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Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy: A Trip Report: Sudan

Speakers: George Clooney, Actor and Human Rights Activist, John Prendergast, Co-founder, Enough Project, Andudu Adam Elnail, Anglican Bishop of Kadugli, Sudan, and Omer Ismail, Darfur Activist, Senior Adviser, Enough Project
Presider: Ann Curry, News Anchor, NBC
March 13, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations

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ANN CURRY: So I'm told that this is one of the most well- attended lectures -- (laughter) -- in the history of the Council on Foreign Relations. So you all have made a good choice to be here today. We wonder why it's so well-attended.


It is part of the Darryl G. Behrman Lecture on Africa Policy. We want to welcome everyone here. My name is Ann Curry and I'm your moderator for this evening.We'd also like to thank the Behrman family for making this meeting possible. We understand the family is here, and so we would like to make a special note of Janine, Darryl's wife, and the family members who are here tonight. Could you sort of raise your hand so we know where you are? There you are. Let's give them a warm welcome. (Applause.) And Janine, thank you so much, and to your family and to Darryl.

I would like to tell everyone -- I'm being asked to tell you -- that this meeting is on the record. I'm also asked to tell you to turn off all wireless devices to avoid interference with the sound system, because there are people here we definitely want to hear.

I'm also asked to tell you that we have a special treat. John and George have brought back some footage, and you're going to be the first, essentially, to see it. It is not, however, available to the public, so we're asking everyone there in the back and everyone in the audience not to use any recording devices, to look at the video we're about to show you. This applies to all the members of the press, those in the back as well, I'm told to tell you, and also that the footage will be available online tomorrow morning on the Council of Foreign Relations website.

So let us now begin, first with a look at what people rarely see, what most Americans don't know anything about, and that is what George and John have brought you tonight. And so I want to direct you now to our screen.

(Video presentation.)

CURRY: Thank you so much for -- I think that just made me pop my belt -- but anyway, thank you so much for showing us that videotape, George Clooney and John Prendergast. We want to say that George is the co-founder -- in addition to his other work, he's the co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project. John Prendergast is the co-founder of the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project.

We also have Bishop Andudu -- he is from Kadugli, Sudan, which is the capital of South Kordofan where these attacks are occurring -- and Omer Ismail, who is a Sudanese activist on Darfur and a senior adviser for the Enough Project.

That was a very powerful video. You are just now, as of this morning, John and George, off a plane as of, I think, 8:00 this morning after seeing atrocities. Explain to people who don't know anything about this. What are we looking at in the Nuba Mountains? What are we seeing? John, do you want to take it first?

JOHN PRENDERGAST: Well, it's part of a larger war, which is embedded in an even larger war. And you can talk about that at the Council on Foreign Relations; it's hard to talk about, you know, to a broader audience.

You know, there is a war amongst a number of the regions in Sudan against the central government, against a dictatorship now that's been in power for 22 years that has discriminated against vast swaths of the population, particularly non-Arab groups. And so regions like the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, Blue Nile, Abyei and others have felt completely left out. The South had experienced similar discrimination. It has a bit of a different history and now has seceded. But the other regions believe they're Sudanese. And they want a -- they want a democratic government, they want a fair share of power and wealth in the country and a chance -- equal rights, to be able to live in peace. And so they're struggling for that, both in unarmed ways -- through organizations, civil society groups, church- related ventures and other things -- and armed rebellion.

And so that -- you have that going side by side with the threat, the looming threat of a resumption of war between Sudan and the new state of South Sudan. So it's a very complicated moment, but a moment that, if this all goes bad, would be by far, in a way, the deadliest war in the face of the earth.

CURRY: So then we're talking about a war, potentially, between North and South Sudan, and that there is a big component involving oil in this war -- that's an understatement -- and that we will explore further. As complicated as it is, John, for the victims it is always very simple. What is happening to the civilians that you saw with your own eyes, George?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Well, I think it's important to understand that there is a -- there is a difference between two armies fighting and what the Geneva Convention calls war crimes. And war crimes are when -- are indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians.

And we were there -- we actually saw very specifically that happen on two occasions. We were there the day after the Antonovs were bombing. We were there as rocket attacks -- and these are not -- these are -- you know, these are 300-millimeter rockets. These are not Katyushas. These are a big deal. And they're being fired from 30 kilometers away.

What you're seeing is an attempt to get people in the same way that in the beginning of Darfur happened, which is an attempt to get people to leave the land. And the way you do that is by all of the exact same tactics -- and by the way, the same people, the same people who are charged with war crimes: Harun, Defense Minister Hussein and Bashir -- all the people involved in Darfur are now the same people orchestrating the attacks to get these people to leave, which include all the same war crimes: rape, starvation, lack of humanitarian aid, choking them -- choking them off completely.

They're -- they are scaring the hell out of these people, and they're killing them and hoping and trying to get them just to leave.

A year ago when the north-south was separating, there was one of these regions we were talking about, these four regions that are not included in the north-south, which is Abyei, and there were 120,000 people there. And all of the people from Abyei -- and we went to visit it; you went there, but we went there. All of the people who were there said, if we are left out of this conversation, we will disappear. That was January 2011. There were 120,000 people there then. There are no -- (inaudible) -- 10 there now.

So left to their own devices, left alone and left unchecked, they continue to do the exact same things that they did in the beginning of Darfur. And that's the problem is that this is easily the same -- the same tactics again. This is not about war in this sense. This is about attacking civilians. And that's what -- that's where the danger lies.

CURRY: Level of atrocity reached? Yes?

CLOONEY: Mmm hmm.

CURRY: War crimes, crimes against humanity, in your view, John?

PRENDERGAST: No question.

CURRY: And ethnic cleansing, which can be interpreted in different ways by future analysts -- ethnic cleansing?

CLOONEY: Well, ethnic cleansing in this sense: If you are -- if you are taking out a group of people by their identity -- this is not religious. You go to the Yida camp, and there are Muslims and Christians all hiding there, all running there. This is -- this is about identity. And you go through the places in the Nuba Mountains where some of the rebel groups have come through -- or not the rebel groups; where some of -- the northern army has come through, and the only people they have attacked and kicked out were people who were non-Arab. This is, without -- you can call it ethnic cleansing, or you can call it by identity, whatever terms you want to use. It is -- it is, again, part of a pattern of war crimes.

CURRY: You're talking about targeting, for whatever purpose -- Bishop Andudu, you are from Kadugli, where last summer -- my understanding is it was last summer that the attacks began in Kadugli from the SAF, the Sudanese Armed Forces, attacking, house to house, people in Kadugli. How were those attacks against civilians -- how did they -- I know you weren't there, but you are very well-connected there. What were you hearing about how those were played out?

BISHOP ANDUDU ADAM ELNAIL: Yeah, first of all, I want to thank George and John for this historic visit to the Nuba Mountains. To my people, as they saw the video, this is my people; I recognize many of them. And when the war started in last June, the SAF -- (inaudible) -- and militias -- they went house to house to cull the people, the black people and those who had seemed to be reporting the rebels, the SPLA. And even my house, somebody -- they went to my house, they shoot my house, and my chaplain was able to step through the window.

And many people have been killed. And Madgress (ph) was found in Kadugli, and this is really ethnic cleansing. And because the government is bombing the children, bombing the villages not only in Nuba Mountains, but those who escaped to Yida, in southern Sudan -- also they were bombed. And the government of Sudan using the food as a weapon to fight the people of Nuba Mountains.

CURRY: There is a story that the forces of Sudan -- and there's one particular elite force called the Abu Tiera, which is directly headed by Ahmad Harun, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, that -- there's a story that he or his troops only targeted Nuba homes and that the Arab homes were told to turn on their radios, make a lot of noise so that they would -- so that the troops would not go to those homes; they would only go to the quiet homes. And then as a result now hundreds if not thousand people are missing.

Can you confirm this? Or is this -- do you know if this is true?

ELNAIL: Yeah, that's true. It's not only the Arabs turning on their radios, but you know, very clearly you can identify who is black, a Nuba, and who is an Arab. The black (Nubians ?), they have dark skin, like me, and the Arabs, they're a bit lighter. So it is very clear to know who is this house and the intelligence -- they know the houses of the Nuba people. So that was true.

CURRY: So -- well, looking at this idea, you brought up mass graves, Bishop, right?

ELNAIL: Yeah.

CURRY: So how do we know that there are mass graves, and do we have any idea how many people may be in them?

ELNAIL: The mass graves -- my congregation in Kadugli and in other areas in South Kordofan, I get reports every time, and phone calls -- they call me and they tell me. And we had eyewitnesses. They saw the mass graves.

The mass graves, they contain more than a hundred people, and Satellite Sentinel Project, they were able to take photos from the mass graves in Kadugli and different areas. And all these areas I know, and I have talked to people on the ground personally, and they told me they are -- saw everything while it was happening. So the mass graves are real. And the government has continued doing the same.

CURRY: So there is evidence from people's testimony that there are mass graves.

And then you, George and John, co-founders of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which essentially has been able to direct a satellite to take pictures from space -- what evidence have you found to back or not back up this idea that there are now mass graves building? How many of them are there?

PRENDERGAST: Yeah. The -- we couldn't get them -- we couldn't -- we don't know the extent of it. What you want to do is to ensure that if there is an assertion or an allegation of this enormity, that you can get some kind of photographic evidence. And so you -- what one does is, you look at photographs of particular dataand then look a week later and then look a week later. And in these cases, we've found places where there were -- it was undisturbed earth, the next week people are digging, the next week -- or the next day white bags, consistent with everything that the people that were on the ground corroborating were dead people, being dragged to these places and then the mounds of earth covered by satellite. So we had on-the-ground corroboration with the satellite imagery in about 24- hour time lags, so almost real time.

CLOONEY: And they were trying to hide it behind a school, which was -- we found interesting.

That's been -- part of our -- part of what's worked the best for us is when we've been able to get some information from the ground that helps us get the coordinates very specific, because obviously we're taking pictures every day, but a satellite's not that easy -- there's an awful lot of ground to cover on the Sudan. So it's not that easy to nail something. We were lucky enough yesterday in fact to get pictures of actually -- of Antonovs flying and dropping bombs and the plumes of smoke on the civilians in villages being bombed by the north. That's very hard to get and very -- that's sort of a needle in a haystack.

CURRY: You two also came essentially in an area where you were sort of in the line of fire. There were -- Antonovs are the planes that are dropping bombs. Then there's the other problem of rockets that you talked about.

You were telling me at one point that you can tell when the plane is coming, but you can't tell when a rocket is coming. At least you don't have a lot of time to run. So explain how close the rockets came. You said laughing -- (chuckling) -- this is not --

CLOONEY: Well, I mean --

CURRY: -- I know it's funny, but it's sort of not. I'm glad you have that humor --

CLOONEY: Well, we were with the villagers, and they'd all come out to say hi as we came, and they had their signs -- you know, no Antonovs and things; you saw that picture -- and then all of a sudden everyone just started en masse running towards the mountains and to the caves, as they do.

And the thing about an Antonov is, there are no planes ever flying over this area, so the minute -- you can hear it coming for five minutes. So you really do have time to sort of move. And the guys kept grabbing John and I, going: Go, go, go, go, run!

And we were like, OK, OK; we've got it. We'll get there. (Chuckling.) But it wasn't an Antonov, it was a rocket. So we took like three steps and it was boom! And that's when we sort of realized that we'd gotten into where -- you know, we were looking for thatarea. That's what we were looking for. So we got there. But we didn't -- we weren't expecting rockets. We thought we'd have a little more time.

CURRY: So the -- you experienced then what people are experiencing there really on a daily basis and depending on where you are. So what you're describing, based on your Sentinel Project and this trip and the video, are -- is evidence of mass graves; is evidence of -- you talked about rape; the evidence of people being persecuted because they're Nuba, because they're not Arab; and hundreds of people may be buried in these mass graves.

We know that there are thousands now living in caves, possibly tens of thousands of people, most of them children, living in caves. So the question is, why are you -- why doesn't America know about this? Why is it that this is a revelation since it's been going on since last summer?

PRENDERGAST: I think, in some cases, people become numb to it.

You know, Sudan has had a series of -- an ongoing series of humanitarian emergencies and human rights crises. You know, in the south of Sudan, before they won their independence through a long- fought, bitterly contested war, 2.25 million people died. They've lost their lives in pursuit of independence. And you know, there was -- there were famines within the conflict. There were terrible atrocities that occurred. So, after a while -- and then Darfur comes, you know, and then -- and now we have a new one.

So, you know, we talk about donor fatigue when there's humanitarian emergencies, and I think there is, to some degree, some form of Sudan fatigue. So we really have to say, you know, this -- it's happening again; there are things that we can do; and this doesn't have to be something that just goes on in perpetuity.

CLOONEY: And also, you know, I have to say -- and you know this because you ran the first real story about this, you and Nick Kristof, there was an Arab Spring. There was -- you go down the list of the big news stories that were happening over that period of time. News organizations were covering those. They're big. Syria is still a big story. Iran is a big story today. There -- we're in the middle of an election year. There's a lot of things that are swallowing up the news right now.

So I think it's good that the fact that it has gotten to this level and at this point, by -- you know, John and I go to every press thing in the world in the next three days, and they'll be -- peoplewill know more and more and more about it. I think it's very hard to keep things constantly -- like you were talking about, the fatigue -- it -- it's also hard for news people to keep it in the -- constantly in the -- in the news. You have to pick and choose your spots. Now's a good time.

CURRY: So I'd like you to think about why we should think about Sudan, why people here should think about Sudan when all those other stories are on the front burner. You just argued for why we have --

CLOONEY: why we should (get ?) --

CURRY: -- we're overwhelmed.

So why Sudan, George?

CLOONEY: Well, let me solve it all for you. (Laughter.)

CURRY: Please do.

CLOONEY: Hey, you know, here's the funny thing. Part of what we have to do is we have to find as -- at -- as advocates for certain things, you have to find ways to get in, you know. And there are people here probably who are in the news understand this; I grew up as a son of a newsman. You have to find a way to get in and to -- and to get into the consciousness.

You will get a lot of, hey, why this when America's got a debt problem, we've got jobs -- our houses aren't worth what they were a few years ago? Why -- you know, why should this matter to us?

Last week the president was doing his press conference and was asked a political question actually about the gas price. And he talked about three of the reasons why the gas prices have gone up: One is because of speculators; two is because of the questions in Iran; and three, he said, is because the Sudanese -- the South Sudanese have shut off the oil.

Now, that -- what's happened is -- a quick geography lesson: The South has all the oil; the North has the pipelines and the refineries. And so the North would get the oil and keep most of the profits and buy bombs and weapons, and then hurt the South. So the South decided recently to shut it off.

China gets 6 percent of its oil import from the Sudan; that's a big number to China. They have $20 billion of oil infrastructure invested in the South Sudan. It's important to them. When they can't get their oil, they're going somewhere else. When they're going somewhere else, that raises the price of oil. So for us, it gives us the ability now to say, as advocates and you know -- gives us the ability to argue every time you -- every time you put gas in your car now, now you have a reason to be concerned that these cross-border problems aren't addressed because now you're actually paying for it.So that gives us the opportunity to talk about those situations and not just be -- not just say, well, it's the right thing to do because we're a good bunch of people, which we'd like to think we are. It's -- now it's the right thing to do because economically it is the right thing. So part of what our (world ?) is is trying to find, again, ways in to get the story out without being disenfranchised along the way. And this happens to be one that's factual.

CURRY: The story of Darfur did not get out for many, many years, in part because the government of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, Ahmad Harun, the people who've been accused of war crimes, were very successful at keeping the media out and keeping the story out.

Omer, you know about Sudan. You know about what happened in Darfur. As you listen to this report, as you listen to this information about what's now happening in the Nuba Mountains and the finger again pointing at the president of Sudan and his government, do you see similarities?

ISMAIL: Watching this footage, I get the chill because it reminds me of what I've seen before. And if you are going to write a script of a horror movie, that is going to happen in the Nuba Mountains and south -- Blue Nile, where there is another war going on there, and maybe another place in Sudan where this -- (inaudible) -- woman is still there and doing what they do, then you don't have to look farther than Darfur. The DNA of all these wars is coming from there.

It has been there: the rape of women and girls that is still continuing until -- the day before yesterday (Radio Debanga ?) reported that girls and women were raped in Darfur. Until last week, the fighting was going on. There was a huge skirmish in a place called Basheem (ph) (near ?) Al-Fashir, my hometown where I was born and raised, between the rebels and the government of Sudan.

The same way that they divide people into enclaves where the help cannot reach these people -- the African Union and the United Nations have 26,000 troops in Darfur. Yet they cannot reach the people that were cut off in these enclaves where the government of Sudan is setting barriers and not allowing the U.N. troops to go in there against all the agreements that they signed with the U.N.

And we heard that the deployment has happened in Darfur and all that, but it is not affecting the lives of people every day. They're still using food as a weapon, still using all the tactics of the high- flying Antonov that they're bombing the people, and the long-range shelling of the people so that they can -- you know, they will never get together. They run away.

And there is one difference. All these are similar. The only difference between what is happening in the Nuba Mountains -- (inaudible) -- and Darfur today is that you don't see this big refugee -- these displaced camps, because the strategy of the government of Sudan, they said, we learned from Darfur. Those big displacement camps in 153 locations in Darfur, that is the -- what brought us the wrath of the international community. We are not going to allow any displaced camps in the rest of the country again.

So that is why you see these people, small villagers -- villages -- run away, and they hide in this mountain or that because the government of Sudan will not allow -- the displaced camps will bring the United Nations, will bring the attention of the world. This is the only difference. The tactics are the same. The militia that they trained, financed, armed and gave the marching orders to, they are still doing the same thing, wreaking havoc in all the country.

And Darfur continues to become the reference of all these wars that are happening in the country. The government that was led by Omar al-Bashir, Ahmad Harun and Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and Alies Monta (ph) and all these guys is still there, and the world is trying to do business with them. And we all know who the culprit is. And those guys were indicted by the International Criminal Court, but they are still there and they are still doing the same thing.

CURRY: Who is trying to do business with them?

ISMAIL: Many, many people are trying to do -- China is doing business with them, of course. They have the investment there. The United States is doing business with these people, because the premise is, if we can work with Bashir, that means the south that was separated is going to be left alone and is going to become a viable state.

Wrong: The south and the north are going to fail together, and there will never be stability in that area with this government there because it's still -- the strategy of this government is winning thiswar by -- winning this by continuing on this war. The security mindset of this government, it still continues.

And without some sort of real pressure on this government to have peace in this country, it's not going to work. The gimmick that they pulled in Doha, and they called it the Darfur Peace Agreement, or -- actually, they didn't call it an agreement; they called it the Darfur Peace Document. They couldn't even call it the peace agreement. So it's not going to work, and all this stovepiping is not going to work at all.

CURRY: John, you have -- are -- you are really probably one of the most astute students of what has been happening in Sudan over the course of, you know, decades. You just heard some very strong words. Do you concur or do you disagree with any of them?

PRENDERGAST: I think Omer and Bishop is -- are absolutely right, you know, in the way they characterize this -- the similarities that we've seen. I mean, this government has been in power in Khartoum for 22 years, and basically it has maintained power, as we say, by any means necessary. And if that means committing what we certainly thought -- concluded was genocide in Darfur, if that means ethnic cleansing in the Nuba Mountains, if that means the kind of tactics against civilian -- I mean, it's a very clear policy. It's an approach to conducting war. It's attacking the civilian population, draining the water to catch the fish. It's the oldest counterinsurgency tactic in the books, why we have international humanitarian (laws ?), why we have the Geneva Conventions, to try to stop that kind of thing. They run right through those yellow and red lights and commit the kind of atrocities that get these guys indicted by the International Criminal Court.

CURRY: One of the most difficult stories and one of the most difficult things to see as it's happening is ethnic cleansing or genocide. It almost sort of is not really understood until, you know, it's almost too late, Rwanda being one example.

In the case of the Nuba Mountains, there is another factor. The Nubans were rebels who fought for the south when the south wanted to be independent, and the government's position is that this is not ethnic cleansing, but we are getting rid of that rebel unit. What happened is that the -- when the lines were drawn, the Nuba Mountains were left out of South Sudan, the South Sudan they were trying to fight for.

So the lines are drawn south of their lands. So now the government is saying, we're just trying to get rid of these guys; it's not ethnic cleansing; we just want the guys who are fighting against us to get out of here.

CLOONEY: The guys who have lived there for a thousand years. I mean, that's the point. These -- the -- these aren't the cave people of Nuba. These are people who lived in villages in the Nuba Mountains. And now they're living in caves because they are being targeted. You know, that's sometimes the mistake when people see all these people in caves. You know, this was not -- this is not a militia that is -- that is being attacked. These people have lived and farmed and died on this land for hundreds and hundreds of years.

And so was there a part of a rebel insurgency, and did they take -- were -- did some of them take up arms? Yes. Do you know how you can tell? They're wearing uniforms, and they are traveling in brigades, and they are -- they are -- they have some tanks that they'd stolen from the north we saw. You know, the have the Kalashnikovs. You can tell who those guys are. They are nowhere near these villages, nowhere near them.

These villagers are being attacked -- they are -- they are completely helpless, and they're being attacked, and they're -- the techniques are not just -- you know, you scare somebody so they don't want to farm, and then you burn all their crops. I mean, this -- these people aren't sitting around going, gosh, we've had a terrible drought; we really need a handout now; can you guys help us out because, you know, Africa -- it always goes bad, you know?

Well, that's not what happens here. These people, in the worst kind of -- I mean, you look at the kind of -- it's 125 degrees while we were there. They grow crops. They farm. They know what they're doing. They know how to survive and have for thousands of years, quite honestly. The only difference is the same people who've committed crimes against humanity are now creating crimes against humanity again. That's the only difference.

ELNAIL: I just want to add something. We are not the rebels because people of Nuba Mountains -- we are the oldest nation in the world. We are the people of Kush. It's written in the Bible, Genesis Chapter 2, Isaiah Chapter 18, talking about people of Kush. And people of Kush is the people of Nuba. We were in south of Egypt. And we call ourselves rebels. We are not rebels. We were a part of the peace agreement -- party. People of Nuba fought with southern Sudan for 21 years. And the people of southern Sudan -- they are not any longer rebels. We were in the table of negotiation, and we have agreed. The people of Nuba Mountains were given -- (inaudible) -- consultation. And before we finished that, then the government is starting fighting the people. So they start -- instead, we were a party of -- one of the opposition party in the government. After -- (inaudible) -- the commander in Nuba Mountains was one of the parties.

So when they started fighting us, then they start calling us rebels. We are with them together on the table. So the term of the rebels, we cannot accept. We were with them. And they want the soldiers of the Nuba Mountains to hand over their guns before we solve the problems. And still in southern Sudan, we have people -- soldiers of Nuba Mountains. They have not even moved. Before they moved there, things happening. That's why the Arabs are saying, we are -- southern Sudan is supporting Nuba Mountains. We are -- they are not supporting us. Our people are coming back to Nuba Mountains to come and defend their lands. So I think there is some misunderstanding happening.

CURRY: The soldiers who -- the rebel soldiers who are now taking up arms to fight and try to protect these civilians who are being attacked who are Nuba, you say that they're fighting to survive because they believe that they're being persecuted because they are Nuba, because they are black and not Arab. So I want to know from you is you are a bishop; is it -- is that the only discrimination that's being alleged by the Nuba? Is there also any -- because there has been some reporting about there being religious discrimination as well. Is that also a part of this, or is that not a part of this -- of this conflict?

ELNAIL: The current situation -- the religious is not part of the war. I'm the chairman of interfaith, bringing Muslims and Christians together. And you will see -- I've seen in the video -- I have a priest -- have a Muslim wife. This is not the issue. It is just the ratio. And we have been working together with the Muslims and studied with them. I studied Arabic at the university. And I understand the Islamic religion.

I have studied sometimes. So the best place in Sudan to experience the coexistence between Muslims and Christians is the Nuba Mountains. And in my job -- in my office, we have made agreement with the Muslims to visit them in their Eid, and they come to us every Christmas Day to visit in the church. So it is not about Muslims and Christians.

CURRY: George and John, you have risked your lives. You have broken the law -- (laughter) -- to go into Sudan. You're lawbreakers, it's true, because you crossed the border illegally. You are now going to testify in Washington before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You're going to speak to the president. You're going to speak to Hillary Clinton.

What is it that you want to happen? And how do you want the American people to help you make that happen?

CLOONEY: Well, I mean, we want the American -- the thing that's funny, and it happens particularly in an election year, political will is a really good thing to have. It's hard to get. This is one that has been led oftentimes by the Republican establishment. Certainly Darfur was a very big part of it. The south had a very big Christian movement as well. There have been a tremendous amount of young kids from -- in the democratic movement.

This is one that -- this is one of the few things that everyone in Washington and really get along with and work on. Our belief is that there is a unique moment here in time where China, who is the player -- they're the people who veto any kind of -- every time you try to raise the mandate for security, China vetoes it. Every time you try to get a no-fly zone over a certain area that would take nothing, China vetoes it -- China and Russia, but China leads the way -- because china has investments in there.

But right now China's pretty ticked off. They're not thrilled with the south, they're not thrilled with the north. North actually bombed one of the Chinese oil wells the other day. All along, there's some -- there's some movement here. There's an opportunity. The one thing we've learned over the years is you can't guilt people into doing the right thing. It doesn't work. You can't go to China and go, well, you know, you got some Olympics coming and you'd really look bad if you -- you know, that you're still helping out with the Darfur thing.

It doesn't work that way. And you couldn't guilt us either. I mean, honestly, it's sort of naive to think that. But you can appeal to them economically, as you can appeal to us economically. This is a moment in time where we can take this -- this stop of flow of oil and the cross-border problems, and we can use this to send -- what we would like to have happen is the president send a high-level envoy to China to sit down and say, listen, this is a moment for both of us to work together to try to get something done here, led by China, of course, that will benefit both of us economically at a time where we could really use it. We think that this is a moment in time that there can be some effect in it.

Look, who knows if it will work or not? We've tried -- everyone here has tried and failed dozens of times on dozens of different issues. But there's an opportunity, and with that opportunity we think it has to be exploited. It can be, with the political will. And we believe that there is -- and there can be political will on this.

CURRY: Well, you are the public, so you are the political will members, so I'm now going to ask --

CLOONEY: Uh-oh.

CURRY: You have an opportunity to voice your questions. I know that this is relatively new information, but I would appreciate -- of, course. Sir, in the back. Oh, hello, Mr. Phillips. How are you?

QUESTIONER: My name is David Phillips with Columbia University. Thank you all for a great discussion. My question concerns north-south relations.

Dick Holbrooke used to say that Milosevic solves a problem by creating a bigger one. Is the root of the problems in Sudan the buyers remorse over the CPA, the unsettled status of Abyei, and how you mediate between north and south as a conflict prevention tool for dealing with these regional conflicts you've talked about?

CURRY: It's a big question. John, you want to take it?

PRENDERGAST: Well, I think the root problem really is the authoritarian governance in Khartoum that is not -- does not share power, does not share wealth, discriminates against a wide swath of the population, is deeply unpopular and doesn't allow for any kind of independent voices or political dissent. The fundamental problem there is a problem of governance. And -- but, you know, this is in the day and age where we're not going to -- there's not any appetite at all for regime change from the outside in that region of the world, for many, many reasons.

So people look to see, OK, what's going on inside Sudan; what are the Sudanese people trying to do about their own situation?

Turns out, a lot. There is a tremendous effort on the part of unarmed political opposition and civil society within -- throughout Sudan working and organizing to try to promote democratic transformation. They're getting brutally beaten down by the -- by this regime in many clever ways and in many insidious ways, the most insidious of which is the raping of women and girls who are founding members of -- some of the most effective organizers of civil society.

And then of course there is armed opposition in four different regions of Sudan now, with threats coming -- emanating also potentially from the east and the far north. So a wide belt of Sudan is in active armed conflict.

So where does that leave the rest of the world vis-a-vis Sudan? It is -- it leaves us to address the unfinished business of peacemaking. Your question involved the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the deal in 2005 that at least addressed the problems, to some degree, of South Sudan and allowed for the referendum that gave Sudan -- gave South Sudan its independence but left unaddressed the problems of the rest of the country.

So now in the context of the emergency that -- and the opportunity that George just described in terms of a -- of a chance to get a deal between the north and the south, using the leverage of the oil shutoff and everybody -- and the fallout from that to try to get people to the table in a serious way to deal with the question of how -- what do you do about getting the oil flowing again and the associated north-south issues, you can also address, with astute diplomacy, the internal problems within Sudan involving the rebellion because part of that north-south dynamic is the support of proxies. So in other words, Juba government is supporting the rebels in the north; the Khartoum government is supporting internal militias in the south that are destabilizing South Sudan.

So this is what we need: In addition to the support for -- or a strategic partnership between China and the United States to bring some influence to the political table -- to the peace table, to have a negotiations framework that really addresses comprehensively these problems now that we have a point of leverage with this oil shutoff. Everybody doesn't want it, and everybody says, oh, my God, it's going to be a horrible crisis in South Sudan and Sudan in the coming months.They are absolutely right. So let's use that leverage now to drive forward a peace process that at least attempts to address (some of these problems ?).

CURRY: Do you think the U.S. should take the lead? Or who should be forcing this conversation? Is it the Arab League? Who does this?

PRENDERGAST: It's got to be African leadership -- (inaudible) -- there.

CURRY: African leadership.

PRENDERGAST: And the regional governments -- there's a lot of dissatisfaction with the current African Union mediation. Nobody is going to knock them out of the way. So regional governments can help. And the U.S., China, Turkey, other countries that have some influence ought to be around the edges of the table.

CLOONEY: There's also one other play here that we haven't really talked about, which is we can really tighten this noose. You know, we've learned a lot in sort of chasing the funding of terrorists and where their money is. We've learned some tricks in tracking down that money. We should find out -- you know, we need to do a better job of finding out where Omar al-Bashir and all of those people that have the cash in Malaysia -- they're not buying these weapons with Sudanese pounds. The -- you know, you don't -- it doesn't go all that well. So they're buying it with whatever they're buying it with, dollars, euros, whatever it is. We should track that down, find it, freeze it and make it harder and harder for these guys to spend their money, close this -- tighten this noose, make the -- make Khartoum a very small place to live.

CURRY: Antonovs are made in Russia -- (inaudible) -- are these old planes or newly purchased planes? They're doing --

PRENDERGAST: They're buying new equipment all the time. And they --

ELNAIL: They -- actually, in the Nuba Mountains, one of the rebel groups downed a drone today. And we've got the pictures.

CLOONEY: Yeah, you got to see the drone, though. It's got a wooden propeller. (Laughter.) I -- it's like -- I think -- (inaudible) -- we might be able to get that one down ourselves. (Laughter.) It's good, though.

CURRY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: I'm John Washburn with the American NGO Coalition for the ICC. As the name indicates, we advocate for the court inside the U.S., particularly to strengthen and expand the relationship between the U.S. and the ICC. In a way, my question takes off from what Mr.Clooney was just saying, but I'd also particularly like to invite his grace and Mr. Ismail to join in this, in the question -- in the answer to this question. What should we be, as advocates for the ICC, pushing the government to do specifically about doing a better job of delivering Bashir and his henchmen to the ICC?

In your answers, don't worry too much about domestic political feasibility; that's my job. (Laughter.) I'm really interested in, specifically from your experience in Sudan and with the international context for this, what should we push the U.S. to do?

CLOONEY: We could have a -- we could have a surprise party in Lake Como for Omar al-Bashir. (Laughter.) Come on over; it's a great party. And then we have the ICC waiting for him.

CURRY: (Chuckles.) So the way it works is the ICC has indicted the president of Sudan, but unless he leaves Sudan or goes to a country where they will arrest him, he's allowed to continue and to finish --

CLOONEY: And he's gone to some -- he's gone to some countries that we would have thought might have done something about it, and we were surprised that --

ISMAIL: But the place is getting smaller and smaller.

CLOONEY: Yeah.

ISMAIL: The real estate where Bashir travels now is shrinking. Left to him to go to Saudi Arabia, you know, Qatar and these areas; some of the people -- I've heard that the Egyptians, after the revolution of, you know, January 25th, they told him, don't embarrass us and don't come back -- and the Chadians, and the Kenyans already, you know, and we've seen what the Ugandans did, you know, and for the first time that ever I hear that a president is uninvited to come to, you know, an inauguration -- the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma in South Africa, they told Bashir not to come, and basically he was uninvited.

So I think, without getting in the domestic stuff and your department there, I think the United States should support the ICC in more than one way. There is tremendous funding that they can give to the ICC some way or another, working with the countries inside Africa, the countries that Bashir traveled to like Senegal or, you know -- and some of the allies of the United States like Qatar; it's a huge ally of the United States. Why would the United States not tell Qatar, please, don't receive this guy anymore, or Saudi Arabia, for that matter?

So the more we make it difficult for him to travel -- and also tracking the money -- and you know, maybe his own guys are going to push him off the cliff; we don't know. So to tighten the noose around him is very important. And also, you know, stop criticizing the ICC and that -- you know, we've seen that in so many ways. And yeah, it will be wonderful if the United States can sign the Rome Statutes and, you know, be a part of that. It would be great. But that is something that you have to work hard on.

CURRY: We have a question here. Yes, please.

QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)

CURRY: I'm so sorry, let's give you a microphone. And please identify --

QUESTIONER: Embrela Jubral (ph), Newsweek. And my question is actually: What's crippling Syria today, the regime, is the sanctions. Why that wasn't done for South -- for North Sudan? And the issue with Qatar, if you notice, they own Al Jazeera, and they never -- they cover everything else except Sudan. Why?

ELNAIL: I think maybe -- first of all, Sudan have a very good relationship with many Arab countries like Qatar. And they cannot expose what is going on. And the government is trying to seal and hide what they're doing in the Sudan. So that's why Qatar is not going to expose what Bashir is doing.

And secondly, Bashir is always trying to deceive the world with assuring them the good side of Sudan, but he'll never show them what is going on.

And the other thing, also, the journalists are not allowed actually to say anything contrary to the government. We don't have free -- we can't speak free -- free speech -- you don't have that in Sudan. Like last week, one of the girl -- (inaudible) -- was killed, and then the authorities said nobody is going to write this in newspaper. And every now and then you find newspapers are closed down because if you said something against the government. So that's why things really are not clear in the media from Sudan.

CURRY: There was a question here. Yes, ma'am. There's a microphone coming to your right.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Evelyn Leopold, journalist at the United Nations. I'm wondering why there's no overall strategy. The U.N. has peacekeepers in Darfur, and there are the Doha negotiations. Then there is Mbeki doing the north-south negotiations. Humanitarian aid is not allowed into South Kordofan.

And there is no one -- I mean, the U.S. cannot do this alone, but there is no one at the U.N. or elsewhere that says -- somebody besides Khartoum has to have an overview of what's going on. And I've lived with this since I've lived in Nairobi in '86 to '89 and saw the north-south, and it just seems to be one endless disaster. Do you have any suggestions of how you get the entire picture and people not just concentrating on Darfur and not just concentrating on the south?

CURRY: I don't have a question -- I don't have an answer. It just -- it just seem -- do you have an answer to that?

PRENDERGAST: You know, Omer used the word "stovepiping." I think along -- over the last 20 years, the international community has done precisely what you're saying. And they pick out pieces of this problem, and they try to focus on that piece of the problem and hope by dealing somehow with that piece that it'll have a salutary effect on the rest of the place.

And I remember clearly, you know, illustratively, how earnestly the Bush administration pursued with -- and I give them a lot of credit -- with great zeal, a north-south peace deal. And most of them, from their special envoy Senator Danforth on down, believed that if you could just unlock that north-south problem, everything else would fall into place, not understanding the problem is -- again, going back to the earlier question -- it's the center. As long as there's a government that's willing to do the kind of things it's willing to do and not willing to share power, you're going to have just a continuous repetition from all these places.

So the answer is, of course, as we've tried to hint at, one has to have a comprehensive policy that addresses at the negotiating table, comprehensively, the problems in Sudan, not having a Darfur peace process over here and then an Abyei deal separately over here and then a north-south thing that's -- you know, well, we'll hide that off over there. If they continue to do that, we'll continue to be having foras like this for many years to come, I think, in Sudan and South Sudan.

CURRY: Mmm hmm. (Affirmative.)

Sir.

QUESTIONER: Well, I was going to ask my -- (off mic) -- but --

CURRY: There you are with a microphone.

QUESTIONER: I'm Allen Hyman, and I'm a physician at Columbia Presbyterian.

You're going to have your 20 minutes or so with the president. What's going to be your message? What would you like him to do?

CLOONEY: We're going to talk to him about -- we're going to talk to him about China, obviously. I mean -- you know, it sort of goes back to your question about sanctions and what -- you're talking about with the U.N. There really is a very -- you know, this is a difficult situation because we can't get anybody to sort of get their act together. You know, we can't get it to be comprehensive. If you want to try to move something at the U.N., it'll be Russia or China in the Security Council that will always veto it.

We're slamming our heads against the wall if we just keep doing it sort of the same way. So we're constantly looking -- you know, John and I were working very hard last year at sort of a version of carrots and sticks that made us pretty unpopular with a lot of the advocacy groups, quite honestly, because we were saying, all right, well, look, this isn't working. So let's try to find a version that would make Bashir play ball, if that's possible. Of course, we didn't think it was, but we thought it was worth a try.

It didn't work. It wasn't -- it wasn't viable.

So now, we're going to sit down with the president, who we've been lucky enough to have those conversations with a few times. (Chuckles.) It -- it's a funny thing about this kind of world, as you know. There are these strange victories, you know.

You'll go in and you'll sit down, and you'll talk with the president and say, we need a -- we need an envoy, a permanent -- a guy who's there all the time. And you get one, and it sort of ends up not being the right guy, and that ends up not really helping, you know, quite honestly. But, for a minute, it was the right thing to do, and it was moving in the right direction. It falls apart.

It has to be constant and continual, and it has to -- you can't let up on it. We believe that there is a moment in time with the Chinese that we can have a nonadversarial relationship with them, that we believe that we could say, let's all do this together, and you, Mr. President, if you send a-- an envoy personally -- Susan Rice, who we talked to today -- somebody high-level to go in and talk with a high- level Chinese official and say let -- maybe there's something that's mutually beneficial for both of us to work on a comprehensive agreement.

Because the truth is, America's done a lot of their sanctions. We've used a lot of that, you know? We've fired a lot of those guns off already. We need other people in the community to do it. So our hope is that the president is willing -- or maybe he has a better idea, I don't know -- but we're hoping that he is willing to entertain the idea that there are still some bullets left in, you know, in that gun that he can still use.

CURRY: John.

PRENDERGAST: You know, in September 2010, the prospects for the referendum looked bleak for South Sudan. And President Obama waded in, directly and personally, into the quagmire and, in this town, assembled roughly 40 heads of state at the U.N. General Assembly meeting and laid down a marker and a process that basically boxed the Sudan government into having a peaceful referendum on time to allow for a resolution of the north-south problem.

It was his direct personal diplomacy. It was limited. He has a million other things on his plate, but it was a moment that we needed presidential leadership.

We feel that the coming cataclysm in Sudan -- within Sudan and between Sudan and South Sudan is -- requires that kind of personal involvement. And we think that that -- that working with the Chinese, so that they get the message directly -- this is not a confrontational thing. This is one where we can do it together, a strategic partnership to promote peace and our interests, our mutual interest in Sudan. If that message comes from him, very clearly and verily -- directly, I think we have a shot.

CURRY: There's a question right here. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Ann Starrs. I run an NGO -- called Family Care International -- that works in sub-Saharan Africa, and I wanted to ask a question. You've outlined a strategy in terms of appealing to governments of China, the government of the U.S. to engage in this issue and hopefully take the lead in solving it. You've referenced a little bit the issue of public opinion here in the United States and its potential to engage around this issue. But you've framed it in the context of getting people to care because it's affecting their oil prices. So you think that's the right strategy? Can you use a different strategy?

I would argue, running an NGO that works on these kinds of issues, that really appealing to people about what is the right thing to do and saving lives is, at least in terms of mobilizing public opinion, an important and the most effective way to go, but sometimes that can counteract or not work effectively with a government-to- government strategy. So I'm just wondering if you two or you four have talked about a strategy to mobilize public opinion and where you would like to see that go.

CLOONEY: Well, I mean, you know, all I do is public opinion, quite honestly. (Laughter.) I mean, that's it. You know, I don't make policy. I don't do any -- I do public opinion.

And I agree; (listen ?), the United States is the most charitable country in the world. Try raising money at an Italian fundraiser, which I've done. (Laughter.)

(Imitating an Italian accent.) You know, hey, we made $500 (Laughter.) Wow! You know. (Laughter.)There's no question about the idea that you appeal to the better souls. But the truth of the matter is this, and you know this as well as I do. Particularly at a time when our country has gone through what it's gone through financially, you will hear a lot of -- people can find a way out of doing what's right by saying: Wait a minute. What about here? What about right here at home?

It's an easy thing to do. It's a bit of a cop-out. But sometimes it's true. I mean, look, there are people suffering here. You could argue the suffering is considerably different, but this is our country and, you know -- so you have to do it on multiple layers.

The reason I was talking about oil and saying that this is actually beneficial to us specially, to our pocketbook, is because for the first time since I've been doing this, we have an argument to say: On top of everything else, doing the right thing, giving a damn about humanity, all of those things -- excuse me -- (laughter) --

CURRY: I'm sure you're forgiven.

CLOONEY: -- on top of all of those other things, we for once have an argument that's -- when people say, well, what's this got to do with us, you can go, let me tell you what it's got to do with you, so that at the very least we have a defense against the people who want to categorize it in a different way. That's all. I mean, that's the thought.

ISMAIL: (You have 10 seconds ?).

ELNAIL: I want to add something about this. Yeah, China is having business with the government of Sudan, but this business -- behind this business there is human rights violation. People are dying. Children are dying. I think that it's -- we can talk about the human rights; that's something difficult. And in Sudan, we cannot have Arab Spring because the government is very violent. They have tried it in Khartoum. So -- and if we wait for anything to happen in Sudan, the government just shoots the people. They have tried it.

And the world actually waiting -- anything coming from the government of Sudan -- I think people are getting solution to solve a problem in the wrong direction. They take Darfur and take Nuba Mountains and take Blue Nile, but the problems are not there. The problem is the center, in the government. I think that is the right way we can go and solve the problem. It's not in the other areas.

CURRY: We're running out of time.

MR. : Yeah.

CURRY: So if you -- are you -- would you like one more --

ISMAIL: Yeah, I would say, in addition to all this, please -- and tell this to the president if I'm not there with you -- (laughter) -- invest in the Sudanese people, who want the change. They are -- many, many, many Sudanese want the change in Sudan. And they are reaching out to the rest of the world. We need help. They are lots of people who did this before. October of 1964, April of 1985, we unseated dictators in Sudan twice, before the Arab Spring ever was in the news. We can do it the third time. We're going for the hat trick. People, help us.

CURRY: All right. Omer (is last ?). (Applause.)

CLOONEY: The hat trick. (Laughter.) The African hockey reference. (Laughter.)

CURRY: Omer Ismail and Bishop Andudu, thank you so much. And we now want to thank all of you for also being here. We want to thank the sponsor of this Darryl G. Behrman Lecture.

We now need to let John Prendergast and George Clooney, these warriors who flew all night, getting here this morning, who are speaking to you this evening -- we want to give them an opportunity to now jump on a train so that they can go to Washington and present their findings to our government leaders. Please join me in congratulating them on their work. (Applause.)


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