Bashir visits Darfur ahead of US sanctions decision


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited war-torn Darfur in an effort to show his country is ready to have 20-year-old sanctions lifted just weeks before Washington is expected to announce a decision.

In July the Trump administration postponed for three months the decision to permanently lift sanctions, setting October 12 as a deadline for Sudan to meet conditions, including resolving conflicts and stepping up humanitarian efforts.

Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-led government. A joint African Union-UN peacekeeping operation (UNAMID) has been on the ground for the past decade.

Fighting between the army and rebels in the southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions broke out again in 2011 when South Sudan declared independence.

Sudan announced short-term truces in these regions in June and October 2016, after which fighting eased in Blue Nile and Kordofan but carried on in Darfur. Bashir has extended a ceasefire in response to the US moves.
“After security and stability, comes development,” Bashir said in a speech. He said Darfur’s security is recovering and insisted arms will only be in the hands of state forces.

Just before leaving office, former US President Barack Obama temporarily eased penalties against Sudan, suspending a trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing sanctions.

His decision was delayed for six months to allow Sudan time to meet the conditions which included co-operating with the US to fight terrorism and improving its human rights record.

Gabriel Belal, spokesman fopr the Justice and Equality movement, one of the main rebel groups in Darfur, criticised Bashir’s two-day visit, saying it gave a wrong image to the international community that the war was over.
“Bashir’s visit is not welcomed by the people of Darfur because he personally issued direct orders for ethnic cleansing,” Belal said.
“Security, humanitarian and political conditions are tense in Darfur and there’s no prospect for a political resolution.”