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U.S. President Obama Names Special Envoy for Sudan
<i>This article by the U.S. Department of State is republished to promote understanding of U.S. policy with regard to Sudan.</i> <br /> <br />Ending the suffering and the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan is a significant U.S.
This article by the U.S. Department of State is republished to promote understanding of U.S. policy with regard to Sudan. Ending the suffering and the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan is a significant U.S. foreign policy goal, says President Obama. And to further that objective, Obama has named a new special envoy for Sudan. The president selected retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration as U.S. special envoy for Sudan March 18. Gration, a foreign policy adviser to the president, has deep experience in the region. He speaks Swahili and grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries. Gration traveled with Obama in 2006 when the president, then a U.S. senator, visited Africa, including stops to visit Darfur refugees in Chad, which borders Sudan. "General Gration's personal and professional background, and his service to the country as both a military leader and a humanitarian, give him the insights and experience necessary for this assignment," Obama said in a White House announcement. "Sudan is a priority for this administration, particularly at a time when it cries out for peace and for justice. The worsening humanitarian crisis there makes our task all the more urgent," the president said. The announcement by the White House comes as the Obama administration continues to formulate a new strategy for Sudan and the Darfur crisis. U.S. Senators Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, who are ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, praised the appointment of Gration. "His knowledge of Africa and his experience there, coupled with his distinguished military career, make him well-equipped to help craft a strong, reinvigorated policy toward Sudan," they said in a joint statement. The senators said the appointment comes at a crucial time as the Darfur crisis worsens. INTERNATIONAL COURT CHARGES SUDANESE PRESIDENT On March 4, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for his government's alleged targeting of civilians during its 2003—2008 campaign against rebel groups in Sudan's western Darfur region. Bashir "is suspected of being criminally responsible," reads the ICC indictment, "for intentionally directing attacks against an important part of the civilian population of Darfur, Sudan, murdering, raping, torturing, and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians and pillaging their property." At least 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict and 2.7 million others have been driven from their homes, according to the United Nations. After the indictment, Bashir ordered 13 nongovernmental humanitarian assistance groups, including Doctors without Borders, CARE, Oxfam Great Britain and Save the Children, expelled, saying they had spied against him and his regime for the international court. The nongovernmental organizations have used foreign assistance to provide food, shelter and protection from the fighting between rebel forces and government-backed forces for nearly 4.7 million people. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said March 17 that Bashir will be held responsible for any deaths that result from his order to expel nongovernmental organizations from the country. "This is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in refugee camps," Clinton said. "The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps." Total U.S. humanitarian assistance to Darfur and eastern Chad since October 2007, the beginning of fiscal year 2008, is $936.43 million, the State Department said March 18. "We take this very seriously," Clinton said. "We are looking for the most effective ways to convince and demonstrate to the government of Sudan that they have now assumed an even greater sense of responsibility and infamy in the eyes of the world by turning their backs on these refugees, whom they created in the first place." INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE Obama said the United States fully supports the full, unobstructed deployment of the joint African Union–United Nations peacekeeping force and the negotiation of a political solution to end the fighting. "The government of Sudan's disastrous decision to expel humanitarian relief organizations leaves a void that will be filled by deprivation and despair and they will be held accountable for the lives lost," Obama said.