Su­dan hopes ‘coura­geous’ Trump re­moves sanc­tions

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

KHAR­TOUM: Hopes are run­ning high in Su­dan that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will de­cide this week to lift Wash­ing­ton’s sanc­tions on Khar­toum, de­spite rights groups call­ing for the decades-old em­bargo to be main­tained. “The time is right for per­ma­nently lift­ing the sanc­tions on Su­dan,” se­nior Su­danese for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial Ab­del­ghani El­naim told AFP ahead of the end of a re­view pe­riod on Wed­nes­day. “We are count­ing on Pres­i­dent Trump to take this coura­geous de­ci­sion that will make not just the peo­ple of Su­dan, but all of Africa, happy.”

Wash­ing­ton im­posed a com­plex set of eco­nomic sanc­tions on Su­dan in 1997 for its al­leged back­ing of Is­lamist mil­i­tant groups. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US com­mando raid in Pak­istan in 2011, was based in Khar­toum from 1992 to 1996. Wash­ing­ton also jus­ti­fied the em­bargo with ac­cu­sa­tions of scorched-earth tac­tics by Khar­toum against eth­nic mi­nor­ity rebels in war-torn Dar­fur. Barack Obama eased the sanc­tions be­fore leav­ing of­fice in an at­tempt to im­prove ties with Su­dan whose leader Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir is ac­cused of geno­cide charges re­lated to the con­flict in Dar­fur. How­ever, he made the per­ma­nent lift­ing of sanc­tions de­pen­dent on Khar­toum’s progress in five ar­eas of con­cern dur­ing the six­month re­view pe­riod.

The con­cerns-known as “five tracks”in­clude im­proved ac­cess for aid groups in con­flict ar­eas, an end to sup­port for rebels in neigh­bour­ing South Su­dan, an end to hos­til­i­ties in the con­flict zones of Dar­fur, Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan, and counter-ter­ror­ism co­op­er­a­tion with US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. Trump can lift the sanc­tions per­ma­nently, ex­tend the re­view pe­riod or fully re-im­pose the em­bargo.

‘New era of ties’

“The two coun­tries have worked to­gether on this five-track plan. I can say that our re­la­tions have reached a new era,” said El­naim. “It is now only log­i­cal that the sanc­tions are lifted as we have made great progress on the five tracks.” Su­danese of­fi­cials have reg­u­larly high­lighted how Khar­toum has sup­ported US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in fight­ing ex­trem­ism in the re­gion, and also how it is aid­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of South Su­danese refugees who have ar­rived flee­ing a bru­tal civil war in their coun­try.

Wash­ing­ton’s en­voy to Khar­toum, Steven Kout­sis, told AFP in June that in re­cent months Khar­toum had even shown “ex­treme re­straint” when fight­ing rebels in Dar­fur, Blue Nile and South Kord­o­fan. The sanc­tions have hit Su­dan’s econ­omy, which is bat­tling surg­ing in­fla­tion, ris­ing food prices and grow­ing un­em­ploy­ment. Lift­ing the em­bargo will al­low all pre­vi­ously pro­hib­ited trade be­tween the United States and Su­dan, in turn help­ing the Su­danese econ­omy in­te­grate with the global econ­omy, of­fi­cials said. “It will open new op­por­tu­ni­ties for us that never ex­isted for 20 years, like ac­cess­ing easy loans or tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise,” Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mo­hamed Al-Rik­abi said in an in­ter­view to a lo­cal news­pa­per. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has given lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of how it will pro­ceed and a European diplo­mat said that there was a good pos­si­bil­ity that sanc­tions would not be lifted.

“It sounds ir­ra­tional that on one hand Wash­ing­ton bans Su­danese cit­i­zens from en­ter­ing the United States and on the other lifts the sanc­tions,” the diplo­mat said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­cluded Su­danese in a travel ban that re­stricts cit­i­zens from six pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries from en­ter­ing the United States. The US Supreme Court al­lowed the ban to be par­tially im­ple­mented and it took ef­fect in late June.

Con­cerns over rights abuses

Some global rights groups and think­tanks have urged Wash­ing­ton to main­tain the sanc­tions, cit­ing Khar­toum’s record of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Khar­toum con­tin­ues to re­press in­de­pen­dent voices and has failed to rein in “war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity in Dar­fur and other con­flict zones,” Hu­man Rights Watch said af­ter Obama eased the em­bargo.

At least 300,000 peo­ple have been killed and 2.5 mil­lion dis­placed since a bru­tal con­flict erupted in Dar­fur in 2003, the United Na­tions says. The con­flict broke out when eth­nic African rebels took up arms against Khar­toum’s Arab-dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment, ac­cus­ing it of marginal­iz­ing Dar­fur. “Given what ap­pears to be in­con­clu­sive ev­i­dence con­cern­ing mul­ti­ple tracks, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should de­fer the de­ci­sion to lift com­pre­hen­sive sanc­tions on Su­dan,” the Wash­ing­ton­based Enough Project cam­paign group said in a re­cent re­port. — AFP

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