Clooney's visit turned eyes to Darfur, but a solution needs more

Sarah El Sirgany
6 Min Read

Expert says solution requires total changes in approach of Sudanese government and diplomatic mediators

CAIRO: The George Clooney-led celebrity squad that visited Egypt this week has definitely garnered attention to the Darfur crisis, but could they bring about a solution?

Hani Raslan, expert on Sudanese affairs at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies, doesn t think so.

A wide media campaign that has originated from the United States has advocated the US and the United Kingdom s approach to the issue, and according to Raslan this approach won t bring a solution.

It would make Sudan another Iraq, he told The Daily Star Egypt.

Clooney and his entourage visited China and Egypt, two countries with close ties to the Sudanese government, to plead with officials to mediate in bringing about an end to the Darfur crisis, Clooney s publicist Stan Rosenfield told The Associated Press.

But the solution in Raslan s opinion is in a total change in the Sudanese government s approach to the crisis and a shift of roles in diplomatic brokerage of negotiations.

The [Sudanese] government’s current approach has proved its failure, Raslan explained. He said the government might consider initiating a study similar to the Hamilton Baker Report that introduced unconventional view points regarding the US, Iraq and the Middle East.

As for diplomatic brokerage, which was at the center of the Clooney tour, changes have to take place, Raslan said.

For example Egypt, if it frees its mediation efforts from US influence, could take a more effective role to initiate dialogue between the Sudanese government and the armed factions, he explained.

While this requires channeling of financial resources to Sudan, Raslan said this positive shift in roles needs political will and minimum and insignificant resources.

So far, Egypt s mediation role has been utilized in sponsoring talks between the Sudanese government and African countries to bring about a solution to the crisis, but all efforts have failed.

But political agendas aside, the Darfur issue would definitely benefit the attention Clooney created, especially in Egypt and neighboring countries, where Palestine and Lebanon always heads newscasts and apathy runs even higher. For some, the whole tour is a publicity stunt and for others it is an indication that Clooney is running for office back home. But what many can t deny is that people would be talking about Darfur more often now.

Even the swarms of fans that waited outside the Oriental Hall at the American University in Cairo just to take a glimpse of the actor would eventually consider -even for just one minute – the reason Clooney came to town, after they got over the excitement of seeing him in person.

The actor s involvement in politics isn t new, nor is the involvement of his tour mates, most prominently, Hotel Rwanda star Don Cheadle.

Cheadle got an Oscar nomination for his role in this film which followed the massacre in Rwanda in the early 1990s. With over 400,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced so far in Darfur, fears are rising of repeating the darkest times of Rwandan history in Sudan. Academy awards nominations and wins last year were all for films charged with political messages. Clooney took an Oscar home for his role in “Syriana , a film about US pro-oil and anti-democracy efforts in Arab countries. He also has a nomination under his name as a director for “Good Night and Good Luck , a look back at the Joseph McCarthy era, the same era has left politics and cinema in an unbreakable bond.

Film critic Ahmed Raafat Bahgat said books about cinema history still talk about this era. Artists with great achievements haven t been forgiven for accusing their colleagues of being communists, a charge that during the McCarthy era ended the careers of many talents. Since then, a number of causes – from racism to environmental awareness – have been advocated by many artists including Paul Newman and Marlon Brando, Bahgat added.

From Micheal Moore s anti-George W. Bush documentaries to the fall of the Dixie Chicks for slamming the president over the war, politics have left its mark on many artists.

We ve seen Sean Penn go to Iran and Iraq as a reporter, not to mention the speech he gave the press after accepting the Oscar in 2003, stressing that weapons of mass destruction were a mere pretext for the US to invade Iraq.

Even those who are not politically active, represent their views in their films. The cinema is a political venue, Bahgat said.

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