In an unexpected (by me) trip, New Mexico governor, Bill Richards, went to Khartoum to try to get Khartoum to allow UN peacekeepers in Darfur. He met separately with President Omar al-Bashir, former rebel leader Minni Minnowi and foreign minister Lam Akol:
Richardson told an Associated Press reporter traveling with him that he and al-Bashir discussed the U.N. peacekeeping force, a cease-fire, protection for humanitarian groups working in the region, increasing sexual violence against refugees and a potential conference with rebel leaders.
…He discussed the [Abuja accord] later with Minni Minnawi, the leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement that signed the agreement and subsequently became a presidential assistant. Minnawi expressed disappointment that the government has not yet disarmed the militias and told Richardson if the al-Bashir’s government does not honor its commitments, there will be regime change.
…In Khartoum, Richardson also met with Sudanese foreign minister Lam Akol, bringing along humanitarian workers that included one representative of the Save Darfur Coalition. The coalition organized the trip and has been instrumental in bringing attention to the crisis and criticism on al-Bashir’s government.
According to the AP, this trip was meant to draw attention to Richardson’s “extensive foreign policy background, including his tenure as U.S. envoy to the United Nations” in preparation for his “likely White House bid.”
Given how apathetic Americans are about the genocide in Darfur, I can’t imagine that this sort of a trip could do much besides show voters that he’s got enough clout to meet with a head of state (although it’s a lot less controversial than a similar trip to Iraq, Iran or North Korea). In any case, if it’s an attempt to garner future votes, it’s certainly made me sympathetic to his platform.
Let’s hope he has some success in Sudan.