Misleading statements of U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum

By Eric Reeves

The Trump administration State Department is evidently content to allow recently appointed Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis to remain the senior U.S. diplomat in Khartoum, serving as the primary interlocutor on a day-to-day basis with the genocidal National Congress Party regime, which is now celebrating the 28th anniversary of the military coup that brought it to power—as the National Islamic Front, whose ideology the NCP has never abandoned, only trimmed as circumstances warrant.

In his brief tenure (he was appointed only last year) Koutsis has been the spokesman for views that are disingenuously framed, typically misleading, and alarmingly tendentious. Most alarming are his comments of June 24, first reported by Agence France-Presse (El Daien, East Darfur | June 24, 2017), but subsequently by many other news organizations. Referring to those expressing grave concern about Khartoum’s increasing repression and continuing violent suppression of political dissent, religious intolerance, its abysmal human rights record, and its continuing deployment of brutal militia forces in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan, Koutsis declared:

“None of these other issues were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions.”

Here Koutsis is so egregiously in error that we must question his basic diplomatic competence in dealing with the Khartoum regime. U.S. economic sanctions imposed by President Clinton in 1997 are explicit about why they were being imposed; in the Preface of his Executive Order, Clinton declared:

We must wonder what part of “the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery and the denial of religious freedom” escaped Koutsis’ understanding. Rather more to the point, we must ask whether it was an unforgiveable ignorance of this language in the 1997 Executive Order—or a cynical belief that no one would call him on the outrageous inaccuracy of his statement.

Does Koutsis think that “human rights violations” in Sudan are a minor issue, merely a tag-on to U.S. concerns about Khartoum’s support for international terrorism, support that has kept the NIF/NCP regime on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism” for 20 years? Sudan, Syria, and Iran are the only three countries in the world that remain on this list, and for good reason.

But that fact in no way diminishes the appalling nature of human rights abuses by the same regime in its treatment of its own people: torture by the security services is commonplace; the denial of press freedoms only grows more rigorous; suppression of demonstrations has taken the form of regime orders to “shoot to kill” demonstrators (September 2013); political power-sharing and democratization has been relentlessly subverted; bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets by the regime’s military aircraft has been a primary tactic in its wars against marginalize populations living in Sudan’s peripheries (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-Pv ); chemical weapons were used against civilians in Jebel Marra during the savage military offensive mounted by the regime’s regular and militia forces in 2016 (established conclusively by Amnesty International | September 29, 2016 | https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/chemical-weapons-attacks-darfur/ ).

Koutsis would evidently have us believe that none of this matters, or bears on the decision about whether the U.S. should lift sanctions on the regime—sanctions actually strengthened under the Bush administration in 2006 in response to the regime’s continuing genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur. President (and former self-promoted “Field Marshal”) Omar al-Bashir—installed in office during the 1989 military coup—is the target of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court, charging him with multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The ICC has issued arrest warrant for other members of regime, charging them with crimes against humanity; and many more arrest warrants will be issued when the regime eventually falls.

Again, then, what are we to make of Koutsis’ viciously inaccurate claim that all this is beside the point?

“None of these other issues were the point of sanctions, and none of these other issues, therefore, should be linked to the lifting of sanctions.”

If nothing else, this pernicious falsehood provides context for other of Koutsis’ remarks this year, remarks that create a deeply distorted and highly tendentious picture of present conditions in Sudan—and Darfur in particular.

One of the key “tracks” stipulated in the gravely misguided decision by President Obama to lift sanctions provisionally (January 13, 2017) was an improvement in humanitarian access. The Khartoum regime has for almost three decades used the denial of humanitarian access as a central weapon of war in its counter-insurgency campaigns: in the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan in the 1990s and through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005; in Darfur from the beginning of major fighting in 2003; and again in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and Blue Nile State beginning in summer 2011.

This has been extraordinarily well documented, by journalists, humanitarian workers, and human rights organizations. So when former Obama administration UN ambassador Samantha Power declared in her last UN press conference (January 13, 2017) that there had been “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan, she was promulgating a deeply destructive falsehood, one admitted to be such by State Department officials. Yet no clarification or correction came—even from Power’s friends in the administration, including National Security Advisor Susan Rice and US Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith, who said nothing—and this perverse characterization stands as the last word prior to Koutsis’ recent remarks on the issue:

“I can say without much hesitation that, with the few exceptions, the advances on the five tracks have been positive,” US charge d’affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, said. “The few exceptions being… the implementation of humanitarian access is uneven… and that we want to see that the government begins to act more on moving towards a more permanent agreement with the opposition” on ending hostilities.

“The implementation of humanitarian access is uneven”?

What a preposterous understatement: rebel-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile remain under a humanitarian embargo imposed by the regime, which has resolutely refused to negotiate humanitarian access in good faith. In February 2012 an African Union, UN, and Arab League proposal for such access (known as the “Tripartite Proposal”) was accepted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile—but was rejected by Khartoum. Over more than five years, in countless negotiating session, the regime has found ways to accept and then renege, to add condition after condition, to do everything possible to make an agreement on humanitarian access impossible.

Yet when Koutsis weighed in on this issue in a piece written for Sudan Tribune (March 3, 2017), he essentially blamed the SPLM-North leadership, pointing to their reservation about a questionable U.S. proposal made in November 2016—but referring to none of the antecedent history of bad faith by the regime that led to the SPLM-North reservation. This extremely attenuated version of the history of this critical issue is all too typical of what we have seen of Koutsis, who has also not done nearly enough to highlight the overwhelming urgency of the humanitarian situation in Darfur, where access continues to be denied by the regime to many hundreds of thousands of civilians (almost 1 million people according to one highly-informed humanitarian source).

[See also: http://sudanreeves.org/2017/04/04/famine-in-south-sudan-should-not-obscure-urgent-food-crisis-in-sudan/]

Humanitarian access is “uneven”? This is simply disgraceful dishonesty given the number of people denied any humanitarian relief by the regime Koutsis seems so eager to give a passing grade:

“I can say without much hesitation that, with the few exceptions, the advances on the five tracks have been positive,” US charge d’affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, said. (AFP, June 24, 2017)

Koutsis simply refuses to acknowledge the extent of desperate humanitarian need in Sudan, and this now includes a raging cholera epidemic, affecting nearly all of Sudan, and that has now reached Darfur just as the rainy season begins in earnest. Humanitarian access could not be more urgently required and the distortions by former UN ambassador Samantha Power and now Steven Koutsis are terrible betrayals of people in critical need.

Koutsis seems already to be looking past the decision on whether to lift U.S. economic sanctions permanently, going so far as to declare last August (2016):

The acting U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Khartoum Steven Koutsis has expressed his country’s keenness to provide technical and logistical support for Sudan to face challenges of climate change. (Sudan Tribune | August 22, 2016 | KHARTOUM)

But about the chemical weapons assault by Khartoum against the civilians of Jebel Marra—also in 2016—Koutsis said not a word, a silence in which he was joined by the rest of the world, including those who profess themselves outraged by the use of chemical weapons in Syria. This Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry, who called chemical weapons use in Syria a “moral obscenity,” but was completely silent about what Amnesty International had conclusively demonstrated about Khartoum’s use of the same sort of weapons in Jebel Marra.

Climate change is a real, present, and massive danger to the world; but chemical weapons use in Darfur is not for that reason less a matter of the gravest concern, a concern that U.S. Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis evidently does not share.

Nor does he share the concern articulated so comprehensively in two recent reports on Khartoum’s success in turning Darfur into a “militia state”:

Border Control from Hell: How the EU’s migration partnership legitimizes Sudan’s “militia state” The Enough Project | April 5, 2017 [by Suliman Baldo] | http://www.enoughproject.org/files/BorderControl_April2017_Enough_Finals.pdf

“Remote-control breakdown: Sudanese paramilitary forces and pro-government militias,” Small Arms Survey (Geneva), No. 27, April 2017 | http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/fileadmin/docs/issue-briefs/HSBA-IB-27-Sudanese-paramilitary-forces.pdf

Not to highlight the central role of Khartoum-backed militias in Darfur—to say only that “we want to see that the government begins to act more on moving towards a more permanent agreement with the opposition” on ending hostilities—is to reveal either ignorance or indifference to the most consequential nature of present violence and insecurity in Darfur. Koutsis declares, “Yes, I can say with absolute certainty that Darfur today is more peaceful than it was a year ago.” But his “certainty” is only superficially informed—like his knowledge of the contents of the 1997 Executive Order he wishes to see ended permanently—and ignores countless dispatches from Radio Dabanga and Sudan Tribune that make nonsense of Koutsis’ characterization.

The rape of women and girls is relentless [http://wp.me/p45rOG-1QG/]; the violent expropriation of African farmland by Arab militias and armed groups continues apace [http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P /; camps for the displaced face relentless assaults in one form or another, some by way of arson. Khartoum has made no secret of its wish to dismantle the camps [http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Qo/], a task that will be made easier and less visible with the slashing of UNAMID—44 percent of its present (already reduced) military presence, and over 30 percent of its police forces (also already reduced). If the camps are dismantled and emptied, we may expect a collapse of organized humanitarian relief and an orgy of violence as people lose their only security, tenuous though it is.

In the face of these realities, it would appear that Koutsis is a man equally capable of both the most culpable ignorance and the most cynical indifference to human suffering in the country where he serves as the United States’ senior diplomat. Moreover, as AFP editorializes in its dispatch, Koutsis’ “assessment of Darfur is expected to guide Washington’s decision on sanctions.”

Given Koutsis demonstrated ignorance and cynicism, we must fear a terribly unjust reward awaits Khartoum’s génocidaires.

— 
Eric Reeves, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

Link to web article here.

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Sudan’s al-Bashir to visit Russia next month

July 3, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir will visit Moscow during second half of August upon an invitation from his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, said Sudan’s Foreign Minister Monday.

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Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir (AFP Photo/ASHRAF SHAZLY)

Last October, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said al-Bashir would pay a visit to Moscow by the end of 2016, but the visit didn’t take place. No explanation has been made for the postponement of the visit.

In a press release on Monday, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said President al-Bashir “will pay an important visit to the Russian Federation in the second half of August at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in order to strengthen bilateral relations between the two friendly countries at all levels”.

He pointed out that the visit would discuss a number of important issues including trade and economic cooperation, political coordination and consultation and mutual support in the various international forums.

The top diplomat underscored Russia is a key supporter of Sudan’s issues at the UN Security Council and other international organizations, pointing to continued coordination between Sudan and Russia at various levels on all bilateral, regional and international issues.

Politically, Russia is seen as a major ally of the government of al-Bashir that faces isolation from the West. However, economic cooperation between the two countries has remained very low, with a trade balance that does not exceed $400 million.
In December 2015, Sudan and Russia signed 14 cooperation agreements in different domains, including oil, minerals and banks.

The agreements also include a concession contract between Sudan and the Russian Rus Geology to prospect for oil in Sudan’s Bloc E57 and another accord for the geological mapping of the Jebel Moya area, North Kordofan State.

Last November, Russia decided to withdraw its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community.

Russia was one of eleven countries at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that voted in favor of referring the Darfur situation to the ICC in 2005.

Sudan welcomed Moscow’s move, saying it gives strong support to the African stance against the Hague-based tribunal which has charged al-Bashir with ten counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide connected to the Darfur conflict.

(ST)

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Sudan’s al-Bashir to skip AU summit in Addis Ababa

July 1, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman on Sunday would lead his country’s delegation to the African summit in Addis Ababa, said the official news agency SUNA.

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Vice-president Hasabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman

Last week, SUNA quoted Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gharib Allah Khidir as saying President Omer al-Bashir will participate in the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

However, the agency on Sunday said Abdel-Rahman will lead Sudan’s delegation to the summit without giving further details on why al-Bashir wouldn’t attend the meeting.

The 29th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union has kicked off last Tuesday and will continue until July 4th, 2017 under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”.

The Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union will take place from the 3rd to 4th July 2017.

Member states will mainly deliberate on the continent’s peace and security, with the renewed fighting in South Sudan, situation in Somalia and crises in Libya among the issues top on agenda for African leaders to be deliberated upon during the summit.

Also top of the agenda for discussions at the summit are situations in Central African Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), Burundi and the Darfur region.

The previous summit held in Addis Ababa last January witnessed the return of Morocco to AU after over three decades of absence from the pan-African body.

(ST)

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The case for removing US sanctions on Sudan

Suspending or re-imposing sanctions could not only discourage any future progress, but also jeopardise that which has already been made.

Link to web article here.

Opinion

The US first imposed sanctions on Sudan more than two decades ago. By 12 July 2017, the administration of President Donald Trump must decide whether to permanently lift some of these. This is not an easy decision, but it is the better, although imperfect, choice.

After decades of hostile relations, the US cautiously started engaging with Sudan’s government in 2015 on the potential for sanctions relief. Barack Obama’s administration announced a temporary suspension in January 2017 and held out the prospect of permanently repealing them if Sudan continued a series of advances made over the upcoming six months.

[Easing Sudan’s sanctions: Lifeline for Bashir or catalyst for change? ]

As outlined in a new Crisis Group report, Sudan’s government has made important progress in five key tracks, as required by the process. This includes cooperation on counterterrorism, and with the US-backed counterinsurgency efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). It has also ended “negative interference” – support for armed groups – in South Sudan. But progress has been less apparent in improving humanitarian access and ceasing hostilities in the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur.

Many see the lifting of sanctions as a reward for an autocratic and repressive government. But not lifting them could discourage further cooperation and lead to a reversal of the advances made. If it repeals the sanctions, Washington would retain important leverage over Khartoum, including targeted sanctions on individuals associated with the Darfur conflict and Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. These could be used as leverage to push for greater change.

Sudan’s long history of sanctions

The US first imposed sanctions in 1993 with its designation of Khartoum as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. At this time, Sudan was harbouring US-designated terrorist groups and individuals, including Osama bin Laden. Trade and economic sanctions followed in 1997 and 2006 with Khartoum’s brutal tactics during counter-insurgency operations in Darfur and against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south, also seen as a major problem for US-Sudan relations.

Following Sudan’s consent to a referendum on the self-determination for South Sudan in 2011, the Obama administration offered to review Sudan’s sanctions regime. But continued fighting with Darfur and in the Two Areas halted such efforts. Although justifiable at the time, keeping sanctions in place had grave implications for the relationship between Sudan and the US and reinforced mutual mistrust.

Sudan’s progress

The US will make its decision on sanctions after measuring progress against the five tracks: cooperation on counterterrorism; addressing the LRA threat; ending negative interference in South Sudan; ending hostilities in domestic conflicts; and improving humanitarian access.

With regards to the counterterrorism cooperation, Sudan started working with the US shortly after the terrorist attacks from 11 September 2001 and has, with some fluctuation, continued since. Khartoum is also believed to have distanced itself from the LRA and it recently showed willingness to cooperate to eradicate the group.

On South Sudan, Khartoum has refrained from providing significant military support to armed opposition groups. Given the continuing instability and danger of a return to famine, this remains a major priority of the US in the region. However, if Khartoum believes that South Sudan is not doing enough to stop Sudanese rebels from operating within its borders, or is seen to be channelling support to them, it could feel threatened and decide to interfere again.

More problematic are the final two tracks: refraining from military offensives in the Two Areas/Darfur and humanitarian access. Following the announcement of several unilateral ceasefires, there has been little fighting in the Two Areas and Darfur since January 2017. Given that Sudan has refrained from offensive actions, the government seems to have made progress. But the security situation in both remains fragile. Without a political solution for the underlying conflict, a ceasefire is neither sufficient nor sustainable.

[Amid silence, atrocities in Darfur have restarted]

Humanitarian access has suffered for decades in which Sudan has sought to block or manipulate aid organisations and there is a legacy of distrust between the government and humanitarian officials. A December 2016 step by Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) to establish a clear framework for the relationship between the government and humanitarian partners is a meaningful step forwards, if it can be fully implemented. According to international organisations there is at least some improvement in the general operating environment. But despite some progress, access continues to be restricted in many areas. It remains to be seen whether these first steps will yield greater and much needed progress.

Re-imposing, suspending or repealing?

Sudan’s progress remains fragile and limited. Bad governance continues as the regime engages in political repression and violates human rights. Many non-governmental organisations and human rights activists therefore call for the re-imposition of US sanctions. They say that a permanent lifting would not only reward the autocratic regime, but also incentivise it to do just enough to keep sanctions lifted without carrying out real change. Others argue for an intermediate option. As Khartoum has made partial progress, sanctions should be suspended for another period of six months to further test the goodwill of the Sudanese government.

While both arguments are valid, the progress made by Khartoum needs to be acknowledged. Indeed, several countries including the Gulf States and Israel are encouraging improved US-Sudanese relations, which serve their own geopolitical interests. Following an improvement of relations between Sudan and the EU due to cooperation on migration, key EU members such as the UK, Germany and Italy, back sanctions repeal as well.

In addition, sanctions as they existed before January 2017 were not having the intended effect. They hurt ordinary Sudanese people disproportionately, while the government became adept at surviving them. Since sanctions relief was activated as an incentive for better behaviour, real – albeit moderate – progress has been made.

Ultimately, suspending or re-imposing the sanctions could not only discourage any future progress, but also jeopardise that which has already been made. It might empower those in Khartoum who argue that restraint is not paying off and that a military solution for internal conflicts is necessary. It would confirm the belief that Washington has a history of moving goalposts in issuing demands and it would erode the recently built up trust.

Even if the US were to repeal the sanctions, the option of re-imposing them would remain, should Khartoum backtrack on its current commitments. Other important sanctions are also still intact. Thus, by repealing some sanctions, Washington would have the leverage and credibility to keep pushing for broader reforms.

Opponents of this process are right that the Sudanese government needs to do far more to win full international acceptance. But repealing the sanctions is the most pragmatic approach to try to push for more, a first step along a road that would otherwise be blocked.

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Sudanese Christians denounce demolition of their church buildings

A letter distributed on social media asks for the “attacks against the church” to stop. Twenty-five buildings are set to be demolished, but Christians in the country are “very resilient”, a source says.

A Sudanese Church of Christ church building in Algadisia, after a demolition. / WWM

Sudanese Christians have been under pressure for a long time. In a risky move, the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) has now published an open letter denouncing the “systematic violations” of their rights.

“We feel deeply sorry and strongly condemn the abusive procedures against the holy places”, the SCOC said in an open letter.

“We hold the National Intelligence and Security Services responsible for the damages and other consequences that can be caused due to their confiscation of documents. We also hold the land authorities of the Ministry of the Planning and Infrastructure Development of the Khartoum state responsible for the attacks against the Church and for the financial damages caused”, the letter states, according to World Watch Monitor.

The letter was sent out one day before the government demolished a SCOC building in east Khartoum.

25 other churches have also been designated for demolition, including Catholic, Pentecostal and Coptic Orthodox churches.

ARBITRARY LAND CONFISCATIONS

The letter “calls on the presidency to allocate land to churches and to guarantee Christians their constitutional right to own land in all of Sudan’s states”, World Watch Monitor said. “It asks President Omar al-Bashir to order the NISS to return all arbitrarily-confiscated land ownership and travel documents and to prevent the NISS from any further violation of Christians’ rights.”

In 2013, the Sudanese government announced that no licenses would be granted to build new churches in the country, claiming “there is no need for new church buildings because many mainly Christian South Sudanese refugees returned to their own country after the secession of South Sudan in 2011.”

An evangelical church in the process of being demolished, in Khartoum. / WWM

A LONG HISTORY OF ABUSES IN KHARTOUM

A Christian worker serving in Khartoum for more than 20 years told Evangelical Focus this kind of governmental action has been common for a long time in Sudan.

“Displaced Christians from the Nuba mountains would often build their places of worship before their own homes and spend many months getting and paying for the correct land ownership documents from the government.”

This source used to work alongside several evangelical Christian denominations in the country (among them, the SCOC), and had had access to ownership documents which verified the legality of several church buildings.

“The ownership documents, however, were often disregarded if the government wanted to re-develop the land on which the places of worship were established.”

Christians in Sudan are “very resilient” and respond with “courage and joy” to these struggles.   EU: SUDANESE CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE PROTECTED In March, the new European Union special envoy for freedom of speech, Jan Figel’, visited Sudan and wrote a letter to the Sudanese government, in which he asked to reduce the “tensions” caused by the pressure on Christians.

“Regarding the ongoing confiscations of religious properties from Evangelical churches, I cordially encourage you to (…) ensure your Government’s full protection of the rightful legal church committees, as recognised by the respective religious leaders and the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Sudan”, he said.

Sudan is number 5 on Open Door’s 2017 World Watch List.

See more: http://evangelicalfocus.com/world/2675/Sudan_Christians_denounce_demolition_of_their_church_buildings

Link to web article here.

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Sudan hopes US travel ban won’t harm sanctions bid

International passengers arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles. Photo: Reuters
KHARTOUM – Sudan expressed hopes on Tuesday that a US court’s decision to partially reinstate a travel ban that includes its citizens will not harm its bid to have American sanctions lifted.The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated President Donald Trump’s travel ban imposing restrictions on citizens from Sudan, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Syria.

The ruling comes just weeks ahead of an expected decision by Trump on whether topermanently lift the United States’ 20-year-old trade embargo on the North African country.

“Sudan hopes the decision on sanctions should not be impacted by this latest decision,” senior foreign ministry official Abdelghani Elnaim said in a statement.

Elnaim said Khartoum had made “progress” on meeting conditions for Washington topermanently lift the sanctions that were imposed in 1997 over its alleged support for Islamist militant groups.

Then-president Barack Obama eased the sanctions in January but made their permanent lifting dependent on Khartoum’s progress in five areas of concern during a six-month review period that ends on July 12.

These conditions — known as the “five tracks” — include improved access for aid groups, halting support for rebels in neighbouring South Sudan, an end to hostilities in the conflict zones of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and counterterrorism cooperation with US intelligence agencies.

Soon after the court’s decision on Monday, Trump said it was a “clear victory” for US national security.

Elnaim said Sudan respects the right the United States has to protect its own national security.

“But at the same time, Sudan, its government and its citizens are not a threat to American national security,” he said.

“Sudan is fully cooperating with the United States, which has been acknowledged by US security agencies.”

Although the US court reinstated the travel ban partially, it said the restrictions could not be imposed against people with personal links to the US, including foreigners wishing to visit family or students accepted into US universities.

AFP

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Libya, Sudan, Somalia hard hit as US top court partially lifts Trump’s travel ban

USA

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday partially lifted an injunction against the travel bans issued by President Donald Trump.

The apex court’s decision allows the travel ban to take effect but stated that it will listen to the substantive case in October this year.

The order bans citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Three African countries were affected by the order. Libya, Sudan and Somalia. The other three were Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Till date, Trump had signed two separate orders, but both had been suspended by lower courts forcing the case to be taken to the apex court.

The second order called for 90-day ban on nationals of the affected countries seeking to enter the US. The second order also removed Iraq from the original list of seven countries.

It also introduces a 120-day ban on all refugees arriving in the US, a move meant to allow Washington to implement tighter vetting procedures.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in March this year slammed the earlier order describing it as “selective and discriminatory.” The OIC said it was of the view that the ban will further complicate the grave situation that refugees find themselves.

OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. It has 56 other member states across the world. All the affected countries belong to the bloc. The Gambia is set to host the next summit of the body.

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Sudan Sanctions July Deadline “Won’t Work”: Trump Administration Should Delay Decision

Photo: dabangasudan.org/Getty Images/File

“July Deadline Won’t Work”: Trump Administration Should Delay Decision on Sudan Sanctions

Washington, DC, June 22, 2017 — The Trump administration should delay a July decision on U.S. sanctions on Sudan, according to a report published today by the Enough Project.

The report, “The July Deadline Won’t Work: Why the U.S. needs to delay the decision on Sudan sanctions,” highlights serious questions about progress by Sudan on the “five tracks” under U.S. review, including humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities. The report also highlights that the senior U.S. government officials responsible for Africa policy who would typically play central roles in such an important decision are not yet in place, and thus are unable to weigh in on this critical decision.

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “Given inconclusive evidence concerning multiple tracks and the fact that senior Africa policy posts have not yet been filled, the Trump administration should defer for at least six months the mid-July decision on what to do about the sanctions. This five-track policy initiative is deeply flawed and incomplete, undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, and gives away a major point of U.S. leverage for little beyond potential short-term counter-terrorism gains while doing nothing to address the structural issues in Sudan that have led to increased refugee flows to Europe, further repression of Sudanese Christians and other minority groups, and continued war and authoritarian leadership. A six month delay in the decision would give the Trump administration time to pursue a separate, new and independent track for peace and human rights in Sudan. Incorporating modernized and focused financial pressures tools, as well as new incentives, this new track could seek to advance human rights, religious freedom, essential democratic reforms, anti-corruption efforts, good governance, and a comprehensive peace in Sudan.”

In an associated report released last week, the Enough Project presented the case for a new framework of U.S.-Sudan engagement focused on peace and human rights issues that would be underpinned by strong financial pressures.

Omer Ismail, Senior Policy Advisor at the Enough Project, said: “The Trump administration lacks the verifiable information that it needs to confirm that the government of Sudan has sustained these positive actions on all five tracks. There are multiple public reports to suggest the contrary related to at least two of the tracks.  There is little evidence of a recent “marked reduction in offensive military activity” in Darfur. Instead there is ample evidence of the Sudanese government’s disregard of the safety of civilians or outright targeting of civilians, with numerous reports of violent attacks in Darfur by Sudanese government forces, integrated militia known as the Rapid Support Forces, and other government-armed ethnically-based militias in Darfur.”

In a related development, this week the U.N. Security Council is considering decimating the capacity of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNAMID) based on a strategic review conducted by the United Nations.

Ismail added, “The UNAMID review is based on a fundamentally flawed analysis of the situation in Darfur, an analysis undermined by the violence that took place shortly after the report was submitted to the Security Council. While it’s hard to predict the immediate effect these cuts would have on civilian protection, we know the risk of conflict is high in many of the areas where bases are to be closed and military contingents are to be withdrawn. The withdrawal of these UNAMID military forces and the closure of bases will make several key areas unsafe for humanitarian operations, likely leading to closures of programs upon which tens of thousands of conflict-affected people rely.”

Read the full report: http://eno.ug/2sQXja7

http://eno.ug/2suc56d : الملخص التنفیذي

Read Enough Project’s Recent Reports on Sudan:

Recent Congressional Testimonies:

  • Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s hearing on Sudan: Human Rights and SanctionsTestimony of Enough’s Omer Ismail (April 2017)
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations The Questionable Case for Easing Sudan SanctionsTestimony of Enough’s Brad Brooks-Rubin (April 2017)

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For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org.

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT: 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 www.EnoughProject.org.

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Is It Time to Repeal U.S. Sanctions On Sudan?

The clock is ticking for President Trump who must decide by July 12 whether to lift decades-long U.S. sanctions on Sudan.

PRESS RELEASE

As a July decision approaches on whether to permanently remove most sanctions on Sudan, the Trump administration should properly evaluate progress, or lack thereof, on each of the five tracks on which progress is required, and the administration should not privilege any single track over others. Enough’s view is that the evidence available concerning multiple tracks is inconclusive. Combined with the fact that key senior Trump administration officials responsible for Africa policy are not yet in place, this calls for a six-month delay on the decision, during which time the Trump administration should assign the additional staff needed to gather credible information and assess progress on each of the five tracks. While properly assessing progress on the five tracks, the Trump administration should also pivot to pursue a separate new track of engagement focused on advancing peace and human rights in Sudan.

A convoy of WFP trucks in North Darfur (file photo).

Introduction

This past January, the outgoing Obama administration conditionally eased almost all U.S. sanctions on Sudan, arguing that the Sudanese government had made improvements in five tracks of engagement: (1) cooperation on counterterrorism; (2) cooperation in countering the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); (3) commitment to a cessation of hostilities in Sudan’s conflict areas; (4) ending support to South Sudanese armed opposition actors; and (5) providing humanitarian access to populations in need. The Obama administration asserted that the prospect of full sanctions removal created incentives for the Sudanese regime to improve conditions for the Sudanese people. The executive order initially easing U.S. sanctions in January provided that the sanctions would be lifted altogether in mid-July 2017 if the Sudanese government verifiably “sustained the positive actions that gave rise to this order.”

There are four major problems with the executive order and the way it was implemented by the Obama administration. First, it removed one of the biggest points of leverage the United States has to achieve its policy objectives at the very time the sanctions were beginning to bite more effectively, mostly because of enforcement of Iran sanctions that led to enforcement actions related to Sudan. Second, the Trump administration is just now putting in place the personnel needed to properly track and make use of the potential opportunity provided by the conditional easing of sanctions. Third, at the time of the issuance of the executive order in January, the Sudanese regime in fact had not made such meaningful progress on at least two of the five tracks as to warrant the easing of sanctions at that time. Fourth, the five tracks do not by themselves address the core human rights and governance issues that are at the center of the ongoing crisis. This policy initiative is therefore deeply flawed and incomplete, undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, and gives away a major point of U.S. leverage for little beyond potential short-term counterterrorism gains while doing nothing to address the structural issues in Sudan that have led to increased refugee flows to Europe, further repression of Sudanese Christians and other minority groups, and continued war and authoritarian leadership.

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Sudan, Libya, and Support for Radical Islamic Militants: A Vignette

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“General and First Vice President, perhaps the most powerful man in the Khartoum regime—certainly he is essential to President al-Bashir’s grip on power. He was director of the National Intelligence and Security Services for a number of years follow the National Islamic Front military coup of June 1989.” Photo: sudanreeves.org/File

In October 2014, I analyzed some of the implications of minutes reflecting the deliberations of the most senior military and intelligence officials of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime during a “Joint Military and Security Committee Meeting held at the National Defense College on 31/08/2014” (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1wk ). These minutes have been repeatedly and authoritatively confirmed by a wide range of sources (see | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5 ). They were leaked to me by a Sudanese source of unimpeachable character and honesty, although his identity—and those who assisted him in this extremely dangerous undertaking—must remain confidential for obvious reasons.

The minutes are highly revealing on various counts, including what at the time was the vehement insistence that Iran was Khartoum’s singularly vital ally in the region. This insistence is a virtual refrain, appearing in the comments of nearly every senior official present, including First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh, who presided at the meeting. The ongoing implosion of the Sudanese economy has forced that Khartoum regime to abandon Iran and side with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; but ideologically—as the minutes clearly reveal—the regime is very much on the side of Tehran. Only the possibility of immense financial assistance from the Saudis and Gulf States compelled the abandonment of Iran. Notably, the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, mentioned in the minutes as recipients of aid from Khartoum, are now being targeted by Sudan Armed Forces in concert with the Saudi-led campaign.

This is the context in which to see the import of a dispatch in today’s Sudan Tribune, concerning the repatriation of Sudanese nationals who had gone to Libya to fight with ISIS (Sudan Tribune, June 21, 2017). This is obviously a delicate issue for Khartoum’s security services, something reflected clearly in the Sudan Tribune analysis.

But let’s return to the views of the Khartoum regime in late 2014, and the question of how that regime saw the opportunities presented by Libya in chaos. I offered contemporaneous commentary on particular passages from the minutes, reproduced here without change or editing. The leaked minutes obviously put Khartoum in an extremely awkward position in communicating with recognized Libyan authorities, and this is where I began. Although reflecting only one issue in a very wide-ranging set of topics covered in the meeting of senior officials, let us remember that there is not a shred of evidence that ideologically the NIF/NCP has changed its views about radical Islamic militants:

(Speakers in each case are identified; all bold emphases in the quoted texts have been added; my commentary is in blue italics followed by my initials, ER; important dates are in bold red)

Traveling to Khartoum this month [October 2014], the Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani undoubtedly had the August 31 minutes much on his mind when meeting with regime officials. Libya comes up frequently in these minutes, and at several points in ways that must be deeply disconcerting to the struggling Libyan government, and reveal yet again the depth of the mendacity that characterizes the regime. On 7 October 2014 Sudan Tribune reported:

The head of the Libyan government, Abdullah al-Thani, will visit Khartoum in response to an invitation extended by Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir, a government source disclosed this week. “The Libyan government welcomes the invitation received from president al-Bashir. (The government) considers it as a step in the right direction and a confirmation of Sudan’s support to the democratic process in Libya,” a Libyan official told the Libyan Bawabat Alwasat on Monday.

The official further said that al-Thani accepted the invitation after Khartoum’s full recognition of the House of Representatives as the sole legitimate body representing the will of the Libyan people. Observers in Khartoum says the public acceptance of the invitation is seen by the Sudanese government as the first positive signal from Tripoli after repeated Libyan accusations of supporting extremists groups in the north African nation. On 2 October, Sudan’s foreign ministry for the second time within a less than three weeks summoned the Libyan ambassador in Khartoum to protest against these accusations.

Earlier, on 2 October 2014, the Sudan Tribune reported more particularly on the accusations by Libya against Khartoum:

The Sudanese foreign ministry announced on Thursday that it summoned the Libyan charge d’affaires to protest recent remarks by an army general in which he accused Khartoum of backing extremist groups in the North African nation. This follows a similar move on September 15th by the ministry in which the acting Libyan CDA was summoned to complain over same allegations made by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The latter warned that Tripoli may sever ties with Khartoum as well as Doha if they continue aiding these militias. Sudan’s foreign ministry reiterated its denial of meddling in Libyan internal affairs or taking sides in the ongoing conflict.

“The misleading information transmitted by media that is attributed to Libyan [army] officer claimed Sudan’s interference in the internal affairs of his country,” the ministry said in a statement adding that this information is “unfounded.” It denounced attempts seeking to involve Sudan in the Libyan conflict and noted the Sudanese government’s recognition of the legitimacy of the elected Council of Representatives, which meets in Tobruk.

So Khartoum would appear to be ready to bluster with denial of what is revealed clearly in the minutes of the 31 August 2014 meeting of senior regime officials:

“We have intensified the work to train and graduate Libyan [Islamist rebels] Military Intelligence cadres. Currently, they are doing an advanced course on Internet operation, deciphering of codes, interception of telephones and wireless radios. Their leadership requested us to train and establish for them a strong Military Intelligence system.” (General Siddiq Amer, Director General of Intelligence and Security)

“Our intelligence and security files can play a role in the improvement of our economy [how is never explained—ER] and diplomatic relations. They can also be used to abort the conspiracies of the rebellion against us. The victory of our people [Islamists of the Libya Dawn rebel movement—ER] in Libya is an indication that we will also achieve victory over the New Sudan Project [“New Sudan Project” is Khartoum’s catch-all phrase for any movement toward democratization, press freedoms, equality in citizenship, and secular governance—ER]

And there seems no way to deal with this assertion by General Imad al-Din Adawy, Chief of Joint Operations:

“The Libyan border is totally secured, especially after the victory of our allies [Libya Dawn forces] in Tripoli. We managed to deliver to them the weapons and military equipment donated by Qatar and Turkey and we formed a joint operations room with them under one of the colonels in order to coordinate and administer the military operations. Turkey and Qatar provided us with information in favor of the revolutionaries on top of the information collected by our own agents so they can control the whole country.”

Radio Dabanga reported very recently (28 October 2014) on further details of the Libyan accusations:

[In] late September, Libyan army officers intercepted a Sudanese convoy with Yemeni fighters at El Kufra on the Sudanese-Libyan border. On 6 September, a Sudanese military aircraft was grounded at El Kufra airport, “laden with weapons bound for [Libya Dawn] rebels.” The week before, the Sudanese military attaché in Tripoli was declared persona non grata, after being accused of supporting Libyan militia groups.

Libya has expelled the Sudanese military attaché after accusing Khartoum of flying weapons to Islamist rebels in Tripoli, raising fears of a widening regional conflict. The government, which has fled Tripoli for eastern Libya, accused Khartoum of sending a transport plane loaded with munitions for the Islamist-led Libya Dawn militias who control the capital.

“Sudan is interposing itself by providing arms to a terrorist group that is attacking the headquarters of the state,” said a government statement. “This also represents a clear violation of international resolutions, and the latest UN Security Council resolution.” The government said the plane entered Libyan airspace without permission on Thursday, making a refueling stop in the southern oasis town of Kufra, where the weapons were discovered. It said the weapons were destined for the Tripoli airport of Mitiga, controlled by Libya Dawn. Sudan, which is sympathetic to Libya’s Islamists, confirmed sending the plane but insisted the weapons were intended for legitimate border forces patrolling the southern desert.

This is who the NIF/NCP was and remains. And if we want to know the face of radical Islam in Libya in 2014, I can think of no more telling image than one showing some twenty Egyptian Coptic Christians being led to their beheadings on a beach near in November 2015:

Sudan and Terrorism

In Senate testimony of July 2009, the Obama administration’s first special envoy for Sudan, Air Force Major-General (ret.) Scott Gration, declared that:

“There’s no evidence in our intelligence community that supports [Sudan] being on the state sponsors of terrorism. It’s a political decision,” Gration said.

At the same hearing, former Senator Russ Feingold, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee on Africa rightly pushed back:

Gration said Sudan, once home to Osama Bin Laden, has been helpful in counterterrorism efforts. However, Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said Sudan’s cooperation is always overstated in this area. 

More fully, Feingold had issue a strong statement in May of that year (2009):

“I take serious issue with the way the report [on international terrorism by the U.S. State Department] overstates the level of cooperation in our counterterrorism relationship with Sudan, a nation which the U.S. classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism. A more accurate assessment is important not only for effectively countering terrorism in the region, but as part of a review of our overall policy toward Sudan, including U.S. pressure to address the ongoing crisis in Darfur and maintain the fragile peace between the North and the South.” (Statement by Senator Russell Feingold, Chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, May 1, 2009)

Gration was spectacularly ignorant about Sudan and was simply wrong in his claim about what U.S. intelligence knew at the time—and on multiple counts, including Khartoum’s assistance in Iran’s movements of weapons to Gaza—well reported at the time in The Guardian (December 6, 2010)—and the bald fact that Hamas was allowed to operate freely in Khartoum, despite being on the list of terrorist organizations compelled by a wide range of countries besides the U.S. There were many other examples as well that Gration simply chose to ignore. Rightly, Sudan remains one of only three countries on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” including Syria and “best-strategic-ally-for-life” Iran.

All this becomes particularly important as a Trump administration, easily as ignorant as former special envoy Gration and even more cynical, approaches a decision about whether or not to lift U.S. economic sanctions on Khartoum permanently (the deadline for a decision is July 13, 2017). The terribly misguided and mendaciously justified decision by the Obama administration in January 2017 provisionally to lift sanctions can still be reversed. But depending on the administration of a xenophobic, pathologically narcissistic, and profoundly ignorant President Trump seems to make reversal a distinct long shot. And although the Trump administration that will make the decision, it was President Obama that set the clock ticking. In rewarding Khartoum’s génocidaires, he is a disgrace to the campaign statement he made in running for the presidency in 2008—“that genocide in Darfur was a “stain on our souls” and that he would not “avert his eyes from human slaughter” (see | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEd583-fA8M ).

Unctuous words that meant nothing for the eight years of his administration, which concluded with Obama’s decision to begin the process of lifting longstanding U.S. economic sanctions on a regime guilty of serial genocides.

Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.

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