US appoints Tom Perriello as special envoy for Sudan

Perriello, who previously served in a similar role in the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will work to end 'senseless conflict'

Tom Perriello, the new special envoy for Sudan. Getty Images
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Tom Perriello is the new special envoy for Sudan, as the country contends with possible famine amid a civil war that has lasted about a year.

“Special envoy Perriello will co-ordinate the US policy on Sudan and advance our efforts to end the hostilities, secure unhindered humanitarian access and support the Sudanese people as they seek to fulfil their aspirations for freedom, peace and justice,” Mr Blinken said.

Mr Perriello is a former Democratic Congressman with State Department experience in Africa.

The envoy, from the state of Virginia, was special envoy for the African Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2015 to 2016.

“I’m honoured to accept the role of US special envoy for Sudan,” Mr Perriello said on social media platform X.

“President Biden and Secretary Blinken are clear about the urgency and importance of ending this war, its atrocities and the risk of catastrophic famine.”

Sudan is in the middle of a civil war that shows no signs of abating.

Since April 2023, the Sudanese army led by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan has been battling the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by Gen Mohamed Dagalo.

The two military leaders were once allies but a power struggle between them ignited a conflict that has spread throughout the country.

Last week, the UN's top human rights body condemned the “horrific violations and abuses” committed by both sides over the course of the 10-month conflict.

A UN report based on interviews with 303 victims and witnesses said the army and RSF had “used explosive weapons with wide-area effects, such as missiles fired from fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons and artillery shells in densely populated areas”.

The UN estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people have been killed in the conflict, with about eight million displaced.

Washington has worked closely with Saudi Arabia to try to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table, at one point helping to mediate a temporary ceasefire.

But that was in May and the conflict has continued to rage on.

This month, Mr Blinken went to Congress for discussions that included a push for the appointment of a special envoy to Sudan.

Senate foreign relations committee chairman Ben Cardin told The National during Mr Blinken's visit to Capitol Hill that progress on the appointment would be announced “very, very shortly”.

Mr Cardin said the decision was “needed … given what's happening in Sudan today”.

Bipartisan members of Congress had for months called on the Biden administration to create the title, including in December when Mr Cardin and his Republican counterpart Jim Risch introduced a joint resolution calling for a high-level special envoy to work towards ending the conflict in Sudan.

The Senate resolution was later backed up by the foreign affairs committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

In his new role, Mr Perriello will “work to empower Sudanese civilian leaders” and “forge a united approach to stop this senseless conflict, prevent further atrocities and promote accountability for crimes already committed”.

Updated: February 27, 2024, 10:36 AM