George Clooney Project To Track Money Fueling Africa's Wars

Just in time for Obama's upcoming trip to the continent.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

WASHINGTON -- Actor George Clooney has teamed up with the Enough Project, a global nonprofit group focused on ending genocide and human rights abuses, to launch a new initiative aimed at tracking and countering the money that fuels Africa's deadliest conflicts.

The investigative project, dubbed The Sentry, will use the same tools that many international watchdog groups rely on, like open-source data and field reporting, to track the financing and profits gleaned from activities like trafficking, government corruption and smuggling, which often go hand in hand with politically destabilizing violence.

The announcement of the project comes as President Barack Obama prepares to travel to Ethiopia and Kenya later this week.

"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 Monday in a press release.

Interrupting these illegal profit streams is critical to addressing the underlying causes that fuel conflicts like those in Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Enough Project's founding director, John Prendergast.

"Conventional tools of diplomacy usually have not helped end conflicts because they don’t alter the calculations of those fueling war and committing atrocities," he said in a statement. "Given the current profitability of conflict, new efforts must center on how to make war more costly than peace. The objective of The Sentry is to follow the money and deny those war profiteers the proceeds from their crimes."

The Sentry released four country briefs on Monday that describe illicit financial networks and kleptocratic bureaucracies operating in Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. Going forward, the group intends to produce more reports, policy papers and recommendations to help governments and nongovernmental organizations more effectively disrupt the profit streams of wars.

"Without countering systematic looting by governments and rebel groups, peace and protection efforts stand little chance of success," Omer Ismail, a Sentry analyst, said in a statement. "The good news story that Africa has become, and which in the next days the President will appropriately highlight, in many parts of the continent will continue to be undermined by these hijacked states and their long-running, predatory civil wars."

The Obama administration has worked hard in recent years to promote a vision of entrepreneurial potential and economic recovery among Africa's diverse nations, a plan that culminated in the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington. During his upcoming trip to Ethiopia, Obama plans to attend a global entrepreneurship summit, again highlighting the positive changes afoot on the continent.

Clooney and Prendergast have worked together for several years. In 2010, they launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which used actual satellites to track the movements of Sudanese President Omar Bashir's army from space.

In a New York Times op-ed from February, the pair urged the international community to track the supply of gold coming out Sudan, to ensure that it is not being used to fund ongoing human rights violations in the Darfur region.

CORRECTION: This article previously misidentified Bashar Assad as the president of Sudan.

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