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Next Phase of U.S.-Sudan Relations Requires Scrutiny, Benchmarks as Khartoum Regime Seeks Normalization, Lifting of Terrorist Designation

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Next Phase of U.S.-Sudan Relations Requires Scrutiny, Benchmarks as Khartoum Regime Seeks Normalization, Lifting of Terrorist Designation

Posted by Enough Team on February 21, 2018

As Sudan seeks further normalization of relations with the United States, including seeking removal from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a new report published today by the Enough Project highlights serious concerns including links to extremists and terrorists, abuses against Christians and other religious minorities, and regional destabilization.

The report, “With Friends Like These: Strong Benchmarks for Next Phase of U.S.-Sudan Relations,” warns that as the Sudan government continues a charm offensive aimed at U.S. policymakers, serious concerns linger about Sudan’s true commitment to the fight against international terrorism. The report highlights the Sudanese regime’s disruptive and erratic foreign policy including recent overtures to and military agreements with Russia, its continued role as a regional destabilizer, and its ongoing repression of its people and persecution of minority religious groups, including the demolition of churches.

Dr. Suliman Baldo, report author and Senior Policy Advisor at the Enough Project, said: “The Sudanese regime maintains alliances and policy stances that threaten U.S. interests, U.S. allies, and security in multiple regions across Africa and the Middle East. Khartoum’s positions and allies raise concerning questions about its interests and reliability as a counterterrorism partner for the United States and its allies. U.S. policymakers should seriously consider the potential threats and consequences of a softened U.S. stance with a regime that claims to fight terrorism while empowering extremist groups, including religious extremists that advocate for deadly international terrorist groups from within Sudan.”

John Prendergast, Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “Now is not the time to make concessions to a regime that is finally having to reckon with its brutality against its own people and the consequences of its mismanagement and outright theft of Sudan’s rich resources to the benefit of its insiders and their cronies.”

The report recommends a series of incentives, pressures, and benchmarks that could contribute to a more constructive process if the United States persists in laying out a path to normalization with Sudan despite the poor timing. The report recommends financial pressures that include actions that can be taken in the short term and not only deliver clear messages to Khartoum, but also have demonstrable impact on the networks tied to the Bashir regime.

As U.S. officials consider potential incentives for the regime—possibly including normalized bilateral relations, removal from the terror list and support for Sudan’s debt relief, increased trade promotion activities, and appointment of a full U.S. ambassador—the report urges that Sudan be held to account for egregious rights violations, serious security threats, grand corruption, disastrous economic mismanagement, and risks to regional stability.

Dr. Baldo added: “Sudan has entered a new moment where its spiraling economic crisis, brought about by decades of grand corruption and inept economic policymaking, has come to a head. To accelerate normalization while there is rising evidence that the crumbling economy and increasing government repression are seriously deepening internal fissures within the regime would be severely ill-timed. The regime will need to undertake fundamental reforms to save the country from the consequences of its own kleptocracy. Failure to do so will condemn Sudan to state failure and trigger further regional turmoil and destabilization.”

The report recommends the following commitments that the U.S. authorities should seek from the Sudanese regime in order to qualify for additional relaxation of U.S. punitive measures:

  • Ensure that the regime remains committed to the cessation of hostilities in the “Two Areas” and Darfur.  The Government of Sudan should engage with the armed movements challenging its authorities there in serious negotiations for reaching sustainable peace.
  • Fully allow humanitarian access to war-affected populations in conflict areas, including in localities controlled by the armed movements. Agreeing to delink humanitarian access to war-affected populations in these areas from the political track—as requested by the SPLM-N in the latest February 2018 round of talks and rejected by the government—would constitute a good confidence-building measure between the parties in addition to bringing these populations on board as a powerful constituency for lasting peace. As a benchmark for humanitarian access, aid must be delivered to affected communities that previously have been embargoed by the Government of Sudan, and malnutrition rates need to be positively impacted.
  • Repeal laws and policies that drive religious discrimination against Christians as well as minority Muslim sects and practices, namely the blasphemy, apostasy, and public order laws. In addition, repeal the administrative ordinances blocking the construction of churches.
  • End support for extremist groups that advocate for violent extremist ideologies and preempt their extensive ongoing programs for the radicalization of the youth in Sudan and the recruitment of youth by some for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
  • End the expansion of weapon exports and supplies to conflict countries in Africa and the Middle East that have been documented by independent researchers.
  • Curb the risks of money laundering and financing of terrorism by immediately desisting from legalizing vehicles smuggled into Sudan from Libya, the Central African Republic, and other countries affected by conflict in the Sahel region, a thriving illicit trade (as detailed in the report.)
  • Undertake profound political, legal, and economic reforms through inclusive and comprehensive political processes involving all stakeholders to reverse Sudan’s descent into state failure. In particular, ensure that rights protections enshrined in Sudan’s interim constitution, which is still in force, are not eliminated or diluted by the planned constitutional amendments resulting as a follow-up to the regime’s unilaterally driven “National Dialogue.” Also, any revisions of the electoral law, reconstitution of the National Elections Commission, and reformation of the Political Party Council are done in accordance with the best international principles and practices to ensure a democratic, level playing field for the 2020 elections.

Click here for the full report.

Click here for the executive summary in Arabic. | الملخص التنفیذي

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717

ABOUT THE ENOUGH PROJECT – an anti-atrocity policy group
The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at