Sanctions extension likely to hamper US-Sudan relations

Saturday July 15 2017

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gives a press

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gives a press conference in the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, on March 2, 2017. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH
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The decision by the Trump Administration to suspend the lifting of sanctions to Sudan from July 12 to October could overturn the rapport Washington has developed with Khartoum in the past three years. 

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said the US postponement of the lifting of sanctions is likely to embolden armed groups to continue fighting and shun recent peace initiatives. 

In a statement after the NCP met to discuss the US pushing the lifting of economic sanctions to October, deputy chairman Ibrahim Mahmoud said the Trump administration would be held responsible in case of repercussions and sufferings among the Sudanese people.

Magnus Tailor, an analyst with the International Crisis Group for the Horn of Africa, said that it would be dangerous for the US to engage and then disengage, because it would destroy the trust that Khartoum has in it, and result in “reckless behaviour".

“There is very little that can change in three months. The State Department, which is still not sure whether Khartoum has fully met the preconditions, will have time to think through the whole process of lifting the sanctions,” said Mr Taylor.

Negotiations frozen

While Khartoum has not carried out new attacks in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in the past six months, it is unlikely that these conflicts — which started in 2003 in Darfur and the other two areas in 2011 — will be resolved in three months.

The US was scheduled to lift the 20-year sanctions on July 12, but in an executive order issued on July 11 by President Trump suspended the lifting of the sanctions to give more time to study progress and to encourage Khartoum to take further actions on the resolution of armed conflict and other political processes aimed at restoring freedoms in Sudan.

In a presidential decree circulated by the state news agency Suna, President Omar al-Bashir froze negotiations with the US until October 12.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told the press in Khartoum that the decision to postpone the lifting of sanctions was based on fabricated reports and unfounded doubts by some US lobbies working against Sudan.

‘’We are regretting this decision after the long engagement and dialogue between us and the Americans. All the American and international monitors witnessed the full implementation of the five-track agreement,’’ he said.

Congress members

Prior to the US decision, Prof Ghandour, condemned the signing of a memo by some US Congress members demanding extension of the sanctions, despite the government having maintained a ceasefire in the war zones for the third successive year.

The US imposed economic and military sanctions in Sudan in 1997 for alleged association with terrorist organisations.

In 1993, the US had placed Sudan on the list of countries supporting terrorism.

But on January 13 this year, then president Barack Obama issued an executive decree partially lifting the sanctions, allowing banks to transfer funds to Sudan for humanitarian aid, and giving Khartoum an additional six months to meet the five conditions.

The “five-tracks” require Sudan to co-operate on counter-terrorism; stop any association with the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army; end internal conflict in Darfur and Southern Kordofan; allow unfiltered access of humanitarian agencies to the victims of war; and end negative interference in South Sudan.

The US has now added one more condition which is for Sudan to allow freedom of expression and worship.