U.S. Lifts Sudan’s Terror-Sponsor Listing After 27 Years

The U.S. rescinded Sudan’s almost three-decade designation as a state sponsor of terror, paving the way for the North African country to rejoin the global community and boost its ravaged economy.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the move in a statement, congratulating “the members of the civilian-led transitional government for their courage in advancing the aspirations of the citizens they serve.”

The step was expected after President Donald Trump announced in October that Sudan had agreed to make a long-sought payment of some $335 million to U.S. terror victims and their families. Discussions also brought in Sudan’s fledgling relations with Israel, a country Khartoum had never previously recognized and with which it agreed a peace deal just days later.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Twitter hailed the country’s freedom from “the international and global blockade forced upon us by the acts of the ousted regime.” He shared a video outlining some of the potential economic benefits.

It’s another step toward overturning the legacy of dictator Omar al-Bashir, who made the country an international pariah for much of his 30-year rule and was ousted by the army amid mass protests in April 2019.

The U.S. named Sudan a terror sponsor in 1993, citing its links with international Islamist-militant organizations, and four years later enacted sweeping sanctions that lasted until 2017.

The compensation agreed was for U.S. citizens affected by bombings of two of the country’s East African embassies in 1998 by al-Qaeda operatives that Bashir’s regime was accused of supporting.

The current Sudanese government, a civilian-military coalition ruling until democratic elections, hasn’t said how the cash-strapped country can afford the payment. It’s still seeking sovereign immunity to protect it from legal action in the U.S.

Hamdok’s administration had mounted a concerted campaign for the listing to be dropped, saying it was crucial to rebuilding an economy battered by mismanagement, corruption and the loss of most of its oil reserves on South Sudan’s secession in 2011.

The U.S.’s lifting of most sanctions didn’t spur an improvement in Sudan’s economic plight, which sparked the protests that eventually unseated Bashir, with the terror listing leaving international banks and other companies still wary of entry.

Sudan is $1.3 billion in arrears to the IMF and external debt will reach $57.5 billion this year, sums that the government is also trying to settle.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his institution “looks forward to working with bipartisan members of Congress, and with Sudan to help clear its arrears at the international financial institutions and to advance Sudan’s efforts to secure debt relief in 2021.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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