In Long-Isolated Sudan, ‘Lot of Excitement’ as U.S. Sanctions End
The State Department also said the government has stopped attacking civilians and has improved in allowing humanitarian aid to reach troubled regions like Darfur, the scene of a genocide starting in 2003, in which the government was accused of massacring hundreds of thousands of people.
Washington said the country was also curbing its destabilizing activities in neighboring South Sudan, which split off as an independent nation in 2011.
The sanctions, which had been under suspension, will be lifted permanently as of Thursday.
In exchange for ending sanctions, the United States said it had secured a commitment from Sudan that it would not engage in weapons trade from North Korea.
The United States is still keeping Sudan on its list of terrorism sponsors, which means it will not be granted debt relief, a major drag on the economy.
The Trump administration decision has provoked a backlash from some human rights groups that say Sudan has not done enough to improve its rights record.
Amnesty International accused Sudanese government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians in Darfur last year, and there are ongoing skirmishes in the region. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who came to power 27 years ago, is sought by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.
Supporters of the American decision say the sanctions have done little to encourage reforms and instead pushed Sudan into the arms of United States trade rivals like China and the Gulf States.
Removing sanctions is an admission by the United States that they “are no longer appropriate and effective,” said Magnus Taylor, a Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“It is appropriate now to offer Sudan incentives and the beginning of a way back to a kind of international order from which it was thoroughly expelled,” Mr. Taylor added. “They had made enough progress to make the first rung of the ladder, and we need to keep pushing them to climb.”
Sudan is now expected to become at least moderately more attractive to Western investors, particularly companies eager to enter a region where countries like China, Malaysia and India are already present.
The lifting of the trade embargo “will be very positive for Bashir,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House, a research organization in London. “This has long been anticipated and it shows how Bashir has been remodeling himself through international partnerships.”
State Department officials say the removal of sanctions would unfreeze government assets and benefit aviation and energy businesses.
Sudan’s economy is mired in debt — foreign creditors are owed $51 billion, or 60 percent of its gross domestic product — and it suffers from high inflation and low productivity. The economy was dealt a severe blow after the oil-rich south tore itself away.
The sanctions placed restrictions on international financial transactions, making it difficult to acquire technology and equipment. Hundreds of factories were shut down because of a lack of parts and trade barriers.
Since the lifting of sanctions was announced, “there’s been a lot of excitement among the Sudanese middle classes, even for things like getting a cinema,” Mr. Taylor said.
Remittances from abroad will be transferred more easily, which will help lift domestic consumption and the economy.
“It won’t be transformational,” said Mr. Taylor, who called it “a first step in a normalizing process.”
He added: “It’s taking their place in the world as an ordinary, responsible state.”