In March, the Obama administration appointed J. Scott Gration as the U.S. special envoy to Sudan. Gration, a retired Air Force major general, was a close friend and adviser to Obama during his presidential campaign. Faith-based and human rights Darfur activists hailed the appointment of Gration, who grew up with his missionary parents in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) and speaks fluent Swahili. After his family was evacuated due to political unrest, losing everything they owned, they returned to the U.S., where his father taught at Wheaton College.
Activists welcomed Gration’s close ties with the White House and urged him to work quickly with U.S. allies to establish clear administration goals. “Any solution that doesn’t allow the refugees and displaced of Darfur to return home in a genuine environment of safety, and allow humanitarian assistance to resume unimpeded, isn’t really a solution,” John Norris of the Enough Project told Sojourners. Gration has been criticized for influencing Obama to announce, during the campaign, that he might invade Pakistan. At the same time, Gration is a longtime advocate for multilateral nuclear disarmament.