Washington, DC – Darfur Women Action Group calls on the United States to not lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list until Sudanese officials who previously established ties with and supported international terrorist organizations are held accountable.
Ex-president Omar Al-Bashir came to power in Sudan in 1989 via a military coup. His regime is defined by attempts to Arabize and Islamize the entire country – then the largest in Africa. Part of Bashir’s plot included the systematic establishment of strong ties with Islamic fundamentalist organizations such as the infamous Al-Qaeda. Specifically, the regime’s decision to provide shelter to Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990’s led the United States to declare Sudan as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Under Bashir, Sudan not only continued its support for terrorist organizations worldwide but was also actively involved in organizing attacks against the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Sudanese government has only recently admitted guilt to such doings and been ordered to pay a fine.
Pursuing a course of change, we find it extremely alarming that the United States and the Interim Government of Sudan have ignored accountability for individuals affiliated with the Sudanese fundamentalists responsible for terrorism. We believe accountability to be particularly important both in punishing perpetrators for past wrongdoings and in deterring against the occurrence of future crimes.
Despite al-Bashir’s removal on April 11, 2019, his totalitarian influence is still very much present in Sudan. Two generals with close association to the former regime now control the interim government’s decision-making body – the Sovereign Council (formerly the Transitional Military Council). Given General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti)’s affiliations with the former regime’s tactics and brutal responses to peaceful protests this year, it is highly unlikely that they will surrender power to civilian rule after the designated interim period of 21 months.
Furthermore, while asking to be delisted as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, current Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has altogether denied Sudan’s involvement with terrorist organization and has not taken any serious steps toward individual accountability. Members of the previous Islamic regime continue to act with impunity, conversely pushing the narrative that their own interests are under attack. Prominent extremist religious scholars are organizing rallies in the country, spreading their messages via Facebook videos, and calling for assistance from their global allies. The risk of an uptick in extremist violence both in Sudan and elsewhere ought to capture the attention of US policymakers.
Several United States diplomats – most prominently Special Envoy Donald Booth – claim that Sudan has not recently been involved in supporting terrorism. However, the truth is that students from a prominent Sudanese university owned by one of Bashir’s leading regime affiliates were recruited as jihadists in 2016-2017. They were caught while traveling through Turkish borders to join ISIS. The university is still operating, and the individuals involved were not apprehended.
It is also worth noting that Bashir’s support and housing of terrorists threatens national security for both the United States and Sudan. Additionally, al-Bashir himself is wanted for the world’s most serious crimes – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed against the people of Darfur. Regrettably, Sudan’s interim government has demonstrated no commitment to hold Bashir and his affiliates accountable. Evidence for such is the recent sham trial and two-year prison sentence for Bashir on charges of corruption rather than those of serious international crimes. This suggests that any government led by General al-Burhan and Hemedti cannot be differentiated from the previous regime.
I, alongside millions of other Sudanese, thus submit the following demands:
To categorically reject any US-based lobby groups’ calls for the US government to accelerate granting Sudanese officials a free path to impunity for the serious crime of supporting worldwide terrorism. The United States must conduct its own investigation and transparently verify any acquitting evidence to its American and Sudanese constituencies before delisting Sudan.
To have the Sudanese interim government do its own due diligence by holding those supporting terrorism and committing genocide accountable. This will prove to the world and to the Sudanese people that they are willing and committed to fight against all kinds of crimes even before the country is rewarded with international assistance.
To have the US government not delist Sudan before the interim government performs such actions in holding former regime members accountable. This includes justice for the crimes of terrorism committed against US and global citizens, as well as for the crimes of genocide committed against the people of Darfur.
To have the US government track and freeze the assets of the fundamentalist members of al-Bashir’s regime and restore it to the Sudanese public purse.
To impose a travel ban, asset freezing, and targeted sanctions against Bashir’s former affiliates – many of whom are still free to travel the country.
To have the US Department of State establish clear benchmarks for accountability and prevention of future wrongdoing that will guide the actions of the interim government.
In summary, we urge the conclusion that US policy toward Sudan must not prioritize reward before accountability. It must demand and incentivize the interim government to take responsibility before asking for international assistance. This stance is based on the universal principles of accountability, human rights, and respect for human dignity. The US must make it clear to the fundamentalists in Sudan that impunity for terrorism or genocide is not an option.
Niemat Ahmadi, President, Darfur Women Action Group