Washington is trying to refocus its attention on Sudan, despite its limited influence

Washington Sudan has returned to the US spotlight after multiple reports revealed that US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey will soon step down from his post in the coming weeks. This coincides with the news of the White House's appointment of Tom Perello. A special envoy for Sudanese affairs.

Ambassador Godfrey, the first US Ambassador to Sudan in more than a quarter century, has been performing the duties of managing US interests in Sudan from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa since the civil war began in April 2023. Due to which the American Embassy had to be closed and its diplomats had to be evacuated from Khartoum.

It is unclear why Ambassador Godfrey – who has been in office since being sworn in in August 2022 – decided to leave. Some reports indicate that his relations with members of Congress have deteriorated due to his mismanagement of the evacuation of American citizens from Sudan after violence erupted last April.

On the other hand, the news of the naming of a new envoy to Sudan comes months after Democratic and Republican lawmakers asked the Biden administration to help prevent Sudan from slipping into one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, and The Biden administration appears to have taken on board the need to step up and contribute to preventing the situation from worsening. Security and humanity inside Sudan.

important developments

The role of special envoys has become increasingly controversial within the US State Department, where they are often seen as duplicating the tasks performed by ambassadors.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, David Sheen, former US assistant secretary of African affairs and researcher at the Middle East Institute in Washington, pointed out that “the Biden administration has appointed Tom Perello, a Democrat and former member of Congress.” Virginia, as special envoy to Sudan, is an important development.

The same spokesperson said Sudan is currently being dealt with by former veteran Ambassador Mike Hammer, the special envoy to the Horn of Africa out of Washington, but Hammer has many responsibilities, files and issues. Therefore, Perillo's appointment reflects a desire within the US administration to focus on Sudan, and allows them to focus on one problem.

Ambassador Sheen did not coincide the resignation of the US Ambassador to Khartoum with the appointment of the Special Envoy to Sudan. He also played down the expectations arising from the appointment of the new ambassador.

In the same conversation, Ambassador Sheen explained that “Since the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum was closed following the outbreak of the conflict, there are restrictions on what the new ambassador can accomplish in his position.”


On the other hand, Daniel Sullivan, former senior policy advisor to the Save Darfur Coalition and director of the Africa, Asia and Middle East Unit at the International Refugee Organization, said that “the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Sudan is an encouraging but inadequate development, and that President Sudan's defenders have called for it to have the potential to focus on the missing American perspective.

“For the new envoy to be truly effective, he needs the support of the White House to meaningfully engage key actors in the region and confront those who support atrocities,” Sullivan said in an interview with Al Jazeera Net. May need it.”

Cameron Hudson, an expert on African affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed with the previous proposal, and told Al Jazeera Net that, “While this appointment is appropriate given the circumstances in Sudan, it is an obvious step forward at such a time.” represents when we hope Sudan and our bilateral relations will enjoy this phase.” “With priority. We hope the new step will create momentum for Washington to play a more public and practical role in the conflict than it has in the past.”

Photos of a popular initiative to serve displaced Sudanese people in Kassala state.
Popular initiative to serve displaced Sudanese people in Kassala state (Al Jazeera)

Limits of American influence

Ambassador Sheen acknowledged that “the preoccupation of President Biden's administration's foreign policy teams with many other major foreign policy challenges has certainly diminished the Administration's ability to focus on Sudan. Therefore, naming Perrillo to this position. “Will help to heal.”

Ambassador Shin stressed the need for everyone to understand that “the United States has limited influence on developments inside Sudan. Most importantly, the leadership of both the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces show no signs of that they are prepared to begin serious negotiations or make concessions that “will end the atrocities and end this terrible war.”

He ruled out a quick end to the conflict in Sudan as a result of this appointment in Washington, asking, “Does Biden care about Sudan?” Sheen said that during his first months in office, President Biden focused on Sudan as a country with potential for democratic transition in light of the US agenda to confront atrocities around the world, and then he Remained silent during recent months.

For his part, Hudson believed that Washington “has been two steps behind the generals in Khartoum since the coup, and always hopes that we will be able to restore the transitional phase and avoid war. It was too late at the turn to realize the seriousness of what was happening in Sudan. As a result, all our steps were half-steps.” “Our leading voices, like the President and Secretary Blinken, remain silent.”

He acknowledged that “To save Sudan from total state collapse will now require much more than we have been willing to invest our time and energy up to this point. We hope that the appointment of a Special Envoy will change this will begin.”

On the other hand, Sullivan said Washington has made an official determination that atrocities – including war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – were indeed committed in Sudan. Sullivan questioned Biden's commitment to the Sudanese issue, saying that during his work as a senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was a leading voice for taking measures to stop the genocide in Darfur, but today He is almost silent.

“The Biden administration's policy in Sudan is disappointing and grossly inadequate,” Sullivan told Al Jazeera Net. “While the administration recognizes the serious nature of the crimes being committed, it has not shown a high level of interest, diplomatic engagement and humanitarian resources ” commensurate with the seriousness of these crimes.”

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