US removes Sudan from ‘state sponsors of terror’ list: Embassy

Washington’s decision to remove Sudan from a list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ comes into effect on Monday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, with Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan's ruling sovereign council, in Khartoum in this August 25, 2020 photo [Sudanese Cabinet via AP]

The United States has formally removed Sudan’s designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, 27 years after putting the country on its blacklist.

The announcement was made by the US embassy in Khartoum and comes into effect on Monday.

“The congressional notification period of 45 days has lapsed and the Secretary of State has signed a notification stating rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation is effective as of today [December 14], to be published in the Federal Register,” the US embassy said on Facebook.

The removal from the list was a top priority for Sudan’s transitional government, which has been in power since August last year following the removal of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in the face of months-long protests against his rule.

The US government added Sudan to its list of “state sponsors of terrorism” in 1993 over allegations that al-Bashir’s government was supporting “terrorist” groups.

The designation made Sudan technically ineligible for debt relief and much-needed financing from major international institutions, in the midst of an economic crisis marked by shortages in wheat and fuel.

Sudan’s acting finance minister said on Monday that the US had committed to providing support for wheat and other commodities over four years as well as for debt relief.

“The US government has committed to providing over $1bn that will support Sudan on its road to debt relief … This is in addition to in-kind support that includes the provision of wheat and other commodities over four years,” acting Finance Minister Heba Ahmed said.

She said the US Export-Import Bank would provide guarantees to American investors from the private sector, adding in an Arabic statement that they could initially total $1bn.

The debt relief would also open the door to $1.5bn annually from the International Development Association, Ahmed said.

A delegation of executives from the 10 largest American agriculture companies would soon visit Sudan, followed by delegations from other sectors, she said.

‘The Sudanese economy will benefit’

In a bustling market in central Khartoum, Sudanese applauded the US’ decision to welcome their country back into the international fold, voicing optimism for their future after decades of isolation.

Ferial Ali Mohammad, an elderly former civil servant with traditional henna drawings on her hands and fingertips, smiled as she told AFP news agency that “this news makes everyone happy”.

She believes Sudan’s long period of isolation is the main reason for the country’s economic woes, including its high unemployment, which the International Labour Organization puts at nearly 17 percent.

Sudanese women enjoy drinks at a cafe in the capital Khartoum [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

“Isolation is the cause of the economic problems that we are suffering,” said Mohammad.

“If we weren’t isolated, the economy would not be in this state.”

For months, Sudan’s currency has been wracked by hyper-inflation, soaring by 254 percent year-on-year in November.

On Monday, in another sign of optimism over the US move, the value of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar went from 250 to 240 on the black market.

When former president Omar al-Bashir was deposed in April 2019, one US dollar equalled 76 Sudanese pounds.

Ali Adam Hamed Abouna, a 54-year-old sports journalist passing through the Souq al-Arabi market in the heart of the Sudanese capital, told AFP he believes the US decision will attract “many investments”.

“Many American and other companies that couldn’t operate here will now be able to do so, and the Sudanese economy will benefit,” he said.

“We were suffering because we were closed off from the rest of the world. We need the outside world, we need foreign expertise, we need foreign currency.”

Sudanese men chat on their mobile phones in the capital Khartoum, Sudan by [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Abouna also believes a more dynamic, globalised economy will help shrink corruption and the black market, which remains a feature of the country’s landscape, much to the chagrin of many Sudanese.

“I think this will contribute to bringing the price of dollar down, and therefore weaken the black market,” he said.

US President Donald Trump said in early October the US was going to remove Sudan from the list after Khartoum paid a $335m settlement to American victims of an attack by armed groups on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Trump sent his notice to the US Congress on October 26 and, under US law, a country exits the terror list 45 days later, unless Congress objects, which it has not.

Although Khartoum has sought to downplay the connection, Trump’s decision paved the way for Sudan to normalise relations with Israel, making Khartoum one of the four Arab countries – together with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and, most recently, Morocco – to do so in the past three months.

Three countries now – Iran, North Korea and Syria – remain on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies