Confusion Remains Concerning Easing of Sudan Sanctions

Congress is latest to raise questions on the U.S. move

Posted by Mark Hackett on March 30th, 2017

In the final week of his presidency, the Obama Administration made the unsettling decision to begin a process to lift major components of U.S. sanctions against Sudan. The move was promptly met with widespread criticism from human rights groups and Sudanese communities who have borne the brunt of the dictatorship's genocidal and oppressive policies. 

For background on this issue, please see our original post from January when the decision was announced. 

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Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan To Take Up Issue

In a press release sent out through Representative Thomas J. Rooney's (R-FL) office, the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan sent a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take immediate action to alleviate the costs of war paid by the people of Sudan and South Sudan. With regards to Sudan, the following points were made:

We are concerned about the recent easing of sanctions and increasing trade with Sudan.  It is critical that the actions of the government be closely monitored to determine if these steps towards normalcy actually result in an improved situation on the ground for the people of Sudan.  The past record of the government of Sudan and its leaders encourage skepticism about their commitment to improved relations.  We are particularly concerned about their commitment to allowing increased humanitarian access to the abused populations of the Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile regions. Consequently, we urge you to consider implementing two key policies with regard to Sudan:

1. Inform Congress as to the benchmarks that were achieved in order to justify the easing of sanctions on Sudan. Moving forward, as you evaluate the results obtained by easing these sanctions, we urge you ensure that these actions are improving the lives of the Sudanese people. If the easing of sanctions has emboldened worse actions, we urge you to inform us and consider tightening enforcement mechanisms and more sharply targeting the military and financial assets of those responsible for continuing the conflict, atrocities, and mass corruption.

2. Utilize the increased U.S. leverage these sanctions provide to compel President Bashir’s government to implement a ceasefire, revitalize the dormant peace process in Sudan, and allow aid to finally reach the millions of Sudanese people trapped in areas that the government currently blocks from humanitarian access. 

As we noted in our original post in January after the announcement of the sanctions reduction process, there has been no major progress on the ground as Sudan's dictatorship agreed too. Full government-enforced humanitarian blockades on the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile remain in place with no signs of letting up. And while there has been a significant reduction of aerial bombing and ground attacks on civilian areas, frontline skirmishes and militia attacks have continued on and off in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Darfur.

As for the remaining reasons for lifting sanctions, there is still no public evidence available to support the claims the Obama Administration made during its announcement. The U.S. government has not made public any hard evidence concerning progress towards the Sudanese government ending support to South Sudanese opposition groups, cooperation around anti-LRA operations, or cooperation in combatting wildlife poaching, an illegal trade which National Geographic proved the government of Sudan had an enormous role in. Based on the simple fact that the Sudanese government has provided large support to South Sudanese opposition groups and the LRA in the past, there is plenty of reason to be concerned that not much actual progress has been made.

There is still confusion on why the sanctions-lifting process was even started due to a lack of information being provided by the U.S. government and a lack of hard evidence. 

The Congressional Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights is holding a hearing on April 4 to receive expert testimony and look into this issue. Details for how to watch the hearing are below. 

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The people of Sudan are overcoming two of the greatest challenges facing humanity today: war and genocide. Operation Broken Silence is working to accelerate their ability to generate lasting change through storytelling, education, advocacy, and emergency relief programs. Here are a few different ways you can join us:

1. Tune Into The Commission Hearing's Livestream. This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed on April 4 at 1:30PM ET via YouTube on the Commission website. WATCH HERE »

2. Join The Heart of Nuba Campaign. There is one hospital in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan led by a single American doctor and a small local support staff. You can help the team at Mother of Mercy Hospital continue saving lives in the months ahead by joining the Heart of Nuba Campaign. LEARN MORE»

3. Give To Emergency Relief Efforts. Since 2012, Operation Broken Silence has been funding emergency relief missions into isolated corners of the Nuba Mountains that are off the beaten path of what few emergency relief efforts exist. You can support these efforts by making a one-time donation. GIVE HERE »

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