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The case for removing US sanctions on Sudan 0

The US first imposed sanctions on Sudan more than two decades ago. By 12 July 2017, the administration of President Donald Trump must decide whether to permanently lift some of these. This is not an easy decision, but it is the better, although imperfect, choice.

After decades of hostile relations, the US cautiously started engaging with Sudan’s government in 2015 on the potential for sanctions relief. Barack Obama’s administration announced a temporary suspension in January 2017 and held out the prospect of permanently repealing them if Sudan continued a series of advances made over the upcoming six months.

[Easing Sudan’s sanctions: Lifeline for Bashir or catalyst for change? ]

As outlined in a new Crisis Group report, Sudan’s government has made important progress in five key tracks, as required by the process. This includes cooperation on counterterrorism, and with the US-backed counterinsurgency efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). It has also ended “negative interference” – support for armed groups – in South Sudan. But progress has been less apparent in improving humanitarian access and ceasing hostilities in the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur.

Many see the lifting of sanctions as a reward for an autocratic and repressive government. But not lifting them could discourage further cooperation and lead to a reversal of the advances made. If it repeals the sanctions, Washington would retain important leverage over Khartoum, including targeted sanctions on individuals associated with the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. These could be used as leverage to push for greater change.

Sudan’s long history of sanctions

The US first imposed sanctions in 1993 with its designation of Khartoum as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. At this time, Sudan was harbouring US-designated terrorist groups and individuals, including Osama bin Laden. Trade and economic sanctions followed in 1997 and 2006 with Khartoum’s brutal tactics during counter-insurgency operations in Darfur and against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south, also seen as a major problem for US-Sudan relations.

Following Sudan’s consent to a referendum on the self-determination for South Sudan in 2011, the Obama administration offered to review Sudan’s sanctions regime. But continued fighting with Darfur and in the Two Areas halted such efforts. Although justifiable at the time, keeping sanctions in place had grave implications for the relationship between Sudan and the US and reinforced mutual mistrust.

Continue reading on The African arguments

By Magnus Taylor

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