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Former US special envoy to Sudan dies age 64

December 9, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – The United States special envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson under former President George W. Bush died on Sunday from complications resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage, according to media reports.

Former US special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson (AFP)
Former US special envoy for Sudan, Richard Williamson (AFP)
Williamson took over as Sudan’s special envoy in late 2007 after the resignation of his predecessor Andrew Natsios.

Khartoum viewed Williamson as a hardliner and often noted a piece he wrote in 2005 in which he described Sudanese officials as “thugs” who will “act like thugs as long as they are allowed to do so”.

Nonetheless the ex-envoy attempted to lure Khartoum into making concessions in return for lifting the decade-long economic sanctions and normalizing ties.

In April 2008, Williamson met with in Rome for rare direct talks on normalization with a Sudanese delegation headed by then presidential assistant Sudan Nafie Ali Nafie and included Sudan’s spy chief Salah Gosh as well as foreign minister Deng Alor.

The discussions focused on having Khartoum agree to facilitating deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur.

But the talks fell through and Williamson declared them suspended the following month over lack of progress in the north-south talks regarding the disputed region of Abyei.

In June 2008, he fiercely lambasted UN peacekeepers in Abyei for failing to protect residents during clashes that erupted the month before.

In unusual remarks by a US official, he publicly accused the UN force there of hiding in their barracks during the fighting instead of protecting Sudanese civilians in line with their mandate.

The UN initially rejected the charge but the world body later issued a report stating that “lessons” were learned from the way peacekeepers acted during the incident.

In December 2008, it was revealed that Williamson sent a memo to president Bush asking him to take coercive measures against Khartoum to halt killings in Darfur.

Among the steps is to temporarily jam all communications in the Sudanese capital which would severe telephone communications, cell phones as well as internet access.

Furthermore the US navy would hinder access to Port Sudan by searching or turning away some ships. At a later stage a full blown embargo could be enforced to prevent Sudan from selling its oil.

The last stage would be to shoot down all Sudanese fighters that violate ban over Darfur and to use the threat of destroying air force if Khartoum does not comply with other demands such as handing over two suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Williamson also suggested providing surface-to-air missiles to the government of South Sudan (GoSS) to protect the semi-autonomous South from retaliation by Khartoum.

But his proposal was shot down by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security adviser Stephen Hadley.

The former envoy was critical of Obama saying that he betrayed his pre-presidency pledges of being tough on Khartoum.

He also rapped his successor William Gration for downplaying the situation in Darfur after his first visit to the country.

Prior to his Sudan’s post, he held several government posts since the 1980’s that included presidential assistant on intergovernmental affairs; US envoy at the UN offices in Vienna; UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and an assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.

In 2008 and 2012 he was picked to be a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney respectively.

He also held several positions in think tank groups and universities.

(ST)

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