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Clooney lends star power to Sudan vote

media U.S. actor George Clooney walks in front of St. Teresa's Cathedral during … Reuters

that started Sunday and is expected to divide Africa's largest country.

Interview with Hollywood actor George Clooney on Sudan referendum 09/01/2011 - by Billie O'Kadameri Listen

“I am excited to see a country vote for its freedom for the first time. I’ve never been around to see one of those before and I’m very honoured that I’m able to be a witness of this kind of independence,” Clooney told RFI's correspondent in Juba.

The US actor and director, who has been a long-time activist for Sudan’s Darfur region and a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, said he hoped his presence in the region would attract attention to the story.

“We have a very short attention span and this will be a news story for a minute then it will go off of the news. So our hope is that can be sustained. I couldn’t guarantee that obviously, but if it has anything to do with me I’ll keep talking about it.”

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

Some 3.9 million southern Sudanese have registered to vote in the referendum, which is part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 22-year north-south civil war in which around two million people were killed.

One of the major sticking points in the independence negotiations has been the status of Abyei, the oil-rich district between north and south Sudan.

“I have lots of fears. I have fears about Abyei- a lot of fears about Abyei in particular. And I think if you don’t deal with that than this could fall apart very easily,” said Clooney.

The area is also home to both the Ngok Dinka people, seen as southerners, and the Misseriya Arabs, regarded as northerners.

"They should understand that the Ngok Dinka are not going to allow their land to be cut up anymore. It’s been cut up a lot. That part should not be on the negotiating table. They should honour the Hague and the Abyei court first and foremost and then talk about wealth sharing, talk about softer borders for the Messiria to be able to have grazing.”

There are a lot of issues at play. Most of them are negotiable but it’s understanding the players better and making sure that we don’t have outsiders coming in that just say here’s what we can do and start cutting up land the way Africa in general has be cut up over the years by other people.”

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