The Sudanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs expressed on Sunday, June 5 its “strongest regret” that Sudan remains on the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” in the annual US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.
Sudan has been on this list since 1993, when the Bashir regime turned Sudan into safe haven and training hub for international terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden was provided safe haven in Sudan for five years until he was expelled by the Sudanese government in 1996.
In a statement via the official Sudanese News Agency (SUNA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “the government of the Sudan is well aware of its commitment towards combating fundamentalism in all its forms and shapes regionally and internationally”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that Sudan will continue with its effort and cooperation with the international community in combating fundamentalism and terrorism.
Being designated by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism comes with severe penalties. A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:
- A ban on arms-related exports and sales;
- Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism;
- Prohibitions on economic assistance; and
- Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
It's no wonder then that the Bashir regime has been trying to get off of the terrorism list for years now. Being removed from the list would open up the possibility of having severe U.S. sanctions against Sudan rescinded.
On paper, it appears that the government of Sudan is actively cooperating with the international community, including the United States, on a number of issues revolving around terrorism. Sudan is a member of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT), a U.S.-funded and -implemented multi-year, multi-faceted program designed to build counterterrorism capacity and cooperation of military, law enforcement, and civilian actors across East Africa to counter terrorism. Additionally and over the past several years, some U.S. government officials have noted that Sudan has actively assisted the United States in the global fight to curb terrorist activity.
The Bashir regime has actively campaigned for its removal from the U.S. State Department's terrorism list for years now with virtually no progress. And there's a number of good reasons why no progress has been made, most notably that the government of Sudan still actively supports international, regional, and domestic terrorist groups. While Sudan's connection to Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaeda in the 1990s is perhaps the best known case of a terrorism connection with Sudan, the Bashir regime's support of terrorist activities runs far deeper and longer to the present day.
The most damning piece of evidence proving the Bashir regime remains a major supporter of international terrorist organizations came in 2014, when top secret government documents were leaked to a prominent Sudan researcher. The documents were detailed minutes of a meeting on August 31, 2014 of top security and military officers in which they discuss arming rebels in South Sudan in violation of a major peace agreement, supporting armed jihadists across Africa and the Middle East, and destroying crops in South Kordofan state as part of its genocidal strategy to destroy the Nuba people.
The leaked meeting minutes contained a number of concerning items about how the government of Sudan plans to commit mass murder domestically and get away with terrorist activity abroad. Perhaps most concerning is this particular quote:
“Currently, there are twenty thousand (20,000) Jihadists and fifteen (15) newly formed Jihadist Movements who are scattered all over from Morocco to Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, all Gulf States, [a w]ide presence in Africa and Europe and nobody else owns a data-base on that [such] as the one we have. We release only limited information to the Americans according to the request and the price is the armed movements file. The coming days carry a lot of surprises,” First Lt. General and Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein (page 24).
Only days after this meeting, the Libyan government caught the Bashir regime red-handed as a Sudanese government plane attempted to deliver ammunition to Islamist fighters inside of Libya. Earlier in 2014, the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan published its annual report, in which the experts raised serious concerns about alleged Sudanese support to Islamist fighters in Libya. According to another report by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya on the arms embargo imposed on the country, Sudan has continued to violate the embargo and transferred materiel to Libya, some by road, but mainly by air.
There are also multiple reports (see here, here, and here) of the Bashir regime hosting foreign Islamist fighters in various parts of the country for years, and sometimes even placing them amidst government militia units responsible for carrying out brutal attacks on Sudanese communities in Darfur.
The Bashir regime also continues to provide safehaven to a variety of terrorist organizations operating in other countries. In 2013, Mali Islamists guilty of a slew of war crimes including documented instances of gang rape, extrajudicial executions, and the use of child soldiers fled to Darfur, Sudan. The Bashir regime promptly denied their presence in Sudan despite photographic evidence and multiple sources, only to then send a representative to meet with the French government about their presence in Darfur.
The most recent example of the Sudanese government's support for terrorist organizations came only days ago, when activists and rights groups accused the Bashir regime of using jihadi units, which have existed for years, to attack and torture unarmed students during peaceful, anti-regime protests at universities in the country. These particular jihadi units were set up shortly after the Bashir regime seized power in 1989 as an avenue for recruiting fighters to the government's genocidal jihad in southern Sudan. Now the government is turning them against unarmed civilians in its ongoing campaign of violence and intimidation to remain in power.
While the Bashir regime continues to support international and regional terrorist groups as outlined above, it is ultimately millions of Sudanese citizens in the periphery regions of the country who suffer the most. In Darfur, the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, the Bashir regime continues to terrorize communities and innocent civilians by bombing their communities, schools, hospitals, markets, and places of worship. Where it is capable and not blocked by armed resistance, the Bashir regime uses its notorious Popular Support Forces militias to rape and murder on an alarming scale. In a particularly massive and gruesome series of genocidal attacks in January and February of 2016, the government of Sudan murdered or forcibly displaced virtually the entire population of Jebel Marra, Darfur. Within only a few weeks, over 100,000 survivors found themselves without homes and fearful of being hunted down following the deliberate burning over 150 communities by government forces..
It is clear that the Bashir regime's support of international, regional, and domestic terrorism continues to this day. The only major change is that the Sudanese government does not support such groups with the bravado, bluster, and overtness it once did. The United States government's acceptance of very occasional, partial, and ultimately worthless counter-terrorism assistance from the Bashir regime while turning a blind eye to its involvement in global terrorist networks only empowers the efforts of the Sudanese government.
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