February 24, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – US President Barack Hussein Obama intends to appoint a special envoy to Sudan, disclosed cinema star George Clooney after a 15 minute meeting at the White House on Monday night.
- Top contendors for US special envoy to Sudan; John Prendergast (left), Roger Winter (Center), Senator Bill Frist (right)
Clooney holds the title Messenger of Peace for the United Nations and just returned from a short trip to visit Darfur refugees in eastern Chad. He told reporters that the president will appoint a full-time, high-level envoy.
Speaking on the television show CNN’s Larry King Live later that night, he said "This isn’t about needing American dollars…. It’s not about needing American troops. It’s about needing what we do best — what we have done best since the start of this country — which is good, robust diplomacy all across the world."
There is no special diplomat for Sudan since the former envoy stepped down at the end of George Bush’s term. Calls for appointment of a high-level envoy with particular deputies began just after Obama’s election win in November last year. In an open letter to Obama issued today, Rep. Frank Wolf called the delay “simply unacceptable.”
“I’ve witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes,” Wolf wrote of Darfur. “Every day that passes, more men are killed, more women are raped, and more children die of malnutrition. This is simply unacceptable. The time to act is now.
John Prendergast, a former White House official and current activist, and Roger Winter, a former diplomat to Sudan, are top contenders, the Associated Press speculated.
Activists have signaled that a top envoy with high stature in the US political circles could rally international leverage against Sudan’s government, which they accuse of genocide.
Wolf, the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, today recommended former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for the post.
Sudan faces a rebellion now six years running in its westernmost province, Darfur, that has displaced some three million people. The country ended a separate civil war four years ago in a tenuous peace deal that granted certain constitutional privileges to South Sudan.