The White House announced today that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will lead the country's delegation to South Sudan on July 9 to attend a ceremony marking the country's Declaration of Independence. She will be joined by former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Other members of the delegation include Rep. Donald Payne (D- N.J.), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights; Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of State for African Affairs; Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan; Brooke Anderson, deputy national security advisor; Gen. Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command; Donald Steinberg, deputy administrator for USAID; Barrie Walkley, the consul general in Juba; and Ken Hackett, the president of Catholic Relief Services.
Notably absent from the delegation: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was initially scheduled to make the trip, but the Washington Post reported last month that security concerns might prevent her from doing so.
Franklin Graham, an evangelical leader, will also be in attendance. He was supposed to travel with Sarah Palin, but Palin also canceled her plans to attend due to what she said were "scheduling problems."
Southerners backed independence in a January referendum -- though since then clashes along the border with the north have led to growing fears that violence could escalate. Tensions between north and south Sudan are still high over the issues of oil revenue sharing and what's to become of Abyei, a disputed region on the border.
And today the Harvard-based Satellite Sentinel Project released images taken July 4 showing what appears to be an 80-car convoy of Sudanese military forces traveling through the disputed border region of Southern Kordofan. 73,000 people have fled fighting there since June.
The U.N. Security Council will meet July 13 to discuss admitting South Sudan to the international body, making it the first state since Montenegro in 2006 to become a U.N. member.