February 18, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government has welcomed the United States move to ease sanctions imposed on Sudan and allow exports of personal communications hardware and software expecting further steps in the coming days.
The United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Tuesday that is amending Sudan’s sanctions to allow exports of personal communications hardware and software including smart phones and laptops.
The US special envoy to Sudans Donald Booth on Tuesday emphasised that this move aims to help ordinary citizens by connecting them to the rest of the world and to further free speech.
“These changes are consistent with our commitment to promote freedom of expression through access to communications tools,” Booth told reporters.
“These changes also support our aim to help Sudanese citizens integrate in the global digital community” he added.
Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, said in press statements on Wednesday the decision of the US administration reflects its conviction that Sudan has rights which should be met, considering the move the beginning for fulfilling those rights.
He pointed that ties between Khartoum and Washington could be advanced if the US administration carried out its pledges, saying the two countries had earlier agreed to engage in the dialogue which actually began during the recent visit of the presidential assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour to Washington.
Karti stressed that Ghandour’s visit put ties between the two nations on the right track, expressing hope that the dialogue yields positive results.
Jerry Lanier, the Chargé d’Affaires at the United States embassy in Sudan said the step “comes after careful study and debate, including consultations with a wide range of Sudanese civil society organisations, in particular business groups such as the Sudanese Young Businessmen’s Association and the U.S.-Sudan Business Council, and representatives of the people of Sudan in the form of religious leaders and local leaders.”
He added in an article entitled “Expanding avenues to the internet for Sudanese user” that those who were consulted “made it clear that the Sudanese people were suffering from a lack of free flow of information.”
The American diplomat further pointed out that the “recent decision of the Sudanese government to stifle the press by seizing the full print run of 15 different newspapers also made it clear that the people of Sudan need more freedom to access information.”
“We believe the Internet should be an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize, and communicate. As President Obama has said, “We will fight hard to make sure that the Internet remains the open forum for everybody – from those who are expressing an idea to those who want to start a business,” he added.
These developments come several days following Ghandour’s visit to Washington after which he announced his agreement with the American officials to continue the bilateral dialogue in order to normalize relations between Khartoum and Washington.
The secretary general of the rebel SPLM-N Yasir Arman expressed hopes that Washington will keep pressure on Khartoum to release political detainees and ensure freedoms in the country as well as allowing humanitarian access to the needy civilians in the war zones.
Relations between Washington and the government of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir have sourced since he came to power in 1989 after staging a military coup.
Sudan is on the US list of countries supporting terrorism since 1993 and also subjected to economic sanctions since 1997.