Sudan is in the midst of a once-in-a-generation moment. Courageous and persistent pro-democracy protesters, who broke the grip on power that president Omar Hassan al-Bashir had held for three decades, have now succeeded in bringing civilian reformers into leadership positions. The significance of this moment might be overlooked by anyone who expects a democratic transition to be heralded by a headline-making event akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The democratic opening of Sudan (population 42 million) is equivocal, precarious — but no less historic.
In Khartoum, military commanders sit alongside civilian officials in a transitional arrangement that makes everyone uneasy. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, is on the power-sharing sovereign council that will lead the country until elections scheduled for 2022. Hemeti was a commander of the Janjaweed militia that devastated the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit communities of Darfur in western Sudan over a decade ago. He now heads a proxy militia that was responsible for massacres of pro-democracy protesters in June. No one should doubt that any and all democratic progress could be destroyed upon his command.
Even as Hemeti sits on the sovereign council, the prime minister chosen by the pro-democracy protesters, economist Abdalla Hamdok, has forged ahead with building a cabinet of technocrats more diverse than Sudan has ever seen. On Tuesday, the nation’s new minister of justice, Nasredeen Abdulbari, appeared on behalf of his government at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva: “We believe peace can only be achieved if we address the root causes of Sudan’s wars, which are the marginalization by the state of the peripheries.”
For Sudanese and all who follow Sudan, it is impossible to overstate how extraordinary it is to hear such a sentence uttered publicly by a Sudanese official. From British colonialism onward, those on the periphery — what is now South Sudan, along with the Three Areas, Darfur and East Sudan — have been excluded from power. Decades of war and the associated deaths of millions of Sudanese flow from this common root cause.
What makes the acknowledgment of this reality all the more remarkable is that Abdulbari is himself of Fur ethnicity. Back in 2004, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stood before the Senate to proclaim that atrocities unfolding in Darfur constituted genocide, it was literally unimaginable that 15 years later, a lawyer hailing from one of the groups targeted for destruction would be the Sudanese minister of justice.
The rest of Abdulbari’s speech in Geneva detailed the new government’s plans to advance human rights. These include the establishment of a legal reform commission to “amend or abolish tens of pieces of legislation in Sudan that restrict freedoms or are inconsistent with international human rights law,” and the decision to join international human rights treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention against Torture. The day after the speech, the Sudanese government matched words with action, signing an agreement with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to open a country office with access to all areas of Sudan.
These are dizzying developments to all who know Sudan. For more than two decades, U.S. officials, Republican and Democratic alike, have invested thousands of hours of policy analysis and diplomatic engagement, along with billions of dollars in aid, in the hope that Sudan would emerge from a genocidal dictatorship. Finally, democracy has gained a foothold.
To say the current situation is fragile underplays the risks. The structures that supported al-Bashir’s reign remain, and Sudan’s history counsels that failure is more likely than not (of the three democratic governments Sudan has seen since independence in 1956, all have been overthrown by the military). But this reality must not lead the international community to hedge, waiting to invest fully in supporting the efforts of the new government until a complete democratic transition seems like a sure bet. The time to pull out all stops in support of the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people is now.
Hamdok and his cabinet have been clear about their desire for Sudan to shed its pariah status. And they have specifically asked that the United States remove Sudan from the state sponsor of terrorism list. Doing so would allow wide-ranging sanctions to be lifted. For Hamdok’s fledgling government, now responsible for an economy in free fall after decades of corruption, this would be a lifeline. This is the moment for the United States to lead the way.
In a time of growing authoritarianism worldwide, Sudan’s extraordinary protest movement serves as a beacon of hope. As Abdulbari put it in his speech to the council: “The people of Sudan have — by making enormous sacrifices — practically proven that ending an authoritarian regime and starting the process of establishing a free, just and peaceful society is possible. The international community should show its solidarity with the people of Sudan.”
PARIS – France will host a conference with Sudan’s international creditors to help Khartoum address debt issues as soon as the United States removes the country from its state-sponsored terrorism list, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.
In efforts to stabilize the country and to repair an economy battered by years of U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement during Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, Sudanese transition government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is holding talks with Washington to see Sudan withdrawn from the list.
“As soon as the Americans make their decision, we will be able to restructure the debt together,” Macron said at a joint press conference with Hamdok in Paris.
“I have decided that France will host an international conference with private and public international creditors,” he added.
Macron provided no timeframe.
“The precise timing of the conference will depend on the timing upon which sanctions are to be lifted,” Macron said.
On the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly last week, Hamdok expressed hope Sudan would reach an agreement with the United States “very soon.”
Sudan has been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because the United States still lists the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
A senior U.S. official said in August that Washington would test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Macron said France had also planned for Hamdok to have a meeting in Paris on Sunday with one of Darfur’s rebel leaders, Abdel Wahid el-Nur.
On the politically tricky topic of Suddenness government subsidies, Hamdok said any changes would only be made after “deep discussions” with the people.
KHARTOUM – Sudan’s transitional government will start a 9-month economic rescue plan aimed at curbing rampant inflation while ensuring supplies of basic goods and is asking the World Bank for $2 billion.
Shortages of bread, fuel and medicine coupled with hefty price rises sparked protests that led to the toppling of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in April. The economy has remained in turmoil as politicians negotiated a power-sharing deal between the military and civilians.
Sudanese Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi said the new plan, to begin in October, would restructure the budget and tackle inflation but leave bread and petrol subsidies in place until at least June 2020.
“It aims… to restructure the banking sector, rationalise government spending, address the state’s financial burden and review tax exemptions, because 60% of economic activity is tax exempt,” Elbadawi said. It would also combat corruption.
The transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, is Sudan’s first since al-Bashir’s overthrow. The government needs billions of dollars to import basic goods, such as fuel and flour. Fuel subsidies account for 8% of GDP, Elbadawi said.
The government wants to replace commodity subsidies with direct cash transfers to poor families, he added.
Hamdok was expected, during the UN General Assembly meetings in New York, to ask the World Bank for $2 billion in funding, Elbadawi said.
Khartoum has asked the bank to send three Sudanese experts as secondees and to help pay their salaries to improve Central Bank and Finance Ministry performance during the political transition.
Sudan has been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because the United States lists the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“American officials have informed us that removing Sudan from the US terrorism list is complicated because it is tied to Congress and could take nine months to a year,” Elbadawi said.
The new economic plan aims to address the country’s weakening currency, he said. The Sudanese pound is officially set at 45 to the US dollar but on the black market on September 23 it was trading at 69 pounds. Elbadawi said he hoped to unify the two exchange rates by June.
Hamdok, shortly after his appointment in late August, said Sudan needed $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years. He said up to another $2 billion of foreign reserves deposits were needed in the next three months to halt a fall in the currency.
Mounting public anger over shortages of food, fuel and hard currency triggered mass demonstrations that forced al-Bashir from power in April.
On the politically tricky topic of government subsidies for bread, fuel, electricity and medicine, Hamdok said any changes would only be made after “deep discussions” with the people.
“The people are the ones who will make the decision on this issue,” he said.
Sudan has been in economic turmoil since it lost the bulk of its oil production in 2011 when South Sudan seceded after decades of civil war. It has devalued the pound several times but not been able to halt the fall.
“We will work to unify the exchange rate and to manage the exchange rate using a flexible managed exchange rate,” Hamdok said, without going into details.
He said Sudan needed to restore trust in the banking system.
Hamdok, who studied agricultural economics, has worked at the African Development Bank and most recently was a special adviser at the Trade and Development Bank in Ethiopia. He said Sudan needed to tap its agricultural potential.
Sudan is rich in agricultural resources but high taxes, corruption and mismanagement have held back investment in the sector for decades.
“We want to take the Sudanese economy from an economy based on consumption and imports to a productive economy and stop exporting products such as livestock and agriculture as raw materials,” Hamdok said. “Instead, we will aim to process them so as to create added value.”
He said he wants to focus on peace building in a nation that has seen conflicts flare in multiple parts of the country and endured a civil war that ended in the secession of the South.
“Stopping war, which represents 70% of the expenditure in the budget, will create a surplus that can be invested in production and particularly agriculture, livestock and related industries,” he said.
Shortly after al-Bashir was ousted, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan in the form of a $500 million deposit in the central bank, which Sudan has received, as well as fuel, wheat and medicine.
PM calls on Washington not to punish the Sudanese people for ‘crimes’ committed by Omar al-Bashir’s government.
28 Sept 2019
Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has urged the United States to remove Khartoum from its list of state sponsors of “terrorism”, saying sanctions imposed by Washington were causing “tremendous suffering” to the Sudanese people.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly late on Friday, Hamdok said Sudan was seeking to begin a “new phase” following the toppling in April of longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, in the face of months-long mass protests.
“It was the former regime that supported terrorism and the Sudanese people revolted against it. These sanctions have caused tremendous suffering to our people,” said Hamdok, who was appointed prime minister in August.
“Therefore we call on the United States to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and to stop punishing the people of Sudan for crimes committed by the former regime.”
The US designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy over allegations that al-Bashir’s government was supporting “terrorism”, notably attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.
The designation makes the country ineligible for much-needed debt relief and funding from international institutions, and limits potential foreign investment.
After months of deadlock following al-Bashir’s overthrow, the ruling military and protest leaders agreed on a joint body to oversee a three-year transition before elections can be held. The civilian-dominated sovereign council appointed Hamdok to lead the transitional administration.
The former UN economist has pledged to stabilise the country and repair an economy battered by the US sanctions and government mismanagement during al-Bashir’s rule. But Sudan has so far been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because of the US’s designation.
Earlier on Friday, Hamdok told reporters he had held “useful” talks with US officials on the issue.
“We hope as we move forward we will be able to conclude very soon an agreement that would allow Sudan to be de-listed,” he said after a high-level event to drum up support for his country.
“The new Sudan that is upholding governance and democracy is not a threat to any nation in the world,” he added.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, also expressed support for Hamdok’s efforts at the Sudan event in New York. He called for the immediate removal of “Sudan’s designation as a terrorist-supporting state and lifting all economic sanctions and mobilising massive financial support for development to make the current political gains durable”.
Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from New York, said that because Hamdok “is a transitional figure, it’s unlikely that the US is going to recommend any changes in the status of Sudan until elections have been held, a new constitution has been formed and until a permanent civilian government has been established”.
A senior US official told Reuters news agency in August that Washington would test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.