US President Barack Obama formally renewed US sanctions on Sudan under his new strategy of keeping up pressure while offering incentives to the Khartoum government.
The one-year extension, which Obama made official in a notice to the US Congress, followed his announcement earlier this month of a new carrot-and-stick policy aimed at ending violence in Sudan’s Darfur region and the semi-autonomous South.
Obama, who during last year’s US presidential campaign urged a tougher line on Khartoum, has justified the shift as necessary to prevent the oil-rich African giant from falling further into chaos.
Unveiling the revised strategy on October 19, the administration set goals to end war crimes in Darfur and ensure implementation of a fraying 2005 peace deal between Khartoum and former southern rebels ahead of national elections next year and a 2011 referendum on southern secession.
Announcement of the new Sudan policy followed months of speculation which saw Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration a proponent of more engagement with Khartoum pitted against more sceptical members of the administration. The result, many analysts agreed, was a compromise.
US officials said Washington’s outreach to Khartoum would not include President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, indicted in March by the International Criminal Court for war crimes while fighting mostly non-Arab rebels in Darfur.
Message to congress
The United Nations says more than 2 million people were driven from their homes and some 300 000 people died in the Darfur crisis, although levels of conflict have fallen since the mass killings of 2003 and 2004. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10 000.
In his message to Congress, Obama said the actions and policies of the Sudan government “pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
“Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to Sudan and maintain in force the sanctions against Sudan to respond to this threat,” he wrote.
Sudan has been under US sanctions that have been expanded in stages since the late 1990s. It is on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and a number Sudanese officials have been targeted for individual asset freezes and travel bans.
The renewed sanctions restrict United States trade with and investment in Sudan, block all property of the Sudanese government in the United States and ban transactions with individuals and entities determined to be contributing to the conflict in Darfur.
“The renewal of these tough sanctions is a testament to the United States’ continued commitment to improving the lives of the Sudanese people,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, there will be increased pressure from the United States and the international community,” he said. The United States has not specified what the incentives might be.