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December 12, 2019
The time has come to remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, and the United States should accelerate its ongoing process to make this determination. At the same time, it should support reform efforts by imposing targeted sanctions on spoiler networks of officials and enablers who are undermining peace, human rights, and the transition to democracy.
Since being sworn into office three months ago, the civilian-led cabinet of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has taken significant action to protect basic human rights, fight corruption, and curb the influence and activities of radical groups that are ideologically aligned with international terrorist organizations. While these actions have satisfied much of the framework agreement developed between the United States and Sudan prior to the installation of the transitional government, more progress on critical issues like humanitarian access in war-affected areas is needed.
Nevertheless, as Prime Minister Hamdok’s trip to the United States has recently concluded and the countries will exchange ambassadors for the first time in 23 years, we believe that the necessary conditions required for Sudan’s removal from the SST list have been achieved and that the importance of supporting the reform efforts of Sudan’s new civilian administration outweighs the potential risks of removing this designation prematurely.
Suliman Baldo, Senior Advisor for the Enough Project, said: “In order for Sudan to attract responsible business investment, however, removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list will not be sufficient. Greater transparency in the banking sector, an overhaul of the country’s anti-money laundering systems, and the enforcement of public contracting and procurement laws are among a variety of essential economic reforms. Without such reforms, financial institutions and others in the private sector that are conducting the appropriate level of Know Your Customer (KYC) and Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) reviews will likely not pursue business in Sudan based on their own risk assessments, notwithstanding SST removal.”
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry and Strategic Director for the Clooney Foundation for Justice, said: “Sudan’s transition remains fragile after decades of state capture by a violent and corrupt network of officials led by former President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide. Potential spoilers from this network who may seek to derail this drastic shift in governance threaten to undermine the substantial progress achieved by Sudan’s new leaders.”
Thus, the United States and other nations supporting peace and democracy in Sudan must remain willing to use their sanctions and anti-money laundering authorities to address these threats and to target those spoilers engaged in significant corruption and human rights violations. For example, the Rapid Support Forces and other armed groups linked to the Bashir regime continue to carry out attacks and forcibly occupy land in Darfur. The US and other countries should impose targeted network sanctions on those that are responsible for violence there and in other war-torn parts of Sudan.
Our position has been shaped by the preponderance of steps that have been taken by the transitional government, which include the following actions illustrating the Hamdok administration’s intent to move in a positive direction.
Accelerating the process for delisting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list is not a panacea, but it will help unlock essential financial support and bolster Sudan’s economic prospects. If it occurs in conjunction with meaningful economic, governance, and human rights reforms, the prospects for economic recovery and democratic transformation in the country will grow exponentially. The United States must implement a policy that is nimble and targeted enough to address those seeking to undermine meaningful reforms and engage in violent activity but that also moves away from policies like the SST designation that are too blunt and can act as an impediment to political and economic progress.