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Senior Darfur diplomat should help revitalize peace process for Darfur, press human rights and humanitarian concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sudan Now applauds the appointment of Dane Smith as the senior U.S. diplomat for Darfur, and strongly urges President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to appoint a team under the diplomat to help focus efforts on revitalizing the Darfur peace process, securing humanitarian access, and introducing accountability for human rights violations.

A peaceful outcome to next month’s referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan would create momentum for a solution to the Darfur conflict as well, and this opportunity for Darfur requires urgent action now, according to Sudan Now, a campaign led by six human rights and anti-genocide organizations committed to bringing meaningful and lasting peace to Sudan and encouraging strong American leadership and action to achieve this goal. The conflict in Darfur, where 300,000 people have died and three million have been displaced since 2003, has been overshadowed by tensions between North and South Sudan in the run-up to the South’s January independence referendum.

President Obama has appointed a senior, experienced diplomat to deal with Sudan’s North-South issues, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, but has so far failed to sustain an on the ground presence in Darfur’s peace efforts. The renewed attention on Sudan’s referendum is the ideal time for the United States to step up its engagement in Darfur as well, asserted Sudan Now.

“These opportunities do not come along very often in diplomacy,” stated Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast.” The referendum and its aftermath will be a dangerous moment for Sudan, but one rife with possible openings for peace in Darfur. The United States has to be in a position to take advantage of this opportunity, working with other key stakeholders in Sudan and internationally to bring new life to peace efforts for Darfur. Deploying a team to the region to focus on sustained mediation – in coordination with the African Union and the United Nations – can maximize those opportunities for getting the peace process right.”

“Activists across the country have urged the Obama Administration to appoint a high-level, dedicated Darfur diplomat, and we are thrilled that the call has been answered,” stated Mark Hanis, President of Genocide Intervention Network / Save Darfur Coalition. “Dane Smith should focus much-needed attention in Darfur to stop the continuing violence and human rights violations, ensure access for humanitarian organizations and peacekeeping forces, and facilitate voluntary return of people who have been forced from their homes by years of violence.”

“With so much of the world’s attention understandably focused on the upcoming referendum, President Obama’s decision today to appoint Smith as a high-level diplomat for Darfur must be applauded,” stated Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service. “A peaceful resolution to the unacceptable situation in Darfur is integral to the long-term stability of the entire region and should continue to be an integral component of U.S. and international efforts in Sudan. I know that activists across the county have welcomed the recent surge of diplomacy in the South, and I am confident that they will be encouraged and support today’s announcement.”

“From bringing key rebel movements back into a revitalized peace process to delivering tangible improvements in security on the ground, the challenges in Darfur are considerable,” said Enough Policy Advisor Omer Ismail, “but with the right levels of attention and expertise they can be achieved.”

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