Opinion divided on Trump lifting Sudan sanctions

Saturday July 01 2017

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


There are strong indications that the US will lift all sanctions on Sudan with a view of encouraging reforms.

Experts on Sudan say the sanctions — which have been in place for 20 years — have not worked against President Omar al-Bashir’s administration.

But US civil society organisations still resist the lifting of sanctions on the grounds that it would give Khartoum a “blank cheque” to continue with its abuse of human rights. 

A Khartoum-based journalist, Mohammed Alameen said that the Bashir administration is confident that the sanctions will be lifted on July 12, with intelligence officials disclosing that Sudan will allow the opening of the largest Central Intelligence Agency office in Khartoum to boost American investments in the oil and agriculture sectors.

On June 23, the US Foreign Agricultural Service added Sudan to a list of countries eligible for the Export Credit Guarantee Programme, also known as GSM-102. The programme, which focuses on Africa and the Middle East, provides credit guarantees to encourage financing of commercial exports of US agricultural products.

In a report published on June 22, the International Crisis Group (ICG) argues that it is time to try a new approach because sanctions against Sudan are not producing their intended effect, are disproportionately hurting ordinary Sudanese citizens, and providing the government with an excuse for its poor economic performance.


According to Magnus Tailor, an ICG Horn of Africa analyst who covers Sudan and Uganda, Khartoum has essentially met the five preconditions imposed when the US partially lifted sanctions in January this year.

“Sudan has been co-operating on counter-terrorism, addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army; ending internal conflict in Darfur and Southern Kordofan; improving humanitarian access; and ending negative interference in South Sudan,” he said.

READ: Sudan forms new inclusive government

Concerns over preconditions

However, Mr Taylor said that there are still concerns over two preconditions that have not been fully met — ending internal conflict and unfettered access by aid agencies to the victims of war.

For Sudan, financial assets amounting to $48.2 million that were frozen will be released to boost the economy, and financial institutions from Western countries will now be free to trade with the country.

But Mr Taylor said that the lifting of sanctions is not going to make a difference to the economy in the short term, and that Sudan is unlikely to be a recipient of US direct investments in the near future. But it is the beginning of engagement where the US can partner with Sudan and build key infrastructure.

The US imposed economic and military sanctions on Sudan in 1997 over alleged association with terrorist groups. But on January 13, former US president Barack Obama issued an executive decree partially lifting sanctions and allowed banks to transfer funds to Sudan in relation to humanitarian aid, and gave Khartoum six months to meet the five conditions.

READ: Sanctions lifted, but is Sudan out of the woods?

Mr Alameen said that despite the many assurances Khartoum has given confirming that it has received the green light from US officials regarding the lifting of the sanctions, some recent events point to the opposite.

They include the announcement by the Sudan Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Abdel-Ghani al-Nai’m that the government and Sudanese citizens do not constitute a threat to the national security of the US and that the government is hoping that this decision should not affect the lifting of sanctions.

“Sudan has made the required progress to all the tracks agreed with the American side. Sudan looks forward to co-operation with the US in regional peace and security and all issues discussed in the five tracks,” said in Mr al-Nai’m in a report by Sudan News Agency.

Others include the US refusal for the participation of President Bashir in the Arab-American Islamic Summit in Riyadh in May, the US officials issuing negative remarks over the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur, and the lack of progress in opening of humanitarian access in the war zones in Sudan.