The president added that Sudan would need to deposit the funds before it would be taken off the terrorism list.
In a response to the tweet, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok thanked Trump and stressed that the designation had caused serious “harm” to Sudan.
Removing Sudan from the list is expected to provide a significant economic boost to the country. Since 1993, the designation has barred the government from international dollar transactions and thwarted investments and the country’s ability to pay off interest-laden loans totaling tens of billions of dollars.
But the expected move carries risks for the fledging government in Khartoum.
Talks nearly faltered in the past several weeks as Sudanese officials feared that a rushed recognition of Israel, without a large-enough economic relief package to sweeten the deal, could turn popular support against a precarious, unelected transitional government, which took power after Sudan’s longtime autocratic ruler was overthrown last year.
As a result, the Monday announcement did not include any mention of Israel, which is unpopular in Sudan.
“At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!” Trump tweeted.
Officials expect Sudanese officials to announce the recognition of Israel at a later date.
Still, analysts described it as a watershed moment for a fragile government seeking to overcome its pariah status.
“This announcement has both huge symbolic and practical meaning to Sudan,” said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former chief of staff to the State Department’s special envoy to Sudan. “Practically, it removes a stigma that has deterred outside investment. It also frees up the international financial institutions and other commercial banks to reenter the country. This will move Sudan away from cash-based financing and through more diverse and reputable banking partners in the U.S. and Europe.”
Some in Congress have worried that a deal would jeopardize compensation funds for the families of American victims of the terrorist attacks targeting the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000. The victims’ families are seeking a $335 million settlement from Sudan because of its role in harboring the men who carried out the plots.
Democrats in Congress are holding up legislation that would restore Sudan’s sovereign immunity, the legal doctrine that makes governments immune to civil suits or criminal prosecution. Sudan lost that immunity when it was put on the U.S. terrorism-sponsor list.
The delisting comes at a crucial moment of economic vulnerability for Sudan. Inflation has spiraled past 200 percent, and basic items including wheat and gas are in short supply. In some cases, lines at food stores and gas stations stretch for miles. Meanwhile, the worst flooding in a century has left more than half a million people homeless and destroyed a season of harvest. Pandemic-related border closures have dramatically reduced exports and driven up unemployment.
Much of Sudan’s hinterland remains in low-level conflict, suppressing regional economies, and the country has still barely recovered from the economic shock of South Sudan’s secession in 2011, which caused a sudden decline in oil revenue for the government in Khartoum.
Economic troubles, and bread lines in particular, served as the spark for street protests that swept Sudan in early 2019 and precipitated the military’s ouster of Omar al-Bashir, who had led the country for 30 years and stands accused of war crimes and genocide by the International Criminal Court in addition to claims by his critics of ruinous economic mismanagement. (ICC representatives were in Sudan this week to discuss the possibility of trying Bashir without removing him from prison in Khartoum.)
Sudan’s prime minister, formerly an economist and now head of a transitional civilian government that shares power with a council of generals, had been pushing through economic reforms. Last month, the International Monetary Fund announced a key step forward in that process: a year-long monitoring program that, once complete, could couple with the terrorism delisting as the basis for clearing all of Sudan’s arrears to international lending institutions if the country’s reforms were found to be sincere and fully implemented.
“Sudan’s external debt is high and with long-standing arrears which severely limit access to external borrowing,” Antoinette Sayeh, deputy managing director and acting chair of the IMF’s executive board, said in a statement. “A strong track record of macroeconomic performance and implementation of reforms, together with a comprehensive strategy of arrears clearance and debt relief supported by Sudan’s development partners, is required for addressing Sudan’s high debt overhang.”
The upcoming rapprochement with Israel represents a major reversal from the Bashir era. For decades, Sudan was one of Israel’s staunchest opponents, and Bashir offered funding and arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas and Hezbollah — part of the United States’ reasoning for designating Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. Sudan also harbored Osama bin Laden until 1996, though it denies any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Many Sudanese say that because Bashir has been removed from office, their country should already have been taken off the terrorism list.
While both governments have sought to portray the two issues as separate, the normalization of ties with Israel had not been part of Hamdok’s plan until American negotiators introduced it as part of a delisting deal. The issue remains hugely contentious in Sudan, where pro-Palestinian sentiment is strong, and groups from across the political spectrum have expressed displeasure, if not anger, with the unelected transitional government for allowing it into the delisting process.
For that reason, some analysts criticized the Trump administration effort as self-serving and potentially reckless.
“Washington should already have delivered the kind of political and economic relief necessary for Sudan’s make-or-break transition to succeed,” said Zach Vertin, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Instead, the Trump administration held out, extorting a fragile democracy in the service of its own domestic political ends.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of the settlement Sudan would pay for harboring the men who carried out the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sudan would pay $335 million, not $355 million, to the victims or their survivors.
Bearak reported from Nairobi.