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Sudan Tribune

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53 Congressmen urge President Trump to delay Sudan sanctions relief

July 6, 2017 (WASHINGTON) – A bipartisan group including 53 U.S. lawmakers has strongly urged President Donald Trump to delay the permanent lifting of U.S. sanctions on Sudan.

The US imposed comprehensive sanctions on Sudan in 1997 (US Embassy in Khartoum website)
The US imposed comprehensive sanctions on Sudan in 1997 (US Embassy in Khartoum website)
Last January, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order providing temporary relief from many U.S. sanctions against Sudan that have been in effect for almost 20 years.

Washington is involved in a five-track engagement process with the Sudan over the permanent lift of sanctions on Sudan. By the 12 July, based on an interagency report including the State Department the President Donald Trump is expected to issue a decision on whether to maintain or to remove the lift of economic sanctions on Sudan.

The five-track process includes the fight against terrorism, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Sudan’s role in the peace process in South Sudan, Sudan’s peace and the humanitarian situation in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

“We write to request that you delay lifting these sanctions for one year or until your Administration has been able to fully staff the Department of State and National Security Council, and you have named a Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan,” said 53 Congressmen in a letter sent to President Trump on June 30.

The letter pointed that at this point in time the evidence is unavailable or inconclusive to decide whether or not the Sudanese government has abided by the requirements of the engagement plan.

The lawmakers cited unimpeded humanitarian access, cooperation on counterterrorism and cessation of hostilities in Sudan as key priorities where progress must be made for sanctions relief to be considered.

“We are particularly concerned about progress -or lack thereof- on three of the tracks: Sudan’s commitment to a cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to regions under siege by the Sudan Armed Forces, and cooperation on counterterrorism. There has been substantial fighting in Darfur in recent months, including evidence of targeting of civilians by Sudanese armed forces and their affiliated militias and, as expected, no humanitarian access has been granted to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and only limited access to Darfur,” read the letter.

“While the Sudanese government may seem cooperative on counterterrorism efforts, we believe they continue regularly scheduled support for violent non-state armed groups, like the former combatants of the Islamist group, Seleka, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and other similar violent actors operating in northern and central Africa, the Middle East and neighboring countries,” added the lawmakers.

The letter added that “Sudan government has one of the worst human rights records in the world, pointing to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states.

“Over the past thirty years, President Omar al-Bashir has presided over the murder and violent displacement of millions of Sudanese people. Since June 2011, the Sudanese government has targeted civilians in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State by dropping over 5,000 thousand bombs on innocent people in villages, schools, hospitals and churches,” read the letter.

The lawmakers pointed that the lift of sanctions “without having a new phase of engagement in place, along with new, targeted pressures will not increase our leverage but rather weaken it”, saying Khartoum has manipulated the international community for 30 years by pausing violence when it sees a benefit in doing so.

The letter also mentioned the “demolition of two Christian churches in Khartoum this year” and the government plans to bulldoze at least 27 more, describing it as “state-sanctioned persecution of Christians and the denial of freedom of religion”.

Last week, the former U.S. envoys to Sudan Princeton Lyman and Donald Booth called on the Congress to support the five-track engagement plan with the Sudanese government urging legislatures to not take actions that could undermine the plan.

In June, Bloomberg, a business and market news agency, cited an anonymous source familiar with the decision as saying key aides to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have recommended full lift of sanctions.

Also, sources in Washington say the security agencies, CIA and FBI, and the U.S. Army strongly back the lift of sanctions saying that cooperation with Khartoum is crucial for America strategic interests.

Rights groups and activists plead for a delay of sanctions in order to improve human rights records and promote democratic reforms.

Observers point that the failure of opposition groups to sign a humanitarian cessation of hostilities agreement supported by the State Department weakened any effort in this direction and propelled arguments put forward by the security agencies.

(ST)