Special envoy for the Horn of Africa to address political instability and conflict in the East African region, including a brewing civil war and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, current and former officials familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy.
The new special envoy post could fill a diplomatic leadership gap in the administration’s foreign-policy ranks as it works to install other senior officials in the State Department, a process that could take weeks or even months to complete, as they require presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. Special envoy posts do not require Senate confirmation.
A new Horn of Africa envoy would have their work cut out for them: Sudan is undergoing a delicate political transition after three decades under a dictatorship, South Sudan is wracked by chronic instability and corruption, and the fragile government of Somalia is grappling with ongoing threats from the al-Shabab terrorist group and political gridlock that has delayed national elections. An ongoing dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over a major dam project adds another layer of complexity to the tensions in the region.
The most pressing crisis in the eyes of many U.S. policymakers, however, is in Ethiopia. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military campaign against the ruling party in the country’s northern Tigray region, after accusing it of attacking a government military base. Conflict has ravaged the region since then, marked by thousands of deaths, millions in need of humanitarian assistance, and widespread reports of interethnic violence. U.S. officials fear that the conflict could turn into a full-blown regional crisis, with turmoil spilling over into neighboring Eritrea and Sudan.
While officials cautioned no final decision has yet been made, one top contender for the potential job is Donald Booth, a seasoned diplomatic troubleshooter in the region who currently serves as U.S. special envoy for Sudan and has previou