Senator John Kerry, (D-MA), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is heading to Sudan next week, the senator’s press secretary confirmed. Kerry plans to visit Darfur and Khartoum.
The announcement comes amid heightened attention to Darfur from the Obama administration, following up on a pledge made by the president during his campaign. Last week, President Obama met with Darfur advocates and lawmakers at the White House in a send-off for Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, the new U.S. special envoy to Sudan. Gration arrived in Khartoum last Thursday, and has since made headlines with his very conciliatory tone toward the government and his remarks about the dire conditions in Darfur. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice spoke about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur on ABC’s "This Week," noting that the United States is ready to explore, "a full range of options" to quell the ongoing genocide. (See the clip of Ambassador Rice below.)
The Obama administration’s approach to Sudan is markedly different from its predecessor. Former President Bush employed strong rhetoric but was weak on follow-through; President Obama is laying out a more thoughtful approach by articulating broad goals and avoiding empty threats as his team formulates its policy.
Kerry’s delegation will be the first Congressional visit to Sudan since 2007.