Report: US envoy in Sudan in line to replace Ranneberger

US Special Envoy for the Sudan, J. Scott Gration (left) with former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. Mr Gration may be nominated to replace Michael Ranneberger as US ambassador to Kenya, a Washington-based blogger reported on Friday. NATION | David Kanda.

President Barack Obama's special envoy for Sudan may soon be nominated to replace Michael Ranneberger as US ambassador to Kenya, a Washington-based blogger reported on Friday.

No formal offer has been made to the Sudan point-man, retired Major General Scott Gration, but “he has wanted to be envoy to Kenya for some time,” Josh Rogin reported in his blog, “The Cable.”

The son of missionary parents, Ambassador Gration grew up in Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo and is fluent in Kiswahili.

Mr Rogin cited “multiple administration sources” as having provided this information. “The Cable,” published by the reputable Foreign Policy magazine, bills itself as “reporting inside the foreign policy machine.”

The blog cautions that Major General Gration may face “contentious” US Senate hearings if Mr Obama does tap him for the Sudan job.

The Obama administration had earlier planned to nominate Ambassador Gration for the Nairobi post during a US congressional recess with the aim of avoiding a lengthy confirmation debate, Mr Rogin wrote.

“But that plan was no longer operative and Gration would be nominated and confirmed through the usual process,” the blogger added, citing an unnamed Obama administration official as his source.

The Sudan envoy has become a target of criticism from some advocacy groups in Washington for allegedly taking a soft line toward the government of President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the Darfur region.

Major General Gration has also reportedly feuded with US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice over his approach to the Bashir regime, particularly on the Darfur issue.

The latest such episode occurred last week at a White House meeting on Sudan, Mr Rogin reported.

Ambassador Rice “was said to be 'furious' when Gration proposed a plan that makes the January referendum a priority, deemphasises the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and is devoid of any additional pressures on the government in Khartoum.”

Mr Rogin added that “according to multiple sources briefed on the meeting, Gration's plan was endorsed by almost all the other participants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and will now go the president for his approval. Rice was invited to provide a written dissent.”

South Sudan is scheduled to vote in January on whether to secede.

Major General Gration will seek to retain his Sudan portfolio if he does win approval as the next US ambassador to Kenya, Mr Rogin also reported.

“If he is successful in keeping his role in Sudan policy, he would be hugely influential on three major Africa policy issues: Sudan, Kenya, and Somalia, which is largely managed from the embassy in Nairobi,” the blogger noted.

But the head of a leading activist group in Washington suggests it is unlikely that Major General Gration would be allowed to retain the Sudan position whilst in the US embassy in Nairobi.

“"The special envoy job [for Sudan] is a full-time job, as is being ambassador to Kenya during this crucial time," John Norris, director of the Enough Project told Mr Rogin. "I can't imagine they would place one person in charge of both."

Ambassador Ranneberger took up the Nairobi posting four years ago. That is roughly the length of time that a US envoy remains in a particular country before being re-assigned.

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