The move will give Sudan access to the global banking system but President al-Bashir remains a war crimes suspect. Sudan stays on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The United States (US) announced on October 6th that it would end its toughest economic and trade sanctions against Sudan in a week’s time, citing progress the Khartoum government has made in fighting terrorism and easing humanitarian hardships.
Sudan has also agreed not to seek arms deals with North Korea, Deutsche Welle noted.
Human rights groups opposed the deal but it was a process that was started under former President Barack Obama.
The sanctions, which included a trade embargo and other penalties, essentially cut off Sudan from most of the global financial system for the past 20 years.
Explaining the end of the sanctions, US officials said the authoritarian regime had maintained a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and other old flashpoints.
However, President Omar al-Bashir remains a war-crimes suspect. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide charges for allegedly orchestrating a mass killing in Darfur.
And Sudan is still on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Syria and Iran. This means the US ban on weapons sales remains in force, as do restrictions on US aid.
The Sudanese foreign ministry said it was looking forward to building “a normal relation with the US, but wants its name to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as there is no reason to have Sudan in that list.”
President Omar al-Bashir listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – CC 2009
On September 4th, Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hamed Momtaz told Reuters that his country had “fulfilled all the necessary conditions relating to the roadmap” set out by the US, and therefore expected the sanctions to be lifted.
Khartoum had already won significant international support for this claim, with Israel and Saudi Arabia busy lobbying on its behalf. And back in July, the United Nations (UN) Country Team in Sudan called for Washington to take a “positive decision” on the sanctions, saying there had been a “marked improvement in humanitarian access over the past six months.”
However, civilians in Darfur still face “violence and criminality”, the UN’s then-head of peacekeeping told the Security Council in January. Hervé Ladsous pointed in particular to the “widespread proliferation of weapons and the inadequacy of law and justice institutions.”
‘Progress’ on human rights?
Human rights activists have warned that lifting the sanctions will embolden Sudan and other states to continue committing atrocities, according to IRIN.
There is little evidence of a major improvement in the country’s human rights record, even though this is one of five areas of progress cited by Washington in justifying the lifting of the sanctions.
In a recent report, the US State Department cited “attacks on civilians by government and other armed groups in conflict zones” as well as extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape, all committed with impunity by intelligence agents.
Reducing internal wars was another US benchmark, but armed conflict continues to simmer in the regions of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, where humanitarian access remains very restricted. It seems the US decision to lift sanctions is more closely linked to Khartoum’s role in global counter-terrorism and its recent cutting of ties with Pyongyang.
Commenting on the decision, John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said the Trump administration should now create a completely new policy framework which aims to address the core issues that led the regime to be sanctioned in the first place.
This new policy framework should be tied to a new set of smart, modernised network sanctions that spare the Sudanese public and target those in power responsible for mass atrocities, he said.
Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:
SUDAN: Humanitarian Push
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21747A–21747B
SUDAN: ‘Closed Chapter?’
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21491A–21492C
SUDAN: Darfur Security Assessment
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21480A–21481B