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Open Letter to George Clooney from Sudan Vision

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Open Letter to George Clooney from Sudan Vision Empty Open Letter to George Clooney from Sudan Vision

Post by Katiedot Mon 12 Sep 2011, 12:16

I have no idea who these people represent or what axe they have to grind.

From Sudan Vision
Issue #: 2441, Issue Date: 12th September, 2011

Mapping War Crimes in Sudan: An Open Letter to George Clooney

In a letter to Hollywood actor George Clooney regarding his activism on Sudan, Samar Al-Bulushi raises a number of concerns around the motives, accountability and politics behind the Satellite Sentinel Project.

Dear George,

I have been following your recent activism on Sudan with great interest. While I admire your commitment to peace and human rights, I believe that you need to more critically evaluate the implications of your Satellite Sentinel Project, designed as an ‘early warning’ monitoring system for war crimes. The mainstream media’s celebration of your project warrants a closer look at what it means for the people you seem determined to help.

The project you launched last December sounds simple enough. According to your website, it ‘combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google's Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan’. Private satellites that you hire monitor troop movements, and project partners analyse the collected images and post them on the website ‘to remind the leaders of northern and southern Sudan that they are being watched’. As you characterised this operation in a December 2010 TIME magazine article, ‘We are the anti-genocide paparazzi … if you know your actions are going to be covered, you tend to behave much differently than when you operate in a vacuum.’[1]

While the press has lauded this form of ‘cyber-diplomacy’ – some going so far as to credit you with bringing about South Sudan’s independence [2] – I propose a more rigorous consideration of: (1) who is involved in the decision-making and what information is shared and not shared; (2) how you portray the various actors and interests involved; and (3) what independence means for the people of South Sudan.

Let’s explore my first question on information and decision-making: what data is collected by the Satellite Sentinel Project? Who has access to it? What information is shared with the public on your website, and what is not shared? How is this determined? According to your website, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) is a collaboration between Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, Google, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), DigitalGlobe, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Trellon, LLC. DigitalGlobe's largest customer is the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which gathers non-classified images for use by the US Department of Defense, intelligence agencies and other government bodies.[3] The US Africa Command (AFIRCOM) lists DigitalGlobe as a resource for its work on the continent. Do you have a policy on sharing data with government entities and the US military?

All of your partners except UNOSAT are US-based, meaning that most, if not all, decisions and interpretations of data are done outside Sudan. None of your public advocacy includes analysis or policy recommendations by Sudanese intellectuals or policy experts. At a minimum, the absence of Sudanese actors and thinkers from your campaign reveals a lack of interest in the internal political processes that are crucial for strengthening democratic citizenship.

In terms of the way you portray the actors and interests involved, according to the SSP and its partners (with the Enough Project – part of the Center for American Progress – the most active and vocal member), Southern Sudanese peoples have been struggling for independence for years, which the north has allegedly resisted largely because it did not want to lose access to the abundant economic resources in the South.

Referring to the data collected by the SSP, you and your partners warn about the risk of crimes against humanity and even genocide against Southern Sudanese by the Khartoum government. As such, you insist the time to ‘act’ is now. As you, together with your colleague, John Prendergast, wrote on the eve of South Sudan’s independence:

We were late to Rwanda. We were late to the Congo. We were late to Darfur. There is no time to wait. With your support, we will swiftly call the world to witness and respond. We aim to provide an ever more effective early-warning system: better, faster visual evidence and on-the-ground reporting of human rights concerns to facilitate better, faster responses.[4]

In your narrative, the Sudanese people are reduced to either victims or perpetrators – passive victims incapable of formulating their own path to peace and justice, or evil-doers requiring punishment. The people of Sudan are invisible in the global conversation, now heavily shaped by your project. The very real political issues at stake are diluted into nebulous questions of morality and the ‘responsibility to protect’, in which external actors like yourself claim a moral authority to defend people who have no way of holding you accountable in this monitoring system you helped to construct.

As you stated in a January 2011 interview on MSNBC about your project, ‘We can do things that governments can’t, because we are individuals.’[5] Would a wealthy Sudanese individual be permitted to launch a satellite over the United States or the United Kingdom with the same declared goal of protecting the citizens of these states from torture, unjust imprisonment or any number of abuses that have been documented in either of these two countries? How is it that your widely celebrated form of advocacy–solidarity simultaneously champions the sovereignty of one nation (South Sudan) while repudiating that of another (Sudan)?

Despite your stated commitment to monitor both northern and southern actors, the Satellite Sentinel Project highlights almost exclusively the actions of the Khartoum government and its army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). In the context of North–South conflict, both the governments of north and South Sudan have prevented UN peacekeeping missions from performing their duties, and US Senator Leahy recently questioned the annual US$100 million in military aid provided by the US to South Sudanese forces in light of the reports of abuses those very forces have perpetrated. Meanwhile, your partners at the Enough Project recently called for more arms to be delivered to the South Sudan army.

Your selective attention to actors involved in this conflict creates a skewed understanding of the political dynamics – the public is led to believe that violations are committed by one party only (the Khartoum government), and that these abuses are occurring in a vacuum, motivated entirely by local greed, religious intolerance or evil. Failure to look beyond the ‘civil’ war narrative reflects a complete disconnect from geopolitics – no state is immune from the broader sphere of global economic and political activity.

For example, according to a newly published report by Norwegian People’s Aid about land acquisition in the South, nearly 10 per cent of the land in the brand new nation of South Sudan has already been sold or leased to corporations, many of them foreign corporations.[6] Foreign investors have signed agriculture, biofuel and forestry deals that cover 2.64 million hectares of land (approximately the size of Rwanda). These deals took place in the context of a global rush for African farmland in the wake of the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007–08.[7] Two of the largest deals have been negotiated with American companies: Jarch Capital and Nile Trading and Development.

What, then, does independence actually mean in the context of the global financial crisis and growing competition over land, oil, food and water? Will it lead to a better life for South Sudanese peoples? Even before the state’s formal declaration of independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudanese had been invited to open up their country for business. Your project is now playing an active role in integrating South Sudan into the global economy. According to the World Bank, the Satellite project has the potential not only to deter atrocities but also to build the world’s newest independent nation. On the eve of a jointly organised event, a World Bank official proffered a justification for your collective initiatives: ‘South Sudan is an expansive region that is currently poorly mapped. Without basic geospatial information, it is difficult for the government, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to visualize plans, see existing infrastructure, and target areas where they want to work and develop projects. This will also empower the Southern Sudanese community to develop their own solutions using maps.’[8]

If only it were that simple. Geographic information is integrally linked to equality in terms of access to data, information, and knowledge. The above quote references an array of actors (government, civil society, development actors) as though each wield equal power in decision-making. In the fledgling young state of South Sudan, it is difficult to dismiss the political and economic leverage held by development ‘partners’ like the bank as it dangles millions of potential dollars in aid while demanding that the ‘right’ institutions and policies are needed for the country’s ‘socio-economic transformation.’[9]

In this era of ‘global solidarity’, it appears that so-called ‘humanitarians’ and capitalists employ the same language of partnership and empowerment. Will your Satellite Project monitor the removal of populations from land acquired by foreign or private actors, or from land designated by the World Bank as critical to infrastructure projects? Will the South Sudan judiciary be empowered to hold legally accountable those responsible for the mass displacement of people whose resources – not lives – are more valuable to the global economy?

As the citizens of South Sudan negotiate the difficult road ahead, we can expect them to challenge the grandiose language of solidarity, partnership and progress utilised by humanitarians and capitalists alike. We can expect them to ask difficult questions of their so-called partners who are quick to provide ready-made solutions. Will you and your partners be receptive to this questioning? If indeed your primary concern is the welfare of the Sudanese people, it seems you must be.


By Samar Al-Bulushi

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Post by Dexterdidit Mon 12 Sep 2011, 12:41

What exactly has Samar done to help besides be critical of others trying to offer solutions? And why not give some answers to his own questions. Maybe he could come up with some ideas and put some of the positive things that have come out of the work George and many others have tried to do over the years. George has admitted things haven't gone as well as he had hoped but it is very hard to do anything against corrupt governments and people in power who are only concerned with themselves instead of the people they serve. I hate when someone does stuff like this, I wonder if George will reply? My guess is he isn't on Georges side!
Achieving total Clooney-dom

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Post by pattygirl Mon 12 Sep 2011, 14:11

New Sudan Vision

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is an orphan, as few or no other articles link to it. Please introduce links to this page from related articles; suggestions may be available. (February 2009)

This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2010)

The New Sudan Vision is one of the prominent few online South Sudanese newspapers. Founded in January 2006 in Winnipeg by South Sudanese students with the mission to "bridge the information gap," New Sudan Vision still has a long way in consolidating the dawn of peace in Sudan with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended Africa's longest civil war.

Based in Canada, though with members and contributions from Sudanese at home and abroad, the website has drawn praise for its professional reporting of news and its fair approach to issues of national importance.

In its editorials, the New Sudan Vision upholds its core principle that Sudan must be a country that respects and treats all its people equally, regardless of race or differences in religion. The NSV does not seek to campaign for separation or unity of Sudan; it wants to educate the citizens by bringing them information and analyses to enlighten them make informed decision in 2011 when South votes to secede or joins the united Sudan.

The New Sudan Vision provides news of "Current Sudan (especially Southern Sudan) news and news of the Sudanese diaspora."[1]
Achieving total Clooney-dom

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Post by it's me Mon 12 Sep 2011, 15:30

let's talk

it's good
it's me
it's me
George Clooney fan forever!

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