In an unprecedented and rather unexpected move, in October 2020 US President Donald Trump went ahead and erased Sudan out of the US’ proverbial blacklist of countries that harbour terrorists or support terror groups.
President Trump, who is not exactly known for his keen favour for Africa, took to Twitter to announce his decision to remove Sudan from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST).
He said Sudan had proved itself a willing participant to change and fight against terrorism. He twitted that Sudan’s transitional government has agreed to pay a US$335 million package to US victims of attacks and their relatives.
The reparations package is to compensate victims and families impacted by a series of terrorist attacks, including the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, and an attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 – Council on Foreign Relations (New York).
President Trump tweeted that Sudan would be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, once the amount of compensation for American victims was completed.
The Sudanese government is not about to dillydally on this golden opportunity that they have waited for, for almost 30 years. Media reports say the Sudanese government began transferring the money the same evening following Trump’s morning tweet.
Sudan has been on the SST list for almost three decades and getting delisted has been a priority for its new government. The new administration only came into power in 2019 following a civilian uprising that triggered a coup.
After the coup came the transitional period in which now the military and civilians share power. And it is this transitional government that has managed to broker the deal with the US to get unlisted from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
US DECIDES: What un-listing Sudan means for Trump
The move by President Trump could not have been better timed. With elections at his doorstep and the Democrats using his renowned “America First” approach to foreign policy, President Trump has, willingly or unwillingly, bought himself some credit in the international arena.
The move will also have tangible effects on the ground in the US because it brings home millions in compensation for American victims.
There is also the expected announcement of Sudan burying the hatchet in terms of its relations with Israel, a key US ally in the Middle East.
All in all, the move by Trump’s administration will fare well when America goes to the polls and may very well tilt things in favour of the outspoken Trump.
Sudan: Situation on the ground
Sudan’s economy is as bad as they get, suffering soaring inflation and massive debt. The delisting coming as it did hopes to have some major positive effects on the otherwise crippled economy.
The delisting means a significant number of barriers will be lifted. The barriers obstructed, among other things, critical banking relationships and most importantly it will allow the United States to support debt relief for Sudan.
Inflation is reported to exceed 200 percent and the Sudanese pound has tumbled to 262 against the dollar from its high of 82 back in 2019.
It is reported that the queues for bread and fuel are longer now than even when the ousted President Bashir was in power.
For now, removal from the terrorism list will not shorten the lines or alleviate the profound economic pangs but it certainly is a step in the right direction. It is the first building block for economic recovery that the country needs.
For one, now Sudan is eligible for the much needed political capital that will help the transition government to focus on improving the economy.
There is also the matter of development and humanitarian assistance that Sudan will benefit from. It is expected that hundreds of millions will be afforded to Sudan thanks to the lift from the blacklist.
Then of course comes the much needed US trade and investment deals and already there is a planned conference where Sudan will meet a high-level US trade delegation led by the Development Finance Corporation.
The flood–gates of support to Sudan would not be open if the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund did not pour in their support. It is expected that the two bodies will be supporting and fast-tracking reforming Sudan’s $65 billion external debt.
Right along with debt restructuring is the forgiving of more than $3 billion in arrears and all out debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative.
Then, finally, leaders of the new Sudan will now face no travel ban meaning they can now reach out to the world and engage in trade talks as well as broker development deals not only with the US but all of Europe and Asia as well. It is a new dawn for the Horn of Africa.