Trump nominates career diplomat as South Sudan ambassador

US President Donald J. Trump has announced his intent to nominate Thomas Hushek to be his ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan. Hushek has been an American diplomat since 1988.

In the US political system Trump’s nomination must first be approved by the Senate before Hushek can take up his post as ambassador in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

Hushek has served most recently as the acting chief of the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). He also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Mission at US embassies in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (2006-08), and Kolonia, Micronesia (2002-04).

According to a statement Friday by the White House, Hushek has “extensive experience in Afghanistan, where he served as Senior Director for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in Kabal (2012-2013), and the Senior Civilian Representative at the Herat Provincial Reconstruction Team and regional Command West (2004-05), and as Afghan Refugee Coordinator in Islamabad and Kabul (1999-2002).”

The State Department profile for Hushek says that he also served previously at diplomatic postings in Khartoum and Moscow, early in his career.

Once confirmed, Hushek will replace US Ambassador Molly Phee and report to Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump has yet to nominate a Special Envoy to replace the former US envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth.

US media have reported that Tillerson is currently reviewing dozens of Special Envoy posts at the State Department and may not fill all of them until it is decided which posts to keep and which to eliminate.

South Sudan’s government is yet to respond to the announcement. For its part, the SPLM/IO rebel group welcomed the decision. Lt. General Wesley Welebe Samson, SPLM/IO Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, issued a statement urging Hushek to move swiftly to achieve peace in South Sudan.

Welebe called on Hushek to “recognize the fact that 2015 peace agreement is now dead” and revive new peace talks. He urged the US also work to “stop operationalization of the 32 states with immediate effect and form a committee to look into this matter as per the previous IGAD Communiqué.”

This is a reference to the Establishment Order, a decree that created new states in South Sudan about two months after the 2015 peace agreement. The decree abrogated provisions of the deal, which had recognized the existence of the 10 constitutionally established states and established power-sharing along those lines.

Welebe also urged Hushek to engage with the leadership of his group rather than continuing the previous administration’s policy of sidelining it. “Remember, South Sudan government will never defeat SPLA/M IO militarily and lasting peace will not be achieved without full involvement and participation of our Chairman and Commander in Chief Dr. Riek Machar, since we control large parts of South Sudan and have a big army in the bushes of South Sudan,” added Welebe.

Machar has been sidelined from the South Sudanese political process and remains under house arrest in South Africa, although he remains a figurehead to whom parts of the armed opposition continue to pledge their loyalty. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama’s envoy Donald Booth had said that Machar no longer represented the armed opposition, instead recognizing Taban Deng, an ally of Kiir appointed to replace Machar as first vice president.