Sudan Envoy: Darfur experiencing ‘remnants of genocide’ — Says aid capacity back near 100%

By Caitlin Taylor

Jun 17, 2009 12:22pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: President Obama's Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general who grew up in Africa, today refused to describe the situation in Darfur as ongoing genocide. "What we see is the remnants of genocide," he said, implying the wartorn region's worst violence is behind it. "It doesn't appear that it is a coordinated effort that was similar to what we had in 2003 to 2006," Gration of the violence. His hesitation stems from disagreements within the Obama administration, and pressure from interest groups like the Save Darfur Coalition. Sources say Gration has reported back from his trip to Darfur earlier this year that the level of violence in Darfur does not currently warrant being called genocide, but officials like UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who served as top Africa official at the State Department during the Rwandan genocide, insist the situation should still be labeled as such. In fact, just two days ago during a speech in Vienna, Austria Ambassador Rice described the situation in Darfur as "genocide." At a press conference in Germany on June 5, a day after his major speech to the Muslim world speech, President Obama referenced his comments on Darfur in the speech as "genocide that's taking place." The Bush administration frequently used genocide to describe the violence in the region after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell branded it as such in 2004. Gration's approach appears to be more holistic than that of his predecessors, whose attention was mainly on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region. Instead, Gration says he is working to address all of Sudan's problems, but it appeared his emphasis was on the deteriorating conditions in Southern Sudan, where a tenuous peace deal that ended Sudan's bloody civil war is up for referendum in 19 months. Gration said violence in the south has seen an "uptick" and is now in fact greater than the violence in Darfur. Gration said that aid capacity in Darfur is back up near 100% and may soon exceed capacity before 13 aid groups were expelled earlier this year. Sudan has allowed remaining aid groups in Darfur to beef up capacity and has allowed three new groups to come in and pick up the slack. "We've been able to work with the government of Sudan and NGOs and United Nations to restore humanitarian assistance capacity in Darfur," he said. "We've essentially closed the humanitarian gap that existed in Darfur when the 13 NGOs were expelled." He said much of the capacity now is emergency work, Gration warned, but he said he hopes soon that will be transferred to sustained aid projects. –Kirit Radia

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