Monday, 30 Nov 2020

‘It’s a New Day’: Sudan Exults to Be Taken Off List of Terror States

President Trump said on Monday that the U.S. plans to lift Sudan’s 27-year designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, enabling Sudan to access international financial networks.

By Abdi Latif Dahir

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese people and their government officials are celebrating the news that after 27 years the United States plans to remove the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism — a move that could help Sudan revive its ailing economy and bolster its transition to democratic rule.

President Trump announced on Monday over Twitter that he will lift the terrorist designation as soon as Sudan deposits a payment of $335 million in compensation to victims, and their families, of attacks on U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.

The deal would allow the northeastern African nation of Sudan, one of the continent’s largest, to once again access foreign aid, investment and debt relief, as well as military aid. The announcement is likely to bolster Sudan’s fledgling transitional government, which came to power last year after the ouster of the strongman leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and has been facing protests from those calling for a quicker pace of reform.

“It feels like we are citizens of the world again,” said Ahmed Abusin, a 26-year-old entrepreneur with a renewable energy firm, in a phone interview from Khartoum. “It’s a new day in Khartoum and the whole of Sudan.”

In exchange, American officials say they expect Sudan to take steps in coming days to normalize relations with Israel, becoming the fifth Arab state to do so, and notching a diplomatic win for Mr. Trump in the weeks before the presidential election. But that move could prove unpopular with Sudan’s populace, analysts say.

Sudan was added to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993, accused of harboring groups that the United States deemed terrorists, such as Hezbollah. (Syria, Iran and North Korea continue to remain on the list.) The designation cut off the African state from the global economy, pushing inflation and interest rates up, drawing away foreign investment, forcing local companies to turn to the black market and enabling corruption and money laundering to thrive.

The Sudanese economy faced a sharp downward spiral after the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which took with it about three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production and two-thirds of total exports. As the economic turmoil deepened, fuel shortages and food price hikes led to demonstrations that eventually removed Mr. al-Bashir in April 2019.

Sudan’s transitional government, consisting of civilian and military leaders, inherited this mess, and promised to deal with the country’s economic challenges.

For months, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s administration lobbied American officials to drop Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism by citing a long list of recent reforms. These included banning female genital cutting, scrapping apostasy laws, putting Mr. al-Bashir on trial, opening inquiries into the bloody suppression of the western Darfur region, and signing a peace agreement with rebel groups.

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