Sanctions and Sudan

Why Washington Was Right to Lift Its Restrictions

A bank in Khartoum, Sudan, January 2016.  Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / REUTERS

On October 6, the United States announced that it would lift many of its longstanding sanctions against the government of Sudan. The time for removing the sanctions had come, U.S. officials argued, because Khartoum had lifted some bans on humanitarian aid and had been willing to cooperate with Washington on counterterrorism issues.

In truth, Sudan’s recent progress on those issues has been uneven but real, and the Donald Trump administration was right to remove some of the U.S. restrictions. Doing so will benefit Sudan’s small businesses, which have been languishing for decades without secure access to foreign investors and the international financial system.

A street vendor in Khartoum, Sudan, March 2010.
A street vendor in Khartoum, Sudan, March 2010. Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS


The United States first imposed sanctions against Sudan in 1997, citing the country’s support for international terrorism, human rights violations, and meddling in the politics of its neighbors, such as Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2006, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush expanded the scope of those sanctions, freezing the assets of some Sudanese officials involved in the conflict in Darfur, a region in the country’s west where security forces and government-backed militias were carrying out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Just over a decade later, in January 2017, U.S. President Barack Obama temporarily lifted some of the sanctions on Sudan, promising that the next administration would fully remove them later in the year if Khartoum’s behavior improved. Sudan would have to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism and take on the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group operating in the borderlands between Sudan and the Central African Republic. It would also have to curb the violence in Darfur and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where government forces have been fighting a rebellion led by a group called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. And it would have to allow humanitarian aid to reach previously unreachable government-controlled areas and end its intervention in South Sudan, ceasing

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