The Hollywood star has announced a new initiative to find and prosecute those who profit from conflict in Africa.
Clooney is working in conjunction with John Prendergast, a U.S. human rights activist, in order to fight corruption in war zones. The new project, known as The Sentry, will investigate the flow of money in war zones in order to find those responsible for funding and profiting from conflict, writes Eliana Dockterman for Time.
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New project aims to end war profiteering
The Sentry aims to find the financiers and provide policymakers with tools to act against them. Through data collection, field research and analysis, the scheme will track war financing in Africa and reveal how profits are laundered. Anyone with leaks or tips is encouraged to contribute anonymously to The Sentry website.
Clooney and Prendergast say that the goal is to “deny war profiteers the proceeds from their crimes.” The pair have previously worked together on the Satellite Sentinel Project, which mapped evidence of human rights abuses using satellites.
“Real leverage for peace and human rights will come when the people who benefit from war will pay a price for the damage they cause,” Clooney said in a statement.
The Sentry launches days before Obama’s visit to Africa
Several conflicts will be subject to investigation, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit Africa in just a few days.
Project for the Study of the 21st Century, a thinktank, recently released figures which show that the number of deaths in the world’s deadliest conflicts increased by over 28% in 2014. 5 African nations featured in the list of the top 10 deadliest in the world.
Two-time Oscar winner Clooney has become well-known for his work in human rights, particularly in the Sudan. Prendergast, a former Africa director at the US National Security Council, also founded the Enough Project in 2007.
The Sentry is backed by the organization Not On Our Watch, co-founded by Clooney alongside other Hollywood figures including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle.
Initiative already criticized by commentators
Some commentators have spoken out against the structure of The Sentry, and claim that it suffers the same faults as various other Western-led projects.
“I don’t see much evidence of partnership with Africans in The Sentry, let alone African leadership,” Alex Perry, contributing editor to Newsweek, told Al Jazeera by email. “There are plenty of Africans capable of running this kind of initiative – and you have to think that, since they’re on the ground, they’d be best placed to do so.”
Perry claims that the project should place greater importance on the ability of Africans to identify and fix the issues on their continent.
However Akshaya Kumar, a policy analyst with the Enough Project, rejected the criticism, and claimed that The Sentry is “grounded in close collaboration with African civil society.”
She claimed that the project recognizes the contribution of the local community, and works “closely with local journalists and activists to feed their findings into broader cross-jurisdictional investigations.”
The first briefing paper released by The Sentry was a report on South Sudan, which claimed that the ongoing civil war is “a competition among the nation’s elite for power and profits”, which is essentially a battle for control of “a kleptocratic regime that has captured and controlled nearly all profit-generating sectors of the economy.”