US Congressmen urge Trump to delay sanctions relief

A bipartisan group including 53 US lawmakers has strongly urged President Donald Trump to delay the decision to permanently lift economic sanctions against Sudan by 12 July.

A bipartisan group including 53 US lawmakers has strongly urged President Donald Trump to delay the decision to permanently lift economic sanctions against Sudan by 12 July.

Fifty-three congressmen wrote a letter to President Trump on 30 June. “We write to request that you delay lifting these sanctions for one year or until your Administration has been able to fully staff the Department of State and National Security Council, and you have named a Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.”

The lawmakers pointed that the possible lift of sanctions by 12 July “without having a new phase of engagement in place, along with new, targeted pressures will not increase our leverage but rather weaken it”.

Last week, the former US envoys to Sudan Princeton Lyman and Donald Booth called on the Congress to support the five-track engagement plan with the Sudanese government urging legislatures to not take actions that could undermine the plan.

The five tracks of the engagement plan include the ending of military hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the fight against terrorism, the fight against Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Sudan’s role in the peace process in South Sudan, and improvement in the access to humanitarians in Sudan.

‘Include all voices’

“Sudan government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, pointing to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states,” the congressmen said in their letter to President Trump.

Meanwhile the US Chargé d’Affaires to Sudan, Stephen Koutsis, called in his remarks on the 4 July Independence Day on the Sudanese government to “keep open the possibility of an inclusive political dialogue”. “This will require the government to allow activists, students, and journalists to express views that differ from those held by the government without fear of imprisonment.

“All voices are needed for Sudan to move towards a more progressive future, creating a government of institutions that respects human rights based on justice and the rule of law, and allows all Sudanese to practice their faith freely and without harassment,” Koutsis added.

Koutsis has been positive over Khartoum’s advances on the five tracks. In his remarks this week, he said: “We have never been closer to achieving peace in Darfur”.

But international think tanks, including Enough, and Crisis Group, have accused Khartoum of curbing freedom of speech, violating human rights and repressing Christians and other minority groups, and most urged Washington to maintain the sanctions against Sudan.