Home | News    Tuesday 14 December 2010

Obama administration appoints senior advisor for Darfur

December 13, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The Obama administration announced the appointment of a former diplomat to lead the U.S. efforts to resolve the seven years old conflict in the restive region of Darfur.

Scott Gration, U.S presidential special envoy to Sudan, speaks to the media after meeting with Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairperson for the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), after closing registration for the Southern Sudan Referendum, in Khartoum December 13, 2010 (Reuters)

Dane Smith, who was the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Sudan between 1986-1989, has an extensive experience in African including countries such as Liberia, Botswana and Guinea.

He directed the African Economic Policy Staff 1989-90 and was Chief, Food Policy Division, in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, 1979-81.

“Ambassador Smith brings more than three decades of Foreign Service experience to this job, including a tour as the deputy chief of mission right here in Khartoum, where I’m speaking from. He will also play a vital role in our diplomatic efforts concerning Darfur, as well as to help us implement our initiatives and programs in the field” U.S. special envoy for Sudan Scott Gration told reporters via teleconference today.

The move appears to be in response to calls by Sudan advocacy groups on the U.S. administration to appoint a full-time envoy to work on the Darfur conflict.

Obama came under heavy criticism after it was suggested last month that it will decouple the Darfur crisis from the list of demands by Washington to remove Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

On Monday, Gration urged all parties to lay down their arms in Darfur after a three-day visit to the region.

"We call upon all parties to commit to an immediate ceasefire, all movements to join the peace talks," Gration said in a conference call from Khartoum.

He insisted the Sudanese government bore the main responsibility for ensuring peace in the region, while also urging rebel groups to work towards ending the conflict.

"Too many people have died because some rebel leaders would rather continue fighting than negotiate a peace deal. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated," Gration said.

In recent days Sudanese troops have attacked the only Darfur rebel group to have signed a peace deal with Khartoum in assaults that left one dead and several wounded, the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force said.

Darfur has been gripped by a civil war since 2003 that has killed 300,000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people have died in the conflict.

Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader Minni Minnawi signed a peace deal with the government of President Omar al-Bashir in 2006.

But a larger SLA faction, led by Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur who lives in exile in France, has refused to take part in the process.

The military powerful Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) suspended its participation in the peace talks last May hosted by the Arab Gulf state of Qatar after accusing the Sudanese army of breaching a cessation of hostility accord signed between the two sides.