TAMI HULTMAN: Welcome, everyone. I'm Tami Hultman from AllAfrica.com. Also welcome the Council on Foreign Relations members who are joining us from around the country by teleconference.
I need to make a couple of announcements. Please completely turn off your cell phones, not just put them on vibrate or silent because we don't want interference with the sound system.
Unlike most Council sessions, this one, happily, is on the record. So spread the word.
GEORGE CLOONEY: I'm turning off my phone. Hang on. (Laughter.) I didn't hear a word you said
HULTMAN: I'm going to do just a brief scene-setter and introduce our guests and ask them a couple things before opening questions up to you.
It's 89 days until the people of Southern Sudan are scheduled to vote on whether to become an independent country. A 2005 comprehensive peace accord or CPA ended a 22-year war between Sudan's mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south that killed an estimated 2 million people and displaced twice that many.
The CPA laid out a detailed process leading to the referendum including a parallel vote in the oil-rich Abyei area on the North-South border. But five years and 8 months later, many of the central issues are unresolved, including demarcating the border, establishing a referendum commission and determining who's eligible to vote. This is a problem.
Sudan is roughly the size of the United States east of the Mississippi. The south is about the size of France with only about 50 kilometers of paved roads. Heavily armed troops are facing off in disputed areas, and President Omar al-Bashir, who was reelected in April, has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court for the government's actions in Sudan's Darfur region.
With time running out before the referendum and the expectation that the south will vote for separation, there's a flurry of activity right now. At the United Nations last month, dozens of international leaders, including President Obama, discussed how to keep peace in Sudan. A Security Council mission has just concluded a visit while a delegation from the U.S. Holocaust Museum has called for urgent action to prevent mass atrocities.
A spectrum of religious leaders from Sudan and Africa have ramped up an international effort to ring alarm bells, as they say, meeting yesterday in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and warning of a ticking time bomb.
U.S. special envoy, Scott Gration, and mediator, Princeton Lyman, have been meeting in Ethiopia with leaders from North and South to try to break the deadlock, but those talks broke down today.
This evening, we have two people who have devoted substantial time and energy to Sudan issues to help us sort through the problems and to point to possibilities for peace. I'm not going to do a lengthy introduction because we want to hear from them, but I'll just say -- and you have longer bios in your handouts -- John Prendergast is an author and human-rights activist who's worked for peace in Africa for over 25 years. He's the co-founder of The Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Among many other involvements, he was director for Africa at the National Security Council.
George Clooney is a multi-award-winning actor, producer, executive producer, screenwriter and director. (Laughter.) He's the son of an anchorman -- (laughter) -- Nick Clooney, and he's a strong First Amendment advocate with a deep commitment to humanitarian causes. And as I think you all know, they're both just back from Sudan, and also just at the end of a very long day of meetings which included President Obama, several senators and I don't know who all else. But --
CLOONEY: The speaker of the House we spoke to on the phone, and Senator John Kerry and Senator Lugar.
HULTMAN: What message did you send?
Why don't you start, George?
CLOONEY: Well, the first thing we wanted to say was I think we're all sort of catching up a little bit late to the idea that there's about 90 days, and there's an opportunity to prevent atrocities instead of sort of mopping up the mess after they happened.
And you know, I'm not a policymaker. My job is -- you know, cameras tend to follow me where I go, so we figure, then, let's bring them all to the South Sudan and let them take pictures.
But mostly what we're trying to do is -- and what we said to Senator Lugar and Senator Kerry and to Speaker Pelosi and certainly to the president was, obviously, what this is going to require is diplomacy, robust, intricate, complicated diplomacy. But it also has to be done quickly.
And if we're going to avoid what we have seen happen twice before with the same players in the North-South and in Darfur, we can't just sit back and think, well, if we just let it play out, maybe this time it will be better. It's sort of doubtful with so many things at stake, including oil.
So we just thought -- our position was that we're going to do everything we can to help assist, including creating public will and some support, to try and get this out enough to say, you know, that the people of this country, the people of the world are watching and aware and know that, if we do nothing, that there's a very good chance that hundreds of thousands of people could die -- innocent people.
And that was sort of our message to them and asked what we could do to help -- to help get that message and help them move forward.
HULTMAN: You've been there several times now.
John, you've been engaged in Sudan for a long time. There's been five years to implement this CPA. Why just now? And what's going to change? Has there not been robust diplomacy, as it were, over the past few years?
JOHN PRENDERGAST: No, there hasn't.
HULTMAN: Where did the ball get dropped?
PRENDERGAST: That's -- the ball got dropped the day that the peace agreement was signed, January 2005. A tremendous, extraordinary accomplishment of the Bush administration to -- along with their partners from Africa and Europe -- to secure a peace deal that everyone thought was impossible, this deal between the North and the South after 2 1/2 million people died.
And as we do so often, once sort of the biggest mountain has been surmounted, we sort of just go off to the next thing. And when that peace deal was signed and we left the Sudanese to their own devices, for the last four and a half years, we've seen slowly, steadily, ratcheting back on many of the commitments that were made, historic commitments that were made in this deal.
And so, as George said, the wake-up call, for better or worse, came about two months ago in Washington and in the United Nations Security Council and people started saying, my God, if we don't urgently attend to this, we're going to lose that extraordinary -- that historic deal and the south will be an inferno again.
HULTMAN: George, let me ask you because you went, in 2004, with your dad, a journalist --
CLOONEY: 2005, I think, yeah.
HULTMAN: 2005. And you've been twice now with NBC, I think.
CLOONEY: Mm-hmm. And once with the U.N. before to Khartoum.
HULTMAN: Okay. So --
CLOONEY: That's a fun trip.
HULTMAN: (Laughs.) How do you see the current diplomacy with President Obama offering incentives to the North, the government, to improve U.S. relations, to unfreeze assets, to do other kinds of things that are wanted by the North? If there's a peace deal, where does that leave, for example, Darfur, where you've also had some concerns?
CLOONEY: Well, I think -- I think that Darfur has to be painted into that exact same negotiation. It's not something that can just be, hey, if you just play a little nice, you're going to get some nice carrots out of it. There has to be some real -- you know, there has to be a tremendous amount of effort.
Look, in any negotiation -- and that's what this is, it is a negotiation -- there are going to be -- both sides are going to have to give. There is no question about the fact that the border that is, you know, that both sides want is going to be somewhere that neither of them are particularly happy when they finally decide on it.
The people who are allowed to vote are going to be disputed, and it's never going to be exactly what one person -- one group is happy or the other group is happy. But it's going to require a negotiation.
I mean, look, you can do this either way. We can -- we could pick this up in five or six months when, you know, thousands and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people can be killed, and we can mop this mess up. Or we can do everything we can to stop it before it happens. We have an actual opportunity to stop it.
And that requires making some hard choices, including diplomacy that means working with people that aren't so savory. And that's a hard thing to do. It's certainly not an easy thing politically to do.
But both sides, meaning both sides of our political spectrum, are willing to start to talk about grey areas. And I think that that's the only way we're going to get to move forward.
HULTMAN: John, if you agree with that scenario, who can play that role? Who can put on the pressure? Where are the levers to incentivize both sides to give up something?
PRENDERGAST: You used both words in the question, and I think both words are apropos. There are incentives and there are pressures that we still have at our disposal. And those are not static actors. We need to -- I mean, leverage is built. It doesn't grow on trees. It is built through, you know, serious engagement in diplomacy and creative thinking.
And in this case, you have to assess -- in every case, you have to assess, so what do the people want, what are their interests? And in the case of Khartoum, the ruling party in Khartoum, it's very clear -- you know, Bashir doesn't want to be the guy that lost the South and get nothing out of it. He's got to have a fairly significant oil wealth-sharing deal over a course of a number of years for him to at least get something out of the thing.
He needs a normalization with the United States. He doesn't want a new state in the South appearing and the U.S. suddenly goes, you know what, we'll just be good buddies with the people in the South and let's go for regime change in Khartoum. This is worst-case scenario.
So you have a number of interests that you then assess and you say, okay, so if we're going to, as mediators, have an influence on the calculations of the parties at the table, we have to take into account these interests and figure out what kind of -- and back to the words carrots and sticks -- we can deploy. And the carrots have to be meaningful and not these little agricultural programs that were announced.
No, you have to talk about at the end of the rainbow, as long as there's a resolution in Darfur and the South, as George is saying, you're going to get this, and it's going to be significant. We're normalizing relations. And all the human-rights purists are going to be sickened by the fact -- including us, but you swallow it -- because we've got -- because peace is more important than anything. Peace with some level of sword of Damocles accountability hanging over people's heads with the ICC.
But then you have, on the other side of the fence, you've got to be ready to deploy sticks. And as some of the people on our trip said -- on the field -- called them clubs, not sticks, because at this point, you know, little toothpicks aren't going to mean anything to these guys. We've got to be willing to go after assets in a very significant way. A lot of money's been made by this oil -- through this oil, and we've got to be looking at a serious of escalating consequences that would occur for any party, no matter who it is, that would be willing to plunge the South -- the North and South back to war.
HULTMAN: As a long-time human-rights advocate, what are you willing to give up? Some Sudanese friends have been saying to me lately, you know, we're worried. What has happened to John Garang, the former leader of the Southern political and military movement? What's happened to his vision of a democratic Sudan, you know, and what, given the positive noises that have come out from some U.S. negotiators about the domestication plans that the North has announced for Darfur, you know -- what are you willing to give up to get peace? What is peace worth?
PRENDERGAST: Yeah, it's -- in the end of the day, you can't let perfection be the enemy. You know, what the vision of the comprehensive peace agreement that John Garang and Ali Osman Taha negotiated with a lot of help from the United States and Africa, the vision was -- at least from Garang's side -- was that there would be this country called, you know, Sudan that would be -- that would transfer itself democratically through the -- through a sharing of wealth and power.
None of that happened during the last four and a half years of the -- or four and three-quarters of the years of the implementation of this deal.
The regime -- the authorities in Khartoum had the chance -- and this was from Francis Deng sort of books onto -- transformed into the peace agreement, let's make unity attractive. That was the -- and the Egyptians and the Saudis and everybody said this is the strategy we want the world to pursue.
HULTMAN: Can you say who Francis Deng is?
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. The former minister of state for foreign affairs in Sudan and a long-time -- I mean, I'm sure everybody knows him in here. He's a very esteemed senior diplomat in the international community.
And, you know, this idea that democratic transformation can occur in Sudan, but the Sudanese authorities are having none of it. It's an autocratic state that will do everything they can to maintain power by any means necessary, and that does not include any form of democratic transformation.
So the southerners are like, what do you want us to do; we're gone. And the Darfurians, now they've had seven years of fighting, and you've got now some voices where it's three, four years ago -- we know this, we were there. No Darfurian was talking about self-determination or independence. Now, some of them are starting to talk about it because the state -- the government in Khartoum has ruled so autocratically and so exclusionarily -- I don't think that word is allowed in the CFR. (Laughter).
But you know, I mean, that reality has been very, very clear. We would love to see democratic transformation sitting here in Washington, D.C. in Sudan, but it's a -- as they say to the Sudanese, so, of course, we want to build all we can into the peace process that would unfold under U.S. auspices or at least with U.S. involvement pushing for the windows that you can of opportunity for democratization. But we have to be realistic who we're dealing with here.
HULTMAN: Kenya's General Sambayo (ph), who was in Washington last week who was a lead negotiator in Kenya's envoy -- and it was highly acclaimed for having held everybody's feet to the fire, both sides in Sudan and the international community. But he expressed lots of concern when he was here last week. I mean, he said that neither the North nor the South can account for the oil revenues that have come in since the CPA, that there's no political will that he can discern on either side to deal with any of the yet outstanding issues, and that the South has no institutional capacity to govern or to do anything else.
What have you seen in your travels --
CLOONEY: Well, they're -- it's certainly infinitely further along than it was three years ago, the South. I mean, they really have made some movement.
HULTMAN: How so? Can you be specific?
CLOONEY: Well, they've gotten to the point -- when we met with the U.N., the people that we met within the U.N., some of the people that I'd seen there years ago, you know, they're setting up -- you've got to remember that -- you know, you have to find a way -- there's banking that has to work. You know, there's roads. There's infrastructure that has to be built. There's a lot of that.
You're seeing big signs of that. Even in Abyei, we saw, you know, roads being built that were government roads.
PRENDERGAST: Basic government.
CLOONEY: Basic government.
PRENDERGAST: I mean, they're setting up basic administrative structures.
CLOONEY: And they have each -- there is -- it's infinitely further than it was. When we were there the last time, it was in real shambles. It's still going to be, you know, a herculean task to try to get an election off. It's really a big deal, and it's going to be very hard. And every single day we wait, it's going to be harder.
But the truth is this. What we saw also was a very resolute people. We saw people who have, for generations, been enslaved and been sold and been tortured and been murdered and raped, who in 2005 won the opportunity -- won peace and won the opportunity to vote for their own independence.
And January 9th, they are going to vote for their independence. And they are willing to die for it. And that was to a man and woman there. And so if we underestimate how strongly they feel about this, then we're going to be doing a great disservice to that region, because there is going to be a very strong reaction.
HULTMAN: Can the voting be pulled off? Can it happen?
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. I mean, the people -- we're not experts on polling, but the people we met with who are going to be having to pull this minor miracle off said there's still time. It's not going to be the technically perfect election people would want to see, but it is --
CLOONEY: (Not too much ads ?) or anything. (Laughter.)
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. (Laughs.)
HULTMAN: Are there ballot boxes? Are there voting materials?
PRENDERGAST: All that stuff is being printed, produced and beginning to be, you know, shipped from wherever they're producing it to Sudan that will then be transshipped. It's -- I mean, the word herculean may be an understatement, what these guys are up against. But, you know, I mean, they just had an election in April. It's not like this is virgin territory. They had an election in April, presidential and local elections. Yeah, it had a lot of problems, but they went through this process.
And part of why so many millions of dollars were invested in April into that process, even though everybody said, "This is not going to be a free and fair election," is because they wanted to get the machinery, to start to oil the machinery that would be required for the January referendum.
And I think, you know, you've got to give people some credit for putting a lot of -- investing a lot of time and effort into this in the United Nations and other governments that have done a lot of work on this. It doesn't mean that we're starting from zero. There's actually an infrastructure in place.
We've got the largest peacekeeping force in the world. It's going to be deployed to get the materials out there and get the vote. You know, will it happen on January 9th perfectly -- (inaudible) -- like that? Well, flip a coin. But I do think that there's a chance. And as long as there's a chance, then we've got to do everything we can to make it happen.
HULTMAN: Let's assume that it does. What happens on January 10th? As you know, the religious community was very instrumental in helping the Bush administration begin to take action in Sudan, begin to pay attention. Now the ecumenical-religious community from Sudan and from Africa are engaged in a very vigorous international campaign. They're calling it ringing the alarm bells. They're talking about the ticking time bomb.
A delegation is in New York now. They met with Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the U.N., yesterday. They are coming to Washington next week. And they are saying that what faces them in Sudan is a kind of Rwanda-like moment. They're saying what all of us in the international community are dealing with is the chance to know, before something happens, that it's imminent and that it can be stopped. Unlike Rwanda, they say, "We know this one is coming."
So do you agree with that? Is it that dire?
HULTMAN: And just, again, what happens on January 10th?
CLOONEY: Well, here's the thing. It doesn't matter whether I agree or not. You know, it was actually Secretary Clinton who called it a ticking time bomb. The president has weighed in in the exact same way. The CIA said this is the next place with the greatest possibility of atrocities, including and up to genocide.
This is -- you know, it is a looming threat. And if it's 75 percent, if it's 50 percent and we didn't make every effort possible to avoid it, then, again, we've done a great disservice.
What happens January 10th? Look, I was at the Darfur rally, which, by the way, we were late to. I mean, it's an important thing you said, which is, you know, we were late to the Congo. We were late to the North-South. We were late to Darfur. We were late to Rwanda. We have an opportunity to be ahead of this.
In one way or another, we have an opportunity to be ahead of it. And if we don't do everything we can politically, diplomatically, to try to stop it -- what happened after the rally in Washington and everybody -- even though it was way late, everybody felt great and we all joined arms and everybody marched home. "Darfur's done. We fixed it," you know. And the truth is, it wasn't.
And what is required is sustained, constant work; very hard to do. It's hard to do in this day and age, where we -- you know, we all join hands to help Haiti for a week or two, or Pakistan for a week or two, and then we're on to the next news story and the next news cycle. It's a very hard thing. It requires all of us and all the people in the media and all of the people who actually feel a responsibility to do more than just the headlines. And it's a hard thing. It's sustained.
HULTMAN: One of the things the church leaders are trying to call attention to is what they feel is the vulnerability of the million and a half or so internally displaced people, many from the south, in the north, and an unknown number of people from the north in the south.
Did you discuss this on your trip?
CLOONEY: Yeah. I mean, we -- you know, it's going to be a big problem, you know, just in terms of voting. You know, think about it like this. You know, you don't really know where the border is yet. We're still arguing over that. So there's going to be some dispute over all of that. Then you've got, depending on how, you know, the North decides to count heads, if it's helpful, they have 500,000 South Sudanese in the North or they have 5 million. As the vote is coming up, they have 5 million. They don't have -- it's probably a million, million and a half. And they're not going to come down south to vote. You know, they're not going to make it. It's a long way. And they're going to face a lot of intimidation in voting. So, again, there's -- this is -- there are incredible complex issues.
We talked to President Salva Kiir about that today. He felt like that wouldn't be decisive in any way. But all of those things are going to be complicated. But, again, it's a problem until we fix it. You know, I mean, it's a great thing about not just Americans; it's a great thing about what we're doing now, what we're able to do now, is, you know, diplomacy. You know, at the end of every war, you've still got to -- it's still Appomattox. You've still got to sit down and sign something, you know.
HULTMAN: Do you think the president and the members of Congress that you talk to today are ready to do that?
CLOONEY: I think they are now. I think they have been for about -- for the last couple of months. I think that what happened was a couple of months ago they were -- you know, listen, there's a lot going on in the world, and they've got two wars to deal with and an economy and plenty of issues, and an election. All those kind of issues take up a lot of space.
But I think somewhere around two months ago or so, everybody looked around and said, you know, "Wait a minute. What's going on?" And you can really feel the change. You could feel it almost immediately. We've been planning this trip for about two and a half or three months. And when we first started talking about it --
PRENDERGAST: A vacuum.
CLOONEY: -- it was a vacuum. And a vacuum is a very -- you know, Omar al-Bashir really likes a vacuum. Vacuums are good for him. He gets things done. And so we need to turn some lights on and, you know, make it a little harder.
PRENDERGAST: It was really remarkable today to listen to the president of the United States have such command over the intricacies of the negotiations process now; very heartening to us to see how engaged he is, how engaged his administration is. It's very different than what it was two or three months ago, as George was saying, but, you know, we'll take it when we can get it. It's late, but it's not too late.
And so, you know -- and there's not only an understanding, intellectual comprehension, but a real, I felt, resolve on the part of the president and each one of the members of Congress that we spoke with. I mean, it's across aisles. There's a real clear agreement that we have to do much more than what we're doing now, willingness to do much more, but a curiosity or a searching for what exactly would make a difference. And that's part of what we're doing is not only raising the alarm bell, but throwing out some ideas right now that might actually help move the process along.
CLOONEY: There's a whole argument that you will always hear, you know, which is why the United States and why Sudan. You know, we're there. I mean, we spend almost a billion dollars a year there anyway. So, you know, this is something that requires no money and no American lives right now. So we can do it now or we can mop it up. We can triage this afterwards. And so, to us, it seems like our job is to sort of just yell it, you know.
There was a -- we stayed in a -- we were in these huts. We kept staying in really interesting places to stay.
PRENDERGAST: We were roommates, by the way.
CLOONEY: We were roommates. (Laughter.) Snores. (Laughter.)
PRENDERGAST: (Laughs.) He does other things. (Laughter.) I don't know what that meant. I just said it. I'm sorry. Threw you to the wolves. Threw you under the bus.
CLOONEY: I was cold. (Laughter.) I was lonely. (Laughter.)
HULTMAN: All right, so you're using your --
PRENDERGAST: This is not allowed at Council on Foreign Relations. This is simply --
CLOONEY: This is actually Council on Foreign Relations -- (inaudible).
PRENDERGAST: Oh, this isn't real? Oh, I see.
CLOONEY: By the way, thank you. I'm a new member. I'm proud to be a member of the Council now.
HULTMAN: You're using your voice to try to -- (inaudible). Let me ask you --
PRENDERGAST: Oh, you've got to know about the hut thing. Tell her about the hut thing.
CLOONEY: Well, no -- there was a handwritten note that sort of told you what to do in case of an emergency. They'll blow a horn, and you stay inside your hut and don't come out until they blow their horn again. And then it says, "In case of fire, run outside and scream, 'Fire, fire, fire!'" (Laughter.) And we were laughing. "Well that's about the most logical thing I've ever read in my life." (Laughter.)
And then, you know, when we were getting on the plane and we were coming back and were laughing about it, and then you sort of feel like, you know, you want to go everywhere across the United States and across England and across Egypt and everywhere and go, "Fire, fire, fire!" I mean, it's the most logical thing.
HULTMAN: All right, a final "why" question to either or both of you. You mentioned Zaire, Congo. In eastern Congo, 5 (million) or 6 million people have died in the past six or seven years. So why not Congo? Why Sudan? Is it just because this is a moment where you can make a difference in Sudan? And will you roll on to something else afterwards once we've established peace in Sudan?
PRENDERGAST: I think we've been working -- he's worked on it. We've worked on the Congo issue together. They're the two biggest human-rights and humanitarian crises in the world. There is a moment now in Sudan that is a decisive moment that could potentially, with the proper diplomatic intervention, prevent the loss of millions of lives. It's urgent.
Congo bleeds on. We'll go -- you didn't know this, but we're going together soon. And, you know, we're going to keep working on that one too.
CLOONEY: I had some goat and (gomo ?) once that was fantastic.
PRENDERGAST: See, he's been there. He's done that. But we'll keep doing it.
HULTMAN: All right, we're going to open this up.
PRENDERGAST: We'll keep working on both.
HULTMAN: To members, believe it or not, you can't see very well from up here, where people are, who they are. I'm going to call on you mostly at random. I need to tell you to speak into the mike -- wait for the microphone. Speak directly into it. And if you want to ask a question, I'm going to take one at a time. So please say your name and who you're affiliated with. Don't ask a question that's already been asked. And don't make a statement. And finally, be very concise, because I will intervene to make sure we get as many questions in as possible.
CLOONEY: And I learned the secret handshake, so -- (laughter).
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Barbara Slaton (sp). I'm an independent journalist.
John, nice to see you.
Mr. Clooney, nice to see you.
What are the Chinese --
PRENDERGAST: What, am I not Mr. Prendergast? (Laughter.) What happened?
QUESTIONER: You're John.
PRENDERGAST: I mean, this is just -- I'm tired of this, all right, for the record, this disrespect. I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of the human-rights community here.
QUESTIONER: I've only seen Mr. Clooney on the screen before, so he's Mr. Clooney.
What are the Chinese up to? Because the United States, we give money, but the trade relationship with the U.S. is, as my grandmother would say, bupkes. The Chinese are the ones who really hold the strings in terms of oil. So are you trying to convince them to do something? Because it would seem that they have the most to lose of foreign powers if this goes down badly.
CLOONEY: Well, I mean, I've made trips to China. John's been there plenty of times. You know, you can't really shame them into it. And, you know, they're a pretty big country with big needs, and they need oil. And there's a lot of oil there right now. It's the third-largest oil supplier out of Africa. So it's a big number. And it's all -- you know, you can go there and see Chinese workers in backs of trucks, you know, going all through South Sudan. It's a big issue.
But rather than, you know, the tact (sic) of trying to say, "Shame on you guys for not paying attention to humanitarian issues" hasn't been very effective. You know, you don't leave people a way to win. And I always find that in any negotiation I've ever been in you've got to find a way to let somebody be able to go home and say "I got something out of it."
The answer seems to me to be when we go to Abyei and you're sitting there with these -- with the people who have been attacked, you know, just -- less than two years ago and killed, massacred the whole town, you know, their answer would be, well, we're about, you know, ten kilometers from a bunch of oil wells. And this will be Nigeria and, you know, these aren't going to be conventional wars, and the South is armed. Remember that this is a very different time than it was seven or eight years ago, North and South.
The South has some tanks, and they've got planes, and this is going to be much bloodier and much more hard-core, and they're going to go after oil wells, Chinese oil wells. And so if they don't want to interrupt the flow of oil -- and you could say that to the Egyptians, as well, with the water rights, water flowing north -- they have a vested interest in not having a war, truly a vested interest, so rather than going to them and saying, "Shame on you, you're doing poorly," you know, we need to have, again, robust diplomacy saying, "Look, you guys, you're in for some real -- a real mess in terms of oil flow, so get involved."
PRENDERGAST: You know, it's such diplomatic low-hanging fruit. China -- I mean, I just want to footnote what George has said. There's just so much -- even though we come at it so differently, the United States and China, we have the exact same interest in seeing stability in the South, and it's -- I can't quite comprehend why we haven't been -- the United States hasn't been much more forward-leaning, with all the disputes and all the issues that divide Beijing and Washington these days, not to send a senior envoy with a very positive message, to say, "Let's work on this together."
"Let's go back to Khartoum together and to Juba together and make sure that in support of the African Union mediation, China and the United States, the two countries in the world that have the most influence in Sudan, can bring different forms of influence, whether it's the good cop/bad cop, whatever the scenario is, let's work together on this."
And you know, in our times we've both gone to the Security Council and met with them and addressed them and we've told the Chinese very directly about the implications of non-involvement on this one, that if, in fact, as he's saying, there's conflagration, the first targets are going to be the Chinese oil installations. The Southerners aren't stupid. I mean, they could fight a conventional war for the next 50 years and get bludgeoned and the whole thing would be destroyed, the whole South would be destroyed. Or they can fight an asymmetrical war, where they go straight for the economic assets.
I mean, which one are they going to do? It's eenie, meenie, miney -- no, they know what they're going to do. So China, you know, it's a long learning curve because their sources of information on the ground are -- the diplomats in Khartoum are not telling them that. So, I just feel like it's, again, late but not too late. We ought to be sending a senior team, Donilon or McDonough or somebody in that hemisphere, in that stratosphere, to Beijing to talk about how we can work on this.
HULTMAN: That's a concrete policy recommendation. Way in the back.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Sonia Schott with Globovision, Venezuela. I would like to know how you will characterize the response of the international community to your appeal and if you have any specific response from Latin America. Thank you.
CLOONEY: You can talk on Latin America. We know that the international response has been tepid. You know, the problem with what -- the United States has pulled off pretty much all of the sanctions we have. You know, we're running out of a lot of sticks. England's got some sticks and France has some sticks.
You know, there are people that are still doing business that you can -- you know, believe me, Omar al-Bashir is not buying things with Sudanese pounds. You know, he's buying them with British pounds and with euro, and you know, the international community could be looking for those funds and freezing them. That's a first good step. Again, another policy step that you could be doing to truly say, "Okay, you guys want to play, it's going to -- we're going to make it a much smaller playground for you every day."
So the international community has not stepped up enough. Part of the job of all of us who care about this issue is to continue to make it a priority, and that's our job.
And Latin America, what do you know?
PRENDERGAST: I'm pretty sure what I'm about to tell you is a true story, but I'm not entirely sure. I've never let the facts undermine a good argument, but I believe it was Costa Rica that was the president of the Security Council during the month in which the issue of the referral of Sudan to the International -- the case of Darfur to the International Criminal Court was taken up.
Now, what you get from the U.S. diplomats and British diplomats and French diplomats, "Ah, we can't do anything in the Security Council because of the Chinese and the Russians." They say it to you every day on 50 different issues. The Costa Ricans painstakingly -- oh God, I hope this is true -- painstakingly -- (laughter) -- cobbled together an absolute majority in the council, neutralized the Chinese and Russians, believe it or not, and got the United States to shift its vote, even though there was virulent opposition in the previous administration to the ICC, to a neutral one, and they were able to push the case of Darfur to the ICC. It's an example at times and (Ocampo ?) will be in from Latin America, has, I think, been instrumental in getting certain countries at certain junctures to stiffen the spine of the United Nations to keep accountability in the mix.
You know, we could walk around all day and talk about peace and can't everybody just get along, but at some point there has to be a break in this cycle of impunity in Sudan. People have to respond to these crimes against humanity that have been committed. And so the Latin Americans, I think, have been very, very positive in that particular aspect of the overall problem.
HULTMAN: So if it's not a true story, they have a chance to make it true. They can step up now. (Laughs.)
PRENDERGAST: Yeah, there's still a shot.
HULTMAN: Yes. Right there, in the middle. Other side.
QUESTIONER: Howard Wiarda from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS. Having an election for independence in the South in a context of almost total lack of institutions in the South is a formula for disaster. And it's also a formula for a failed state.
And, of course we all know that institutions are going to take 50 or 100 years to develop, so how do you two see this developing over time? Is this going to call for a 50-year occupation on the part of us or the UN or the African Union, or how do you see this developing over the long term once, presumably, some diplomatic efforts are done to deal with the immediate situation?
PRENDERGAST: Well, if you go back and look at where the United States was -- you know, most of Africa is now 50 or 60 years old, as independent nation states, and if you look at where the United States was, we were in the midst of an ethnic cleansing against the Native American population. We had -- our economy was being fueled by a trans-Atlantic slave trade. We hadn't even fought our Civil War yet, which was one of the bloodiest in per capita terms in the history of the world.
I mean, you know, you've got to start somewhere. The Sudanese people are not -- the Southern Sudanese people are not going to be denied their independence, and you know, we can make all the intellectual arguments we want to, the sort of arguments we want to, but that's going to happen. And so what we need to do is figure out okay, what are -- as you're asking -- what are the essential institutions that are most important to secure some level of stability and some level of service delivery, some level of authenticity, legitimacy for basic governing institutions?
And the United States, by far and away, is the biggest player in this, and I think since the Bush administration through the Obama administration, there's been a bipartisan commitment on the part of Congress to fund significant institution-building programs that many African states at the time of independence in the '50s and '60s did not have the advantage of having. Now the problem is, you've got this sword of Damocles hanging over their heads up in Khartoum.
If there is indeed an independent state, which is a big if, clean. You've still got the Ethiopia-Eritrea scenario as a possibility, but I'm optimistic, frankly, because I think if we can get through this period, if diplomacy wins the day, if a negotiated settlement addressing everyone's interest there's a lot of money to be made. And this is not an insignificant factor.
And if they can figure out a way to share that and they can figure out where to place that border and then stick the pylons in there and they can figure out a way to coexist as two separate entities, then we can invest as much as we possibly can, and other states -- and get the Arab League particularly -- we've made a lot of comments about what they will do and we've got to actually have them come through now because a stable southern border will be good for Khartoum and good for oil production.
I think, you know, it's got a shot. It's got a shot. It's going to muddle through and there's going to be terrible inter-ethnic conflict, and you're shaking your head because you're like, what does this NGO guy know, but -- (laughter). You know, I've been going there for 25 years and the one thing the Southern Sudanese have is a very, very clear desire for freedom and for independence.
And, again, we get in the way of that, that's just going to be more warfare, so let's get on with it. Let's help support the state-building enterprise that's going to occur, as you say, over the next 50 to 100 years, just like existed in the United States.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Sarah Margon with Senator Feingold. You talked a little bit about some of the incentives and suggestions that you had for U.S. policy. I'd be interested to hear your suggestions for some of the key regional actors. You mentioned Egypt, Chad, Uganda. If you might speak a little bit to those countries and what role they can play in the next 89, 90 days, but then also after the referendum.
PRENDERGAST: When you talk about Egypt, you talk about -- it's such a dynamic -- you know, they're -- go ahead.
CLOONEY: No, it's all right. You're better at this. You're smarter anyway.
PRENDERGAST: You breathed inward very sharply. That means you had something to say.
CLOONEY: You're smarter at this than I am. (Laughter.)
Chad is already participating, obviously, because everything's spilling over the border.
PRENDERGAST: The water, I mean --
CLOONEY: Yeah, well, Egypt is -- I mean, obviously, we've talked about that before. Egypt in particular, you know, we went to Egypt and met with, eventually, Suzanne Mubarak. This was on the Darfur issue. But, you know, Egypt is not jumping to get in on this. You know, they're not hoping to save all these problems but the truth of the matter is, you know, they're growing and they're at the very end of the Nile pipeline.
And they're starting to lose water and water is becoming an issue. And they're going to have some negotiating to do, to make sure they get it. And that gives South Sudan some leverage, and I think that that's a place that if you were to ask most of the experts that we've talked to, where are the best places to go, where the most leverage is, it's first China, of course. And then the second place is Egypt in terms of regional powers. Chad's hard to do. You know, they're having their own problems, obviously.
PRENDERGAST: And people forget, you know, in 1983, when the war started between North and South, the first two targets of the SPLA, the Southern army, was where Chevron's oil installations, which they successfully drove Chevron out right away, and then the second target was this crazy -- it was, I think, at the time -- somebody might correct me because, again, facts. The largest machine in the world, the largest moving machine in the world was digging a canal called the Jonglei Canal, which John Garang wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on it at an Iowa University, Grinnell, about the Jonglei scheme. And it was an attempt at the time by Sudan to create this canal that would pull some of the waters that lie stagnant in the Sudd swamp in the Southern Sudan, wasted hydroelectricity and irrigation in Egypt, having it just sitting there in Sudan.
And the canal was going to drive that water northward into Egypt. Egypt's interest in the long run is some kind of an arrangement in Southern Sudan that can recreate that northward -- that increased northward flow of the Nile, for the reason that George said, is that their 20-year plans for industrial development and agricultural development completely depend on massively increased flow of water, which, in fact, is going the other way because Ethiopia and Rwanda and Kenya and Tanzania -- everybody else south of Egypt wants to use this water.
And the Ethiopians, particularly, are building huge irrigation schemes, so Egypt's chance is to find a way to cut a deal with the people who are living in that place, whether it's in a united Sudan or in Southern Sudan, so that they can recreate this economic lifeline, which the canal will represent, and they'll redo it, and they'll find that machine and they'll rebuild it and do it again because that is the future.
And so I think Egypt is a major player, Sarah, and Ethiopia. You know, behind the scenes in these negotiations if they succeed or fail, Meles Zenawi for better or worse is going to be part of this, and he's the one that has the most contact with both parties. You know, some have contact with one, and some have contact with the other. He has both. I think Museveni's is going to play a role because he has influence with the SPLM and then a few of the Arab states with their relationships with Khartoum.
So those are the countries that matter. Those are the countries that the United States has to be putting the full court diplomatic press on now to ensure that we're all going in the same direction.
HULTMAN: Right here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Reva Carouth (sp). I'm an independent scholar. I'd like to commend the panel for the work that they're doing. Very quickly, I'd just like to ask you, do you think it would be good for the United States to reaffirm its leadership with its core principle of the unity of peoples and equality of peoples and build the capacity-building for the government -- the emerging government and the nation of Sudan around that? Because that way, the trust in the United States to be able to deliver not just hope but a vision that can be embraced by the Sudanese people could be built, and I think that's the key here.
Because in a way I think what you're saying is really the key to all of this. The black Sudanese people are indigenous people to that area. The problem with them is that they have resources that they have never had ownership of, and so it's a bigger issue. It's a slavery issue. It's a race and ethnic relations issue. And I think going forward, America has tools not just on the market side, not just on the policy and government building side, but on the unity of people's reconciliation and the integration of nation side. So could you speak a little more to that, both of you actually -- not just --
CLOONEY: Well, I mean it's a tricky thing, you know. It's a very, you know, what you have to try to do in this negotiation is you have to try and separate yourself from some of those situations because people have been living cross borders for generations now. So it's not as simple as sort of, you know, Christian and Muslim and, you know, the same, you know, different colors.
And you know, there is some absolute truth in the fact that if you go to Abyei, you'll see the people there -- you know, nobody gave a damn about that area until they found oil. I mean, the truth is the Messiria would come down and let their, you know, their cattle would craze and then they'd leave.
QUESTIONER: Because they're nomadic peoples.
CLOONEY: Nomadic people. No one cared. They all -- get in fights every once in a while, you know, but it wasn't a big deal. It has become, you know, a rather big deal and it has become a rather big deal because there's oil. Now when you talk to those people who were killed two years ago, all of the people that were killed, the families whose lives were ruined two years ago, they believe -- and this is a very big part of it -- that they say, who put this oil in the ground? God. God gave it to us as, you know, as a gift because of how much we've suffered, and it's ours. and they believe that very strongly.
So that's why negotiations are going to be very difficult. They're saying, no, we're not sharing any of it. It's on our land, and we're not sharing any of it. That's why we keep going back to the idea of when we talk about robust negotiations, it means getting people in going, I get it, and it means people -- listen, it means at some point bringing in people they trust from the last agreement, you know -- Senator Danforth, Colin Powell, bring them in, you know. Bring them -- I don't want to undercut General Gration at all, but you know, at some point they trust those guys. And if they say, listen, just let's just work this out so we're going to have peace, you'd have a better shot with them.
So, look, it's a very complicated issue. Again, you're right, but you know, to deal with it in terms of race and religion puts us in a very sort of complex and much more difficult place to ever solve, you know, than just saying, let's work on it from these borders that were established that for some reason were established 50 years -- 56 years ago, you know. I find that to be part of the trouble.
PRENDERGAST: The only footnote I'd add is that there's sort of one way to concretize the unifying vision is in the form of these post-referendum negotiations that are supposed to be occurring now. This is the race, you know, whether diplomacy will overcome the winds of war. But these post-referendum negotiations will establish the terms of the relationship between the North and the South once the South is an independent state, which it will be one way or the other.
And so that is a place where, you know, how wealth is shared, how power is shared, how security arrangements are met, how they deal with all the complicated issues of banking and financial relationships. You know, 20 percent of the people of the North and the South depend in some way, shape or form on border -- on access to the border, whether it's the pastoral communities that George was talking about or it's agricultural/migrant labor or it's cross-border trade. I mean, that's one out of every five people in Sudan affected by that border.
So having some kind of a vision about how they work together in the future is going to be key, and these negotiations that are going to be ongoing under Mbeki that we're arguing ought to be reinforced with higher level of support.
HULTMAN: Former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
PRENDERGAST: I forgot, sorry. You're doing good. (Laughs.) You're being a good chair. But yeah, I think that's the place where we can do it.
QUESTIONER: Nadia Bilbassy with NBC Television Middle East Broadcasting Center. Good to see you again, John.
PRENDERGAST: That was for me, actually.
CLOONEY: Sorry. (Laughter.) She was looking at me.
PRENDERGAST: Really? I don't know, I think she was looking at me. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: I know him for a long time. So --
PRENDERGAST: But you could have said Mr. Prendergast. I'm just saying. You had your chance. Nadia, come on.
QUESTIONER: And to Mr. Clooney as well. As you know, the talks in Addis Ababa has collapsed, and both the government and the SPLA came and acknowledged that. Do you honestly believe that referendum can take place over Abyei -- the negotiation collapsed. Do you think the referendum can take place without Abyei considering that the time period we're talking about, 90 days? And also if I may add, you might be aware that the Arab League issued a statement talking about in principle supporting the idea of referendum, but they warned severely against secession, and they think it's going to be a bad example in Africa, particularly in Sudan. Are you worried about interference from neighboring states as part of the incentives that you talked about?
PRENDERGAST: I hate two-part questions because I never remember the first part.
CLOONEY: Actually, that was a three-part.
PRENDERGAST: Well, I mean I'm completely dizzy now. Do you remember any of them?
CLOONEY: Well, the first one was --
PRENDERGAST: Sorry, it's not personal.
CLOONEY: The first one was about -- well, can you have a peace referendum ignoring Abyei somehow or pushing it off? Tough. I mean, I think somewhere along the way there's going to have to be some -- some of this is probably going to be delayed. Abyei is a -- you know, so if there's anybody here who doesn't understand it, there's two referendums. There's a referendum for the North and South, and then there's a very specific vote at the same time, the same day, for the area of Abyei, which is the contested, basically, border where all the oil is.
HULTMAN: So for now can you have, for example, a soft border and move forward?
CLOONEY: Well, there's talks about sort of a demilitarized zone in the middle in certain targeted areas and guarded by the UNMIS forces. You know, again, those are all things that can be negotiated, and you have to try. When you say the talks broke down, I've never seen a negotiation in anything -- and listen, I have to negotiate with Warner Brothers. (Laughter.) You know, it can take -- you know, talks break down. It's just -- you know, they broke down this time because they were starting to agree on a border. But they started to disagree more and more on who's allowed to vote. Okay, well then, bring in the next group. Bring in a bigger, you know, more robust group in. Let's go again -- just keep going.
What we are sure of is that having talked to the president today, he wasn't disheartened by the news that the talks had broken down because he believes that by next week they can be back up and talking again. And I think that's -- listen, none of us are right. We're not going to figure it out. But you know, if this gentleman is right, if it works out and they get a peaceful, you know, border and everybody -- it's the North and South, it could end up being a failed state. Yeah, probably. It could happen. I don't know.
What we do know is if we sit back and do nothing at this point and just turn our backs and walk away, then there's a very good possibility that half a million, you know, half a million to a million to a hundred thousand -- pick your number, I don't care -- of innocent men, women and children could die. So we have to start to do as much as we can as fast as we can to try and help them first. First, you put out the fire, and then you go in and you start replacing the furniture.
PRENDERGAST: The only thing I would say, and Ann Curry came with us on this trip and we all heard very clearly -- loudly and clearly from the people of Abyei, they're voting on the 9th. If they don't vote on the 9th, they're going to declare as the Southerners, if they get denied a vote, you know, a unilateral declaration of independence. The Dinka of the Abyei region are going to join the South, and that's where they are and it's very clear. There's no focus group needed. We got the word.
And so, I mean -- so in other words, if your question is, you know, can you possibly have a referendum between the North -- for the South but then not have one for Abyei with no consequence, no. I think that what our message is, if there is any one, and tell me if this is our bottom line, that, you know, at the end of the day a grand bargaining is going to have to be struck. A package deal is going to have to be struck -- negotiated -- that involves the interests of all these different groups. And Abyei's status in some way, shape or form is going to be part of that negotiation.
And whether it actually has a referendum which would be rather easy to hold, unlike the South, which is going to be a logistical nightmare, but Abyei's this contained area -- that if they actually agree on requirements, you could do it from a technical perspective without difficulty. It's not a technical issue, though. So there is going to be extreme difficulty. So -- but if there is -- so the bottom line for us is that Abyei is part of the larger issues between the North and the South, and that that has to be negotiated. And it's clear from the people there that if you try to negotiate away their right to self-determination, there will be war.
CLOONEY: And again, when we say it's our view, that's two days in a row sitting with President Kiir and having him say, Abyei, if it's given away, that's war. Period, you know. So that's -- it wasn't -- there was no -- I said, so means that the South stands with Abyei? He said, the South stands with Abyei. So, you know.
PRENDERGAST: And understand just because this is the Council on -- we wouldn't do this normally for other audiences. But there's one level of detail that's necessary. Why is everybody making such a big deal about Abyei? Well, because the National Congress Party, the government in Khartoum is using Abyei as a bargaining chip. So you know, the longer they hold out on this issue and propose crazy ideas about who's going to be allowed to vote in that referendum, the more they win themselves in terms of possible flexibility or forcing flexibility on the part of the SPLM on the border, where the border is and other aspects of those post-referendum arrangements we talked about.
So they're basically suing for a better deal and using Abyei as a bargaining chip very cynically. And again, it's a very dangerous game. There are army militias on the border. The guy, besides Omar Al-Bashir, we all know he was indicted by the ICC. Well, Ahmed Haroun was indicted by the ICC. He's the governor of South Kordofan, right there on the border of Abyei. There's all kinds of reports about militarizing some of these militias that were the ones that were doing the slave raiding in the '80s and '90s. I mean, the history here is -- you know, just -- past is prologue, watch out. And this is like just a pool of gasoline waiting for a match to ignite it.
HULTMAN: Alas, we are out of time. Just say in ten seconds each, what the global public should be doing to help the policymakers see their way.
CLOONEY: Well, I think the global public should be in any way they can, because, you know, this is a very -- you know, it's a tricky time. First and foremost, getting a hold of -- it's the oldest thing in the world, but we've set up things like we set up SudanActionNow.org. There's no ties to it. There's no money in it. We're not -- nobody's asking for money. It's just a way of getting directly to the White House through the email, going, we support any and every effort that you are willing to make to diplomatically put an end to this before it starts. You can do that.
You can set it up in, you know, for the new Prime Minister in England. We can set it up -- we can set them up everywhere, because first and foremost, what we know is everybody wants to do something. There's nobody that doesn't want to help people. And if it's not going to cost you anything and you're not going to risk lives of your own people, why not? Of course, you want to do the right thing.
But you know, there's Senator Lugar and there's Senator Kerry and they want to do the right thing. But what they need is political will. They need to be told not only that they want to do the right thing, but they should do the right thing and that their constituency wants them and demands them to do it. And that's political will, and that is every voice in the country and every voice in Europe, and that's important.
That wasn't ten seconds, sorry. (Laughter.)
PRENDERGAST: Yeah. He took my time. I like it. I'll just associate myself with that.
HULTMAN: Very good. He spoke for both of you.
PRENDERGAST: People came for him and not me, anyway. So I'll let him have the last word. (Laughter.)
CLOONEY: I was two-time Sexiest Man Alive. I do want to say that. (Laughter, applause.)
HULTMAN: I want to remind -- just a second. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I want to remind everybody that this has been on the record. You've got your marching orders, and John, generous soul, has donated copies of his new book, "The Enough Moment: Fighting To End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes," which probably will give you more marching orders, and you can pick one up on your way out. Thank you all, and thank you very much, both of you. (Applause.
PRENDERGAST: Thank you.
CLOONEY: Thank you so much.
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