The United States of America says it is sympathetic to international calls for Sudan to be removed from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist but it is not yet ready to support the calls.
The listing means that US companies cannot invest in Khartoum despite the formation of a transition government there after former president Omar al Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over atrocities committed in Darfur was deposed in April.
While speaking at the UN General Assembly a week ago, Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok asked for the country to be removed from the list which also extends to non-US companies that have business relationships with Washington. As a result, the country cannot mobilise financial aid or renegotiate debt.
“I want to reiterate that Sudan has never been a sponsor of terrorism. It should be removed from this list as it is distracting us from the urgent business of peace building and reconciliation,” Dr Hamdok said when he addressed the 74th session of the assembly.
Dr Hamdok was echoing calls by mostly humanitarian agencies, for the US to remove the country from the list after the military constituted a transition government last month shared with civilians that will in 33 months return the country to democratic rule.
In a telephone briefing on Wednesday last week after the conclusion of the General Assembly sessions, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African affairs Tibor Nagy Jr said the US was impressed with “the paradigm shift” in Sudan but would not set timelines for its removal from the list.
“Until the transition government and Prime Minister Hamdok took over the United States saw Sudan as a very problematic country, a source of instability and a source of exporting terrorism. That is why it was on the list of states sponsors of terrorism,” Mr Nagy said.
He said the US now viewed Sudan differently as a country that will transform into a source of stability in the region.
He added, however, that there would be no dates for removal from the list as there were a number of legal issues tide to the process.
“We are sympathetic with calls for removal from the list. We hope to have a full, normal relations with a very prosperous Sudan that will afford its citizens every opportunity and every economic benefit. We can work with the new Sudan government to make that process go as quickly as possible,” he said.
Sudan was placed in the list in 1993 on suspicions that President Omar al Bashir was funding militias in neighbouring countries.
It is now on the list together with Iran, North Korea and Syria while Cuba, Iraq, Libya and South Yemen have been at one time been on the list but later removed.
Speaking at Chatham House, London on October 3, Dr Hamdok said the transition government’s top priority was to stop the war and get sides to sign the peace agreement.
“The time is now. If we do not get peace now we might chase it forever. There’s willingness to sign by most sides,” Dr Hamdok said.
A day earlier he had met Darfur rebel leader Abdulwahid Nur in France which French President Emmanuel Macron described as an “essential step” towards reconciliation in the country.
Nur, an exile in France, who leads the leads the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA/AW), which does not recognise Mr Hamdok's government.
Hamdok said they discussed the roots and possible solutions to the Sudan crisis adding: "we are going to lay the first stones for this edifice of peace" while President Macron announced a $16.3 million aid package and a planned donor conference for Sudan.
At Chatham house, Dr Hamdok said the second priority was to revive the national economy using Sudan’s resources and foreign investments without dependence and hand-outs while political reforms including rule of law, addressing corruption, recovery of stolen resources, transitional justice and inclusivity of women and minorities came third.
Issues of transitional justice in Sudan have come to the fore after the authority’s historical excesses in Darfur appeared to be replicated in the violent crackdown on June 3 that left at least 60 people dead.
Human rights group says the actual toll was in multiples of this, women were raped and some bodies retrieved from River Nile.
Calls for an independent enquiry have persisted even after a report commissioned by General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the current leader, before the transition government came into force in August appeared to absolve the military from blame.
He sent a signal to western powers that Sudan would not be a pushover on the diplomatic front saying that Khartoum’s foreign policy would be founded on non-interference in the affairs of others. In addition, he said, the military would get less importance in allocation of state resources.
“We need to get our priorities right. Tilt it from focusing on military expansion to addressing unemployment, social issues, unemployment, health, education and human development. No nation can develop without building solid human resources,” he said.
Its early days yet to a constitutional conference planned before the end of the transition to address the country’s governance and elections, Dr Hamdok warned of “fixation” in every transition in Sudan with the Westminster parliamentary democracy.
“I think we need to interrogate this issue – parliamentary versus presidential system. From observation, democracy in Africa has flourished in places where there are presidential elections,” he said without betraying his preference.