The US Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy in Sudan cannot say how the Trump administration will deal with the decision to lift the trade sanctions on Khartoum.
“I honestly do not know how the decision will be dealt with, but I can say that the US Secretary of State will report to President Trump on whether Khartoum has taken positive steps,” US Chargé d’Affaires to Sudan Steven Koutsis told the attendants of an economic forum organised by the Union of Sudanese Banks in Khartoum on Thursday.
“The report will be based on facts,” he added.
Koutsis said that since the lifting of the sanctions in January, the US embassy in Khartoum has received many business requests from American and Sudanese companies. He noted however that “Some companies are reluctant to engage in such business until the sanctions may be definitely lifted in July.”
On January 13 this year, US President Barack Obama issued a presidential executive order that suspended nearly 20 year-old economic sanctions on Sudan in response to “sustained progress” on several fronts.
The sanctions were imposed in November 1997 by executive order after Sudan was accused of being a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The order blocked all Sudanese government assets in the USA and barred all trade transactions involving certain persons in Sudan.
In the end of 2016, Washington began working on the criteria for partially lifting the sanctions for a period of six months (though Sudan remains branded as a sponsor of terrorism), after which it may decide on a permanent lifting.
In early May, Human Rights Watch called on Washington to delay the definite lifting of economic sanctions until the human rights situation in Sudan has improved. A month earlier, Enough Project urged the US Congress to design “a clear US policy approach, one that deploys the types of modernised pressures that can generate meaningful leverage for creating real and lasting change in Sudan through a Human Rights and Peace Track” instead of using “benchmarks that do not fundamentally alter the nature” of the Khartoum regime.
Washington however deliberately formulated only five sets of criteria for the assessment of the performance of the Sudanese government concerning a permanent revocation of the sanctions in July.
“The five tracks [or criteria] are the beginning of a process, for the mutual confidence that was needed in order to address these very difficult issues of human rights and good governance,” former US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth recently explained to Radio Dabanga.
The criteria consist of Sudan's ceasing of offensive military activity, providing more access for humanitarian organisations to the needy in Sudan, halting support to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), collaborating in the fight against terrorism, and exerting efforts to achieve peace in South Sudan.
The Deputy Director of the Central Bank of Sudan, Badreldin Gurashi, said at the economic forum on Thursday that “the benefits of the temporary lifting of the sanctions have not materialised yet”.
Sudan’s name still exists on the list of sponsors of terror. This still prevents Khartoum from receiving loans or financial aid under the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Export Administration Act, he said.
Gurashi further pointed to foreign investors who prefer to delay “large investments in the country” before the permanent lifting of all sanctions.
The impact of the sanctions on the Sudanese banking sector has been very serious and effective. Sudan has not been able to import basic goods and services for almost 20 years, the banker stated. “The sanctions have prevented the Sudanese banking sector and Sudanese people from using international payment and settlement systems, and bank transfers.”
According to Sudanese experts, the sanctions have significantly contributed to the scarcity of hard currency in the country. The Central Bank of Sudan reported an acute shortage of hard currency in September 2010. The secession of South Sudan in 2011 exacerbated the situation, as Khartoum lost more than a quarter of its gross domestic product, most of which was earned by oil exports.