Retired Major General Scott Gration is wrapping up a second day of meetings with leaders in Khartoum on his first "listening tour" as President Obama’s new envoy to Sudan.
News reports highlighted the conciliatory tone General Gration took in initial meetings, but from Gration’s own words, it’s clear he wants to emphasize that the onus is on Sudan’s leaders to maintain this spirit of partnership:
"I come here with my hands open and it will be up to the Sudanese government to determine how they want to continue with that relationship, hopefully it will be with a hand of friendship, hand of cooperation, and one that we can move ahead…"
After meeting with representatives of the foreign ministry yesterday, today’s agenda included a visit with opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, who reportedly told Gration that Sudan’s government and its allies have forgotten Darfur amid the concern about protecting Bashir from the ICC’s arrest warrant.
Don’t expect any major breakthroughs during this visit; by Gration’s own admission, he didn’t go to Sudan with a negotiated solution in hand. It is encouraging that he is setting an even-keeled tone, and a first trip to Sudan is not the time for bluster. But Gration’s listening tour cannot be an extended one. Darfuris in displaced camps face a badly eroding humanitarian situation, the existing north-south peace deal continues to fray, and President Bashir continues to face well-deserved war crimes charges.