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New Report: ‘Modernized Sanctions Offer Hope for Peace in Sudan”

April 6 - 2016 WASHINGTON D.C.
Cover of the new report by the Enough Project: “Modernized Sanctions for Sudan: Unfinished Business for the Obama Administration”
Cover of the new report by the Enough Project: “Modernized Sanctions for Sudan: Unfinished Business for the Obama Administration”

A new Enough Project report published today, “Modernized Sanctions for Sudan: Unfinished Business for the Obama Administration” by John Prendergast and Brad Brooks-Rubin, details how in its final nine months the Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to build on emerging leverage with the Sudanese government and deploy new targeted financial pressures to support a peace deal in Sudan.

As revelations from the Panama Papers bring world attention to the scourge of secret financial flows, the report highlights new tools available for action to combat high level government corruption connected to atrocities and armed conflict.

The report by Prendergast, Enough’s Founding Director and a former White House official, and Brooks-Rubin, Enough’s Director of Policy and a former Treasury and State Department official, also offers critical recommendations to minimise unintended consequences of existing sanctions measures that have harmed medical, humanitarian, civilian, and academic sectors in Sudan.


Past peace efforts in Sudan have failed, and government-perpetrated atrocities continue to victimise civilians in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states, in part due to insufficient international leverage over the Khartoum regime. The Enough Project report describes how current conditions are optimal for the US to make a policy investment that could pay big dividends in Sudan, including a peace process leading to transition to democracy.

Prendergast: “Sudan has increasingly become financially isolated over the last year due to the serendipitous spillover from tightened enforcement of sanctions measures which were principally focused on Iran. Sanctions relief has replaced debt relief as the Sudan regime’s principal preoccupation. To maximise this newfound leverage over Khartoum, the US and other allies with influence should ratchet up carefully targeted financial pressures on Sudan government officials and their commercial networks with the goal of a more inclusive, single, unified peace process that leads to a transition to democracy in Sudan.”

J.R. Mailey, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “The Panama Papers demonstrate the ways in which high level government officials and their networks of facilitators and enablers are able to move and hide money. Our report describes points of leverage not only to try to combat this type of grand corruption but also to build on that leverage to move peace efforts forward in a kleptocratic state like Sudan.”

Brad Brooks-Rubin: “The design and enforcement of sanctions have transformed in the last decade to deal with Iran, Russia, and Burma. Now is the time to adapt the outdated Sudan sanctions imposed in 1997 and 2006 to take advantage of these modernised, highly targeted approaches.  We believe this is the best way to spur a process for change on the ground.”

Omer Ismail, Senior Advisor at the Enough Project: “The Bashir regime is now more vulnerable to these types of targeted financial measures because they would be aimed at the illicit and corrupt practices of perpetrators and orchestrators of atrocities. The focus now should be on the regime operatives that bankrupted the country and used the coffers of the State to enrich themselves and their cronies.”

Key report excerpts:

•             Peace efforts in Sudan have failed in the past, in large part because of insufficient international leverage over the Sudanese government, but now the Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity in its final months in office to make a policy investment that could pay big dividends. The Obama administration can further build on new, emerging leverage with the Khartoum regime in support of an inclusive peace deal in Sudan leading to a transition to democracy.

•             US leaders should adopt elements of the playbook used with Iran and other recent crises that are appropriate to the Sudanese political and economic context.

•             Leaders should begin by immediately ratcheting up financial pressure and tightening sanctions enforcement on Sudan, deploying more focused, enhanced, and modernised sanctions that more sharply target the military and financial assets of those most responsible for continuing conflict, atrocities, and mass corruption in Sudan.

•             At the same time, the Obama administration should quickly provide needed guidance to minimise the unintended consequences of the existing sanctions measures that have harmed the medical, humanitarian, people-to-people, and academic sectors in Sudan.

•             Despite all evidence to the contrary, the government of Sudan insists that US sanctions are the sole reason for the country’s collapsing economy and unending humanitarian crises. Over the last year, the regime has embarked on an extensive and creative campaign of manipulation and deceit to cajole policymakers into ending US sanctions. With support from Washington, D.C. law firms and lobbyists, Khartoum has engaged in a sometimes surreal charm offensive to press for the end of sanctions as the cure for all of the country’s woes.

•             The goal of these modernised measures is to deploy them in the service of bringing the Sudanese regime to a more inclusive, single, unified peace process that aims for a negotiated transition to democracy. The US role would be to provide the leverage to propel a process that leads to a truly inclusive peace deal in Sudan, the verified implementation of which would trigger the eventual removal of sanctions along with debt relief and normalised relations with the United States.

•             Ideally, this enhanced and modernised sanctions regime could be implemented through a new presidential executive order and, potentially, legislation on Capitol Hill, where the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan pursues congressional action to peace and human rights in the two countries. The United States should also deeply engage other countries with influence to pursue their own targeted pressures and incentives on the Sudanese government in order to buttress a wider international push for peace in Sudan.

Recommended modernised sanctions tools and approaches:

•             Sanctions on foreign financial institutions that facilitate the al-Bashir regime’s most egregious activities.

•             Focused anti-money laundering measures.

•             Modernised pressures that can more effectively target top regime officials and their commercial interests should include sectoral sanctions and similar efforts directed at elements of the weapons and mining sectors, the latter specifically for projects in conflict areas.

•             Anti-corruption sanctions against individuals and entities facilitating public corruption.

•             Increased designation and enforcement of targeted sanctions on specific companies owned by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and companies owned by other senior government officials—areas where sanctions enforcement has been weak.

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