George Clooney: Deal with South Sudan now, not later

Clooney lends star power to expose war profiteering
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Story highlights

  • Clooney is involved in several humanitarian projects
  • More than 122,000 people have fled the country

Washington (CNN)George Clooney is warning the world that it is better for international leaders to end the civil war raging in South Sudan now before it gets worse.

Clooney, an outspoken humanitarian and Democrat, told CNN's Jake Tapper Monday that people should not think of the oil-rich country, which forces aligned with its two leaders have been been engaged in retaliatory fighting in the years after it gained independence in 2011 , as just "another corrupt government."
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    "The reality is if South Sudan is a failed state, we've seen what influences take over in a failed state, and it's never good," Clooney said. "And that's something we'll have to deal with for generations, if we don't deal with it now. Now, it's easy. It'll be a lot harder in the years to come."
    On Monday the organization Clooney co-founded, The Sentry, published a two-year investigation following the finances of South Sudan's top leaders, a report which Clooney called "explosive".
    "We have these guys nailed," Clooney told Tapper. "We realized that if you can't really shame the bad guys then what you can do is follow the money and perhaps shame the people who are hiding it."
    The report found that despite a civil war which claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, the top leaders of South Sudan, including President Salva Kiir, his former vice president Riek Machar, and other top leaders have benefited off of the instability and violence.
    According to the investigation, leaders have amassed huge fortunes, with high-end foreign real estate, luxury cars, and lucrative commercial ventures, often with the assistance of international banks, lawyers, and arms brokers.
    "The president, the deposed vice president, all the major generals in the army have suctioned that economy dry. They have stolen the resources of the country," John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry. " And they have been able to divert that money for private use or to fund these deadly wars."
    The world's youngest nation, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, but within a few years had slid into a civil war between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his then-Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.
    A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the two leaders calmed the violence. However clashes resumed on July 8 of this year, with around 300 people killed.
    Nearly 122,000 refugees have fled South Sudan since this latest fighting, adding to the more than 2.5 million people who have been displaced since 2013, according to the UN's refugee agency UNHCR. Both sides of the conflict have been accused atrocities, which include the use of rape as a weapon of war, attacks on civilians, and the recruitment of child soldiers.
    South Sudan's government agreed to the deployment of an additional 4,000 peacekeepers on behalf of the United Nations Security Council in August, adding to the 12,000 peacekeepers already stationed in the country.
    Clooney said that wasn't enough by itself.
    "It's not just that the peacekeepers are allowed in, though listen, every bit helps," Clooney said. "It's also the mandate that they're given. And, that's going to be a big deal."
    The report suggests targeted sanctions, asset freezes, and increased monitoring from international financial institutions.

    'Divided country'

    The movie star, a Hillary Clinton supporter, also weighed in on the Democrat's campaign, dismissing a question about whether she should be running away with the race.
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    "It's been a long time since races weren't close ... we're a very divided country," he said. "That's too bad, I think. We're not a divided people. We all want the same things in life which is our families to be happy and healthy and to be proud of our country, and so I hope somewhere along the way we stop being so divided."
    And he said if Donald Trump is elected it wouldn't affect his work around the globe.
    "No, I don't have concerns with that," Clooney said, ticking off his international efforts. "That work continues no matter who's in charge."
    The report suggests targeted sanctions, asset freezes, and increased monitoring from international financial institutions.