US removes Sudan from terrorism list

Sudan has had the designation since 1993, on the grounds that ousted President Omar al-Bashir was harboring militant groups. It has cut Sudan off from financial assistance and investment.

Protestors tear down a picture of Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan Abdelrahman minutes after it was hung on a bridge in Khartoum, Sudan, in April 2019. (photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)
Protestors tear down a picture of Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan Abdelrahman minutes after it was hung on a bridge in Khartoum, Sudan, in April 2019.
(photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)
KHARTOUM – A US decision to remove Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism came into effect on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, ending a designation in place since 1993 that has weighed heavily on the Sudanese economy and curbed financial assistance.
However, Congress has yet to approve a bill providing Sudan with immunity from future lawsuits by victims of terror, which could mar the normalization process with Israel.
The delisting provides a boost to Sudan’s transitional authorities that took over after the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir last year, and are grappling with a deep economic crisis.
A 45-day US Congressional review period followed President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would end the listing, days before he announced that Israel and Sudan intend to normalize relations.
“This achievement was made possible by the efforts of Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government to chart a bold new course away from the legacy of the Bashir regime and, in particular, to meet the statutory and policy criteria for rescission,” Pompeo said in a statement issued in Washington.
Pompeo said the move represented a fundamental change for bilateral ties towards greater cooperation.
The United States listed Sudan in 1993 on the grounds that Bashir’s regime was harboring terrorist groups. It cut Sudan off from financial assistance and investment, and from the global banking system.
“We have been liberated from the global blockade which we were forced into by the behavior of the ousted regime,” Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in a statement.
“This achievement... contributes to economic reforms, attracting investments and remittances through official channels, creating new job opportunities for young people, and many other positives.”
The price of the dollar on Sudan’s widely used black market dropped to 240 from 258 Sudanese pounds on Monday, against an official rate of 55 pounds.
Removal from the list will allow Sudan to seek financing from international lenders and negotiate relief on $60 billion in foreign debt.
Sudan also hopes to gain access to equipment and software for healthcare, energy, transport, education and infrastructure, Hamdok’s office said.
“This decision has given us hope that our circumstances will improve,” said Mohamed Hassan, a 58-year-old private sector employee in Khartoum.
Sudan had been engaged in talks with the United States for months, and the US plan to delist was announced in tandem with Sudan’s plan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Khartoum paid a negotiated $335 million settlement to victims of attacks on US embassies in East Africa who had won much larger sums against Sudan in court.
A process to restore Sudan’s sovereign immunity and release the settlement money has been stalled in Congress by Senators who seek to have 9/11 victims be able to sue Sudan.
Sudan harbored al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden for several years in the 1990s before being expelled and relocating to Afghanistan.
Khartoum relayed a message to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month that they will not move forward with ties with Israel if the legal immunity legislation does not pass by the end of 2020.
Israeli officials have been lobbying Congress to pass the bill, without taking a position on 9/11 victims.