Sudan’s Abdalla Hamdok Pushes for Sanctions to be Lifted
12/13/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Just a few months old, Sudan’s new transitional government is taking significant steps to demonstrate to the world that the new order in Sudan is not just a restructuring but a fundamental rebirth. This effort to restore the reputation of a country implicated in decades of support for terrorism and repression is not an easy one. Only time will tell whether the international community will accept the assurances of current Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Sudan does seem to have made some progress in recent weeks, though, as the U.S. and Sudan agreed to renew diplomatic relations.
Hamdok heads Sudan’s transitional government, established in July of 2019 after a military coup deposed President Omar al-Bashir, an infamous supporter of terrorism and enemy of religious freedom. Al-Bashir himself came to power in a coup, almost 30 years to the day before his ousting in July.
During al-Bashir’s time in office he became known as a dedicated enemy of religious freedom, landing Sudan a consistent spot on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s list of Tier 1 Countries of Particular Concern and on a similar list managed by the Department of State designed to call out the world’s worst persecutors. The long civil war between the country’s predominantly Christian south and Khartoum led to the deaths of more than two million southerners.
Prime Minister Hamdok assumed office in August 2019, and since that time has been active not only in effecting domestic reform but also in broadcasting those reforms on the international stage and pushing for reprieve from the many sanctions levied against his country. Hamdok possesses a doctorate in economics from the University of Manchester and has made the lifting of these sanctions a major element of his diplomatic efforts.
One of the most severe sanctions Sudan faces comes from the United States’ decision decades ago to include Sudan on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. This designation makes it impossible for Sudan to receive financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund. Access to this type of international financial assistance is a key part of Hamdok’s strategy to strengthen Sudan’s financial prospects after decades of being largely frozen out of the Western financial system.
Hamdok has personally made diplomatic visits to a number of countries, including last week to Washington, D.C. where he sat down with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. At the meeting, according to a Committee press release, Hamdok spoke about his plans for political and social reform, the need for peace between warring factions within the country, and the importance of accountability for human rights abuses.
Sudan has made significant progress in each of these areas in the last few months. Al-Bashir’s entire government has been dismissed and a new one instated, a women’s soccer league was created for the first time, peace talks are being restarted, and the UN Human Rights Office was recently invited into the country to monitor the human rights situation there.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments recently hosted a workshop on the role of the church in peacemaking and development. Nasreld Mofreh, the Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments, promised that property taken from Christians and churches under al-Bashir’s reign would be returned.
Sudan is making rapid, good-faith efforts to reform. Its restoration to the good graces of the international community will, however, be a longer path as it still has to answer for a number of atrocities committed under the al-Bashir regime. Of particular interest to the United States are the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
Members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs emphasized that, however positive Hamdok’s reforms may be, reparations must be made for these bombings before the United States would consider lifting its sanctions on Sudan.