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US President Trump’s pledge to rescind terror list status met with hope and caution in Sudan

October 20 - 2020 WASHINGTON / KHARTOUM
US Capitol (File photo)
US Capitol (File photo)

The announcement by US President Donald Trump that the designation of Sudan as a State Sponsor of Terrorism is to be rescinded, has been welcomed by the Sudanese leadership, who also eagerly await Trump’s official notification of the decision to Congress.

President Trump announced the decision on Twitter yesterday, after Sudan agreed to pay $335 million in compensation for its alleged role in the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Dar El Salaam in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya. The actual payment was reportedly implemented this week.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the President of the Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and Vice President of the Sovereign Council Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, as well as several members of the cabinet have welcomed the move, which has been a major goal of the new government.

Last month, Hamdok announced that the amounts required for compensation to the USA were ready for payment. However to raise such a large sum in Dollars, the Khartoum government, chronically short of foreign currency, has had to borrow extensive funds from banks, which has fuelled inflation. This has been exacerbated as the government was also forced to resort to the parallel forex market, which further depressed the value of the Sudanese Pound (SDG)*.

‘Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much’ – PM Hamdok

US President Donal Trump (File photo)


Some analysts and commentators have criticised the transaction, accusing the government of giving-in to US pressure, and questioning the morality of the USA that has forced Sudan to pay such a large sum, considering its economic impoverishment – one in three children is malnourished, bread and fuel shortages have become endemic, and inflation tops 212 per cent.

Critics also highlight that the USA is effectively punishing the current government of Sudan for the sins of the former regime, which so many Sudanese shed their blood to overthrow during the December 2018 revolution**.

In yesterday’s announcement President Trump tweeted: “GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to US terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!”

Sudan’s PM Hamdok immediately replied: “Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much.”

Sudan's PM Hamdok and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
met in Munich in February 2020 (SUNA)


The head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council welcomed Trump’s announcement. “I and the Sudanese nation highly appreciate President Trump and the US Administration for taking the constructive step of the revocation of Sudan’s name from the terrorist list which affirms their great appreciation for the historical change that took place in Sudan and the struggle of the Sudanese people for freedom, peace, and justice,” he said in a statement via SUNA.

Finance Minister Heba Mohamed confirmed that this step “will allow the flow of American investments and borrowing from the global banking system and attract remittances from Sudanese expatriates."

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) welcomed President Trump’s decision to remove Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Jaafar Hasan, member of the FFC Central Council confirmed in a press conference at the Sudan News Agency on Monday evening that the decision came as a result of serious negotiations, which is an essential step for building the state and its effects will be reflected on the economy and the country’s political life.

Catroon by Omar Dafallah (RD)


Relations with Israel

The current timing of the removal of Sudan from the terror list coincides with increasing US pressure on Sudan to normalise relations with Israel, however sources close to the government say that PM Hamdok is resolute in treating the two as separate issues.

As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, according to the independent Israeli online newspaper The Times of Israel Sudan is also negotiating with the United States an additional $3-4 billion in economic aid in exchange for normalising relations with Israel. The newspaper states that Sovereign Council chairperson Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan had talks with US and Emirati officials in September.

The article states that El Burhan turned down an $800 million offer. Most of this money was to be paid by the US and UAE, with Israel paying some $10 million.

The article also mentions that PM Hamdok once again rejected linking the removal from the SST list to ties with Israel. Hamdok had already stressed this point to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Sudan.

‘Bargaining chip’

Leading critics in Sudan and abroad have voiced their caution to Radio Dabanga after Trump’s announcement, suggesting that the US could still attempt to use the unratified announcement to leverage Sudan into a deal with Israel.

Speaking via the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA), Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Omar Gamareldin, downplayed this: “After the US President announced the decision, Congress is being addressed to include this matter in a law, but from a legal standpoint the US President has the right to remove Sudan from the list,” he said.

Sources close to the cabinet underline that the Prime Minister is adamant that while he is willing to keep the door open for ongoing negotiations with the USA on the Israel issue, this week’s compensation settlement should settle the one matter, and not allowed to be used as a bargaining chip for the other.

‘The government considered this file as a separate file and has no interventions with any other file…’ – Minister of Finance Heba Mohammed

They insist on the importance of the Act of Immunity from the US Congress so that the file can be closed and that no further compensation can be claimed from Sudan in future.

This was echoed today in a statement via SUNA by Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Heba Mohammed, who denies that the decision of the revocation of Sudan from the SST list is linked to any other files. She says that “the government considered this file as a separate file and has no interventions with any other file.”

International reaction

However renowned Sudan analyst Prof Eric Reeves comments on social media: “By delaying decision to remove Sudan from the US SST list—in order to blackmail transitional govt into normalizing relations with Israel—the Trump administration/Secretary of State Pompeo have unconscionably delayed desperately needed financial assistance to the people of the country and the decision announced by the viciously self-interested Trump/Pompeo doesn’t start the flow of money.

‘Trump administration – and Secretary of State Pompeo in particular – are holding the children of Sudan hostage to severe malnutrition and threatening civilian governance. This is evil.’ – Prof Eric Reeves

Prof Reeves laments: “Actions by the US Congress could further delay relief monies, even as critical loans/investment by the international community require removal from the SST to be formalised.”

Prof Reeves also tweets: “Trump administration – and Secretary of State Pompeo in particular – are holding the children of Sudan hostage to severe malnutrition and threatening civilian governance. This is evil.”

In an op-ed republished on the Radio Dabanga site today, Sudan analyst Cameron Hudson of The Atlantic Council says: “While many details of the deal struck between the Trump Administration and the transitional authorities in Sudan have yet to emerge, the announcement by itself should be welcomed as a major achievement for both Washington and Khartoum. The troubled relationship has officially been reset and a new chapter has begun.

“While Sudan’s removal from the terrorism list won’t do much in the short term to alleviate the economic pain, it provides a monumental political win for the transitional government, which came into office pledging to remove Sudan from the list and remake the country’s relationship with the rest of the world. Removal from the terrorism list was the government’s ultimate prize and brings with it a precious injection of political capital that, at a minimum, will provide more time for the government to try to get its economic house in order and make good on the promise of delivering a lasting democracy dividend to Sudan’s long-suffering population,” Hudson says. (Read Cameron Hudson's full op-ed here)

* USD 1 = SDG 55.0000 at the time of posting, according to the daily middle US Dollar rate quoted by the CBoS, however effective foreign exchange rates can vary widely on Sudan’s parallel market.

** December 2018 revolution: From mid-December 2018, Sudan experienced a popular uprising backed by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA)  calling for the overthrow of the regime. On January 1, the SPA announced the Declaration of Freedom and Change which was signed by a large number of opposition groups the next day. The continuing daily demonstrations were met with violent resistance from the government, however the sheer volume of public support resulted in the uprising reaching critical mass. On April 11, the 30-year dictatorship of Omar Al Bashir was overthrown by a military coup.

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