Actor and Sudan activist George Clooney visited President Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon to discuss his recent trip to south Sudan in advance of a referendum in January on partition. Clooney called attention to the increasingly unstable relationships between the northern and southern regions.
Sudan President Omar Al Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in the country's Darfur region, is expected to fight to keep South Sudan from seceding because it has more than 75 percent of the country's oil.
This was the Oscar winner's second trip to the White House. Clooney visited Darfur refugee camps in Chad, just across the Sudan border, and came to the White House early in 2009 to press for the appointment of a high-level envoy to the region.
Afterward, Obama, in March, 2009, tapped retired Major Gen. Scott Gration to the special envoy spot. When the president was an Illinois senator, Gration accompanied him to Chad in 2006 to visit a refugee camp populated with people from Darfur who had fled widespread killing and raids there.
The expectation was that Obama would be much more vocal on Sudan, given his stance on the issue as a senator. In recent weeks the Obama administration has taken a much more active stance on Sudan. At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Obama spoke at a ministerial meeting where he called for governments of both North and South Sudan to ensure a peaceful, fair and transparent referendum in January.
Clooney and Obama started working on Sudan issues in 2006 -- before Obama's trip to Africa. In April of that year, Clooney, then-Sen. Obama and former Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) spoke at the National Press Club about the ongoing violence in Darfur and drew attention to an upcoming "Save Darfur" rally on the National Mall to urge the world to move faster to stop the slaughter, rape, and forced displacement in the region.