As South Sudan gets ready to vote for independence what does the future hold? Will the U.S lifts sanctions on Sudan if Khartoum compleys with the international community? That what seems to be likely happening recently based on news reports. The United States has conditioned its willingness to accelerate the process of removing Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism provided that Sudan fully implements its obligations under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), including preparing and conducting a January 9, 2011, referendum in southern Sudan and respecting the referendum results.
According to senior Obama administration officials, Sudan’s compliance with its 2005 obligations will “move up our readiness to rescind the designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism as early as July 2011.”
The officials spoke to reporters via teleconference November 7 and asked not to be identified. They said U.S. Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reinforced the proposal on behalf of President Obama to Sudanese leaders in recent meetings he held in the region.
“This is a part of our ongoing commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is fully implemented, the referendum is carried out on time and is credible on January 9,” an official said.
Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993 due to its links with international terrorist organizations. Terrorist leaders including Carlos the Jackal, Osama bin Laden and Abu Nidal resided in Khartoum during the 1980s and 1990s. The designation prohibits Sudan from buying or receiving U.S. armaments and from receiving any U.S. economic assistance, in addition to other restrictions.
Along with fully implementing the CPA, the senior officials said Sudan will also need to “live up to all of the legal conditions required under law” for it to be taken off the state sponsors list, such as “not support[ing] international terrorism for the preceding six months” and giving “assurances that they will not resume providing that kind of support to international terrorism.”
An official noted that the George W. Bush administration took similar actions to remove North Korea and Libya from the state sponsors list during its tenure.
Although the U.S. offer decouples Sudan’s terrorism designation from the humanitarian and political crisis in Darfur, a senior official noted that comprehensive sanctions enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2003 and 2004 will remain until the Darfur crisis is resolved.
“The U.S. government and the international community expect to see … no attacks on civilians, humanitarian access, no impeding of [the United Nations Mission in Darfur], and, obviously, we will continue to watch those steps very clearly,” the official said.
“There is no way of getting long-term debt relief without the resolution of Darfur, or final improvement of relations to exchange of ambassadors and that sort of thing without improvement in Darfur,” a second official said.
The Obama administration’s offer to Sudan reflects its commitment that “we have to do everything that we possibly can to see that the referenda [in southern Sudan and Abyei] … are held on time and that we do as much as we possibly can to ensure that the outcome is a peaceful one rather than a resumption of conflict,” an official said.
U.S. officials have heard through African leaders with high-level contacts in Khartoum that the U.S. offer “might be a step that would be useful in convincing the Sudanese to have an on-time referendum and one that is credible,” according to an official.
“It’s very clear the steps that the government of Sudan has to take to meet the criteria to be taken off the state sponsors of terrorism list, and it’s our hope that they take those steps,” the official said.
The U.S. is on record of supporting South Sudan’s independence if it votes in favor of it. Recently last week U.S. Senator John Kerry, head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S congress was in Sudan.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry said Friday Sudan’s northern government will win quick U.S. incentives if an independence referendum in the south goes smoothly, but further improvement of ties depends on progress toward peace in the separate conflict in Darfur.
Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, is in Sudan ahead of the critical referendum on independence for southern Sudan. The vote is a key element of a 2005 peace agreement that ended the 21-year civil war between the Arab-dominated north and the mainly Christian, animist south. Some 2 million people were killed in the conflict.
Kerry said he has seen a positive shift in the Khartoum government’s approach toward the Jan. 9 referendum, which is expected to see the oil-rich south split off from the north into an independent country.
“They deserve credit for making the decision to follow through and deliver on the (peace agreement),” Kerry said. “I think there has been a constructive change there and we need to follow from there.”
But Kerry, on his fourth visit to Sudan, said resolving the war in the western Darfur region remains an important “matrix” in a U.S. incentives package to the Khartoum government.
He said if the referendum goes smoothly and the north accepts the results, Obama is prepared to “immediately” initiate the process to remove Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, which Khartoum has been on since 1993. Kerry called the move a confidence building measure.
Relations between Sudan and the U.S. have soured since President Omar al-Bashir’s government came to power in 1989. The U.S. imposed economic, trade and financial sanctions against Sudan in 1997, and added new ones in 2007 because of the Darfur conflict. President Obama renewed the economic sanctions in a letter to Congress in November, a requirement by law every year.
Kerry said lifting economic sanctions would require progress toward a peace deal in Darfur.
“Darfur remains a very critical issue and center of our focus and I went there today to purposely link the future of Sudan to our ability to resolve what happens in Darfur,” he said.
Kerry visited Shangil Tobyai, a village in northern Darfur Friday, where thousands of newly displaced fled to from recently renewed violence. He said he hoped the referendum process and the international focus on Sudan will give impetus to a new push toward making peace in Darfur.
On a previous trip to Sudan in November, Kerry shared with the Khartoum government a letter from President Barack Obama laying out the way forward for a gradual improvement of relations with Washington. He revealed details publicly from the letter for the first time on Friday.
“This is an integrated process and as the president has laid out, Darfur is one of the elements of consideration but the (peace) agreements are very critical,” he said.
Outstanding issues following the southern referendum that still need to be resolved before the peace agreement expires in July this year include border disputes and citizenship rights as well as oil revenue sharing, he said.
“But you can move on one thing or another thing before you have everything completed,” he said. “There has to be a show of good faith on both sides. That requires us to do something when it is appropriate and it requires them to continue to do things.”
Darfur has been in turmoil since 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have died 2.7 million have been forced from their homes because of the conflict.
Fighting has subsided in much of Darfur, but there have been recent clashes between government troops and rebel forces. The uptick in violence comes as peace negotiations between rebel groups and the government in the tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar have stalled.
Kerry commended the Qataris on their role in Darfur peacemaking, but said he thinks the talks need to move to a more visible, larger stage. He said rebel groups should participate, not boycott the talks.
“We are looking for a serious process here and we are going do everything we can in order to advance this process,” he said.
The ball seems to be in President Bashir’s court. What actions he takes as of now and tomorrow will impact how foreign leaders, officials and government treat Sudan on the international stage. South Sudan might have the majority of the oil reserves, but the majority of infastructure to export that oil for revenue goes through northern east Sudan where Khartoum is in control. If South Sudan is able to gain, get control of the oil reserves, manage to sell it on international markets without the help of Khartoum, that will be the end of President Bashir and Sudan as a country since it would no longer have an economic base of survival and stability.
The big concern has been the possibility of a return to war by north Sudan and south Sudan. That shouldn’t be expected since both sides have an interest in not returning to war, especially the north. Both sides share an interest in oil revenue, so that will keep heads calm in the region since they both heavily rely on it. It is in the best interest of both sides to develop a plan to both profit from the resources, the only problem might be leadership, especially if President Bashir is still in power.