CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer alluded to genocide in Rwanda, Cambodia, and the Holocaust when he asked George Clooney to explain the deterrent value of the Satellite Sentinel Project in Sudan.
"George, what really intrigued me was what you've been saying about this satellite project," said Blitzer. "Because a lot of us only after the fact knew what was going on in Rwanda, in Burundi back in the 90s, or in Cambodia, or during the Holocaust for that matter. And you're now saying what, that the world will no longer have an excuse to say, We didn't know?"
"You can't say, 'We didn't know.' That's an important part of this," Clooney replied. "There's a reason why you keep the press out. So we're going to make it much more public. It's much harder to commit any sort of atrocities if everyone's watching."
Sunday's referendum in southern Sudan could establish the world's newest country or potentially trigger a renewed civil war in the region. The vote was part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of violence between Sudan's north and oil-rich south that left 2 million people dead, many from disease and starvation. The hope is that the balloting will turn a framework peace agreement into a permanent solution. But the stakes are high as the war-torn country tries to move past its bloody history.
International observers will be watching out for "potential spoilers" as southern Sudan votes on whether to secede from the rest of the east African nation on January 9, Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast told CNN's "The Situation Room."
"The world has invested a lot in having a peaceful referendum that really determines what the southern Sudanese people want for their future, whether they want a free southern Sudan or stay in the united Sudan," said Prendergast. "We have to keep our eye on those potential spoilers that will attempt to undermine the process and the aftermath of the process in order to keep Sudan united and the oil flowing from southern Sudan to northern Sudan."
The Satellite Sentinel Project, spearheaded by Clooney and launched on December 29, will use satellite imagery analysis, field reports, and crowd-sourced information from local voices with Google's Map Maker to deter a potential return to civil war between North and South Sudan.
"The effort will add an eye in the sky to the arsenal of an international community looking closely at a region long gripped by famine and strife," reported CNN.
Clooney and Prendergast departed last night for southern Sudan to help keep the world's attention focused on the emergent situation as the independence vote nears. On Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern, CNN and CNN-International will air an hour-long interview of Clooney and Prendergast by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.