is making the desert larger, violence is moving people off the land – and they are moving by the millions,” the outspoken activist told CNN’s Nima Elbagir on Thursday.
“You care not just because it is the right thing to do, which it is, but because at one point or another, it is something that we will be dealing with.”
On Thursday, a report released by the organization Clooney co-founded, The Sentry, called for the United States and the European Union to expand sanctions and step up anti-laundering efforts to hamper what it calls South Sudan’s “kleptocratic network.”
This is not the first time The Sentry has focused on the oil-rich country, which plunged into conflict in 2013 after it split from Sudan two years before, following decades of war.
Now Clooney is focusing on putting pressure on wrongdoers living outside its borders, he told CNN after a press conference in London.
Clooney said he hoped that the Trump administration would consider sanctions, and cited its economic pressure campaign on Iran as an example.
“I am not in love with where our government is right now, but I will say that I still have faith in some of the people and in the institutions that we have seen hold,” he said.
Americans have survived numerous bouts of isolationism in their country’s history, he said, adding that people forget the “cyclical” nature of life and government.
Clooney said he remained “optimistic” for activists, such as himself, and referenced a line said by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
South Sudan’s civilian population paid a heavy price during its civil war – which saw forces align with either South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit, or his then-Vice President Riek Machar.
The brutal six-year ordeal, which claimed almost 400,000 lives and displaced millions, came to an end last September, when Kiir signed a peace agreement with rebel leaders.
Now, uncertainty clouds the peace process. The Sentry report – titled “The Taking of South Sudan” – accuses “individuals and corporations from across the world” of taking advantage of the country’s weak rule of law and corruption to enlarge their profits.
One of its case studies alleges that the country’s largest multinational petroleum consortium, Dar Petroleum Operating Company, funded militias in the oil-producing regions of South Sudan. The consortium is headed by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Malaysian state-owned Petronas.
The report also accuses the consortium of dumping “high levels of heavy metals and dangerous chemical compounds at its oil production facilities, threatening the local population,” citing an unpublished study commissioned by Dar Petroleum that was seen by the Sentry.
In Paloch region, one of the two oil blocks controlled by the consortium in the Upper Nile state, contamination has extended beyond Dar Petroleum’s facilities, the report says.
CNN has independently verified these findings about Dar Petroleum, and has found evidence detailing the environmental and health impact of oil contamination in the Paloch and Adar regions.
CNPS, Petronas and Dar Petroleum have yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The kind of environmental neglect described in the report has been in plain sight for years: In 2009, a CNN team saw first-hand that pollution from another multinational petroleum consortium had contaminated the drinking water of the local population.
When asked how his activism affects his artistic choices – Clooney recently produced and directed an adaptation of the satirical war novel Catch-22 – he said: “I don’t think there is ever a bad time to talk about how absurd war is, how old men make decisions and young people die.”