After the euphoria of welcoming Sudan back to the folds of the international community following decades of being stigmatized as a pariah state, that honeymoon and for all practical purposes seems to be drawing to the close.
Leaving public relation statements aside, nothing concrete or worthwhile can hardly be presented that those who are raising the banner of democracy and human rights are really engaged in a positive way to help through the difficult transitional period with its multi-faceted mounting problems from the economy to peace to security.
The most negative signals came from Washington, who failed to allocate enough time even for a photo-op between its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Dr. Abdalla Hamdok alongside the UN General Assembly. Then came Tibor Nagy to lecture those calling for removing Sudan from the terrorist list that, "Removing the state sponsor of terrorism designation is not an event it is a process."
It was interesting to note that Nagy, who in his capacity as assistant secretary for African affairs can start that process, did not bother even to announce a date to resume the delisting process. The word “resume” is used here intentionally because that process has started last year and was stopped by Washington earlier this year following the growing anti-Ingaz demonstrations that led eventually to the downfall of Al-Bashir and his regime.
The delisting process is called the second phase that has followed the famous 5-track process initiated by the very veteran diplomat Donald Booth under the Obama administration and resulted in partial lifting of economic sanctions early on the Trump administration.
The other negative signal came from the World Bank representative, who did not mince her words, telling the British think tank Chatham House gathering in Khartoum that, “"For debt clearance and access to international financing, IFI’s need to be convinced that Sudan will not become further indebted and that the Sudanese economy is on a defined sustainable pathway to reform a arrears clearance," said Carolyn Turk, the World Bank director for Sudan.
She added that Sudan can only benefit from debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative when the bank and its twin sister IMF see that the country is committed to poverty reduction through policy change and has established and demonstrated a good track over time.
That is a long shot for a government facing bread queues and expanding ones before fuel filling stations and hardly any significant foreign reserves at the Central Bank.
Worse some competition seems to be brewing between the main western donors on will be seen doing something for post Al-Bashir government. While the French seem to be taking the lead sending its foreign minister to visit Khartoum and President Macron inviting Hamdok to Paris, Nagi claims that Washington is taking the lead in setting up Sudan Friends Group, who met before and is scheduled to meet again to look into ways of helping Sudan. Britain through its ambassador in Khartoum speaks confidently that its relationship with Sudan is far deeper than with any other nation.
With the centrality of the delisting issue, the question is what Washington is really up to aside from the legal, procedural issues. On its face, it may be interested in seeing how Hamdok government performs on issues of tackling various issues of peace, handling the economy or laying foundations for democratic transformation.
But more significant is Washington direct interest and how post Al-Bashir government can help. The start of phase two of dialogue with Al-Bashir regime that included the delisting process came on the heel of Khartoum’s success in bringing the warring faction in South Sudan to the negotiating table and ink a peace deal. That is an area of interest to Washington.
More important is the security cooperation in fighting terrorism. It was Sudan’s decision to withholding that cooperation for two weeks at one point that helped in pushing the dialogue. And unless Washington is convinced that Hamdok government is able to deliver on these two and related issues it will continue to move the goal posts.
One expected outcome of this foot dragging on delisting issue is the growing frustration given its direct implication for day to day life for the Sudanese. And unless regional and international stakeholders keep setting aside their individual agenda and continue cooperate during the difficult transitional period prospects don’t augur well for Sudan and its negative implications to the region.
E N D