Following weeks of targeted advocacy by the Sudan activism community–including over 1,600 calls to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–the Obama administration announced today the appointment of Ambassador Dane Smith as the senior U.S. diplomat for Darfur. Ambassador Smith, who has served previously as the U.S. ambassador to Guinea and special envoy to Liberia, will join the current U.S. delegation to Sudan as the administration’s primary point-man on Darfur peace negotiations. Ambassador Smith’s appointment comes at a critical time for the future of peace and stability in Darfur, as peace negotiations in Doha have continued to stagnate and the security situation on the ground has worsened.
Ambassador Smith’s appointment was welcomed today by Sudan Now, a coalition of advocacy organizations dedicated to concerted action by the U.S. government to facilitate peace in Sudan. Lauding the Obama administration for its responsiveness to the activism community, GI-NET President Mark Hanis outlined a valuable framework for Ambassador Smith’s work in Sudan:
Dane Smith should focus much-needed attention in Darfur to stop the continuing violence and human rights violations, ensure access for humanitarian organizations and peacekeeping forces, and facilitate voluntary return of people who have been forced from their homes by years of violence.