Opinion divided on Trump lifting Sudan sanctions
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Opinion divided on Trump lifting Sudan sanctions

Posted FRED OLUOCH in Nairobi

on  Sunday, July 2   2017 at  12:36

There are strong indications that the US will lift all sanctions on Sudan with a view to 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, Mr Mohammed Alameen, said that the Bashir administration was confident that the sanctions would be lifted on July 12, with intelligence officials disclosing that Sudan would allow the opening of the largest Central Intelligence Agency office in Khartoum to boost American investments in the oil and agriculture sectors.

Credit guarantees

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 was time to try a new approach because sanctions against Sudan were not producing their intended effect, were disproportionately hurting ordinary Sudanese citizens, and providing the government with an excuse for its poor economic performance.

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

The economy

“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.

However, Mr Taylor said that there were still concerns over two preconditions that had 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 would be released to boost the economy, and financial institutions from Western countries would now be free to trade with the country.

But Mr Taylor said that the lifting of sanctions was not going to make a difference to the economy in the short term, and that Sudan was unlikely to be a recipient of US direct investments in the near future. But it was the beginning of engagement where the US could 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.

Mr Alameen said that despite the many assurances Khartoum had given confirming that it had received the green light from US officials regarding the lifting of the sanctions, some recent events pointed 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 did not constitute a threat to the national security of the US and that the government was hoping that that decision should not affect the lifting of sanctions.

Regional peace

“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.