February 5, 2011

US envoy Gration visits Port Sudan

Scott Gration, the United States envoy to Sudan, visited Port Sudan on February 4 and 5. He did it without informing authorities of his travel. [No permits are required for travelling in the east, since November 2010.]

While in Port Sudan, he met with UN officials and was briefed on the humanitarian situation. However, he was unable to meet with Beja leaders, because he apparently had not received permission from officials in Khartoum to do so.


UPDATE February 7:  An All Africa article examines various interpretations of Gration's visit to the east and notes differing views on his permission to go east. Beja officials are called "the local opposition." It points out that Gration met with the minister of health and education, but that it was not a political journey.


Key paragraphs copied below.

But Gration was not allowed to meet rebels from the Beja Congress because his visit was not permitted by the authorities in Khartoum, according to a report published on Friday by the daily newspaper Al-Raed, which is affiliated to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

The US embassy's statement contended that the envoy's visit was "fully approved by and was closely coordinated with the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum."

The embassy's claim was confirmed on Saturday by the official spokesman of Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Khalid Musa, who told reporters in Khartoum that his ministry did give Gration a permission to visit the state.

Musa, however, stopped short of explaining why Gration was not allowed to meet the opposition.
Instead, he said that the only purpose of Gration's visit was to meet local officials, including the minister of education, and assess humanitarian situation.

The spokesman further asserted that Gration's visit had nothing to do with the political situation in the east, nor does it mean that the U.S had entered into the affairs of East Sudan.

The [political agreement] ESPA promised government jobs and 600 million dollars for development over five years. Accordingly, a development and reconstruction for East Sudan was established but little has been achieved, fuelling bitterness among the region's four million inhabitants.

Gration's visit also coincided with a tense political climate in the state after the long absence of the state's governor Mohamed Tahir Iyla in Saudi Arabia gave rise to speculations that he was disgruntled with the NCP's leadership in Khartoum.

However, Iyla returned to the state and participated on Friday at a rally in which the NCP's deputy president Nafi Ali Nafi dismissed rumors of his defection as propagated by "circles targeting East Sudan and eying its wealth."

Opposition groups in the Red Sea accuse Iyla of accumulating a personal wealth out of development projects and using 'divide and conquer' tactics to consolidate his rule.

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