The United States has removed Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, an initiative to help the African country access debt relief, multilateral loans and Western investment for its battered economy.
“Today, Sudan’s designation as the sponsor state of terrorism is officially revoked. This represents a fundamental shift in our bilateral relations towards greater collaboration and greater support for Sudan’s historic democratic transition, ”US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.
“After 3 decades of global isolation on the list of state sponsoring terrorism, Sudan officially joins the international community,” said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok written on twitter, adding that “this achievement comes with many opportunities for the development of Sudan”.
The United States put Sudan on the list of sponsor states in 1993 when the regime of President Omar al-Bashir welcomed Osama bin Laden to Khartoum. The state of northeastern Africa, devastated by years of mismanagement, civil war and corruption, has been cut off from the international financial system.
Sudan, which toppled Mr Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship last year after protests sparked by rising food and fuel prices, had urged the United States to remove him from the list. But Washington first wanted Khartoum to pay compensation to the victims of alleged Sudan-backed terrorism.
In April, Sudan agreed to pay compensation to the families of American sailors killed on the USS Cole in a 2000 attack in Aden.
In October, US President Donald Trump signed a decree to remove Sudan from the terrorism blacklist after Khartoum agreed to pay $ 335 million to the families of victims of the 1998 Al Qaeda attacks outside the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Congress had 45 days to oppose the ordinance. Those 45 days expired this week. The decree was widely seen as a precursor to the normalization of Sudan’s relations with Israel.
Without the support of the United States, Sudan has not been able to cancel $ 60 billion in past debts or access new multilateral loans or Western investments for its economy, which is expected to shrink by 8 , 4% this year.
With Monday’s announcement, US sanctions against Sudan are expected to be lifted. Removal from the list is the first step for Khartoum to attract investment and negotiate debt relief, senior US officials said, adding that Washington will provide money to help Sudan settle its arrears.
“The sanctions were preventing the country from obtaining debt relief. And debt arrears to multilateral institutions and other creditors prevented us from getting much needed concessional financing from them – getting off this terrorist list was crucial for Sudan, ”said Abda al-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economist.
Mr Hamdok – who heads a military-civilian interim government and has inherited an economy on the ropes – previously said US sanctions stemming from Sudan’s terrorism status were “Paralyzing our economy”.
Short of hard currencies, following a steep devaluation, inflation soared to 254% last month, one of the fastest rates in the world after Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The queues of several days in front of gas stations and lines have worsened.
Sudan, which, as part of widespread reforms following last year’s revolution, separated religion from state and signed a peace agreement with most rebels, should also regain sovereign immunity from prosecution.
Legislation that restores Sudanese immunity from terrorism prosecution must first be passed by Congress. Democratic senators believe the Trump administration has become too committed to Khartoum. Under the current deal, families of 9/11 victims could no longer sue Sudan for alleged complicity, congressional insiders say.
“We strongly support a successful transition to democracy in Sudan; making this deal work for victims of terrorism should not conflict with that goal, ”Democratic Senators Bob Menéndez and Chuck Schumer said in a statement last week, after proposing amendments to the deal.
Officials in Khartoum want full immunity against such allegations. “It is unfair,” said a senior Sudanese official, but added: “Restoring our sovereign immunity is also important, but Sudan’s withdrawal from the the list is more important. It’s a big problem. ”
Additional reporting by Katrina Manson in Washington