- Catholic News Agency - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Despite Sudan’s recent compliance with U.S. guidelines, one expert thinks there’s not enough information to warrant a complete removal of sanctions against the country. 

“In the case of Sudan, the same cast of characters, the same power base that promotes a perverted and violent expression of Islam is still in power,” David Dettoni, senior adviser to the Sudan Relief Fund, told a congressional panel April 26.

“Look at Sudan’s ‘President.’ It is still Omar Bashir,” Dettoni said. “He and his power base are still intact and I do not think their fundamental belief system has changed.”

Dettoni recognized that reduced sanctions may have played a part in the “cease fire” in the South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State – areas Bashir had previously used criminal like tactics towards opposing forces.

However, he’s concerned that the U.S. Special Envoy currently elected to analyze Sudan’s improvements has not been to these areas in which saw the most bloodshed and tribulation. And because of this, he thinks there isn’t enough accurate information to determine if the country has met the criteria necessary for the sanctions removal.

Nearly a week before leaving office, President Barack Obama eased Sudan’s sanctions, allowing the country the ability to trade with U.S. firms. The sanctions would be further removed after five points of criteria were met. A report established by the Special Envoy in Sudan and South Sudan, will be expected to the given to President Donald Trump in June.

Dettoni suggested that Congress draft legislation to revise the sanctions, allowing for periods of modification thereafter.

During Omar Bashir’s rise to power, he issued the executions and imprisonment of many political leaders, journalists, and high ranking military officers. Teaming up with the National Islamic Front, he established Sharia, or Islamic Law, at a national level.

The New York Times cited the country as having “instituted one of the strictest Muslim fundamentalist social orders in the world,” in 1993 after eight terrorists had been detained in Paris with ties to Sudan – describing the country as a sort of breeding ground for Islamic extremists. The men had been suspected of planning and in process of carrying out a terrorist act in New York City. During his testimony, Dettoni also mentioned that Sudan in the 1990s was home to al Qaeda – the terrorist group responsible for bombing the Twin Towers on Sept.11, 2001.

The Sudanese civil wars, claiming nearly 2 million lives, were finally ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and what is now South Sudan was offered the possibility to vote for their secession.

However, other areas of the peace agreement were ignored by Bashir toward the Sudan People’s Liberation Army located in Sudan, and he continued scrimmages in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, areas straddling the border between both countries. The violence was notably significant in Abyei, located within the state of South Kordofan.

“In May 2011, Khartoum invaded Abyei, burning, looting, destroying, killing and forcing the removal of over 100,000 Ngok Dinka,” he said.

In order for the 20 year-long sanctions to be completely removed, the Obama administration issued five areas needed for improvement: “ceasing hostilities in Darfur and the Two Areas (South Kordofan and the Blue Nile), improving humanitarian access, ending negative interference in South Sudan, enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism, and addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army.”

Dettoni acknowledged the recent improvements in areas regarding refugees, humanitarian access, and decreased violence in the states along the Sudan-South Sudan border.

He said 380,000 South Sudanese and an estimated 200,000 Eritreans have been given refuge in Sudanese camps, which he claimed to be “tough” but that at least Sudan has “allowed these very vulnerable and suffering people to have a form of refuge.”

However, he remains skeptical of the millions of Euros provided by the European Union to curve the inflow of illegal immigrants, known to bottleneck at Sudan. He proposed the money used to beef up Sudan’s border force may also be used to violently suppress the victims of years passed.

Dettoni also suggested the possibility that Bashir’s compliance with U.S. guidelines is being used “as leverage for political or other goals that they want to achieve” specifically “to loosen sanctions, gain respect, gain valuable foreign currency.” 

He requested President Donald Trump’s immediate action to publicly appoint a Special Envoy who would travel to and analyze South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State, and that the president should meet personally with Bashir and other African leaders.

Dettoni also asked President Trump to amend the previous executive order from the Obama administration or ask Congress to draw up legislation to limit Sudan’s sanctions, which would be reviewable every 180 days or annually. He suggests that the executive branch to draft a review in writing and be submitted to Congress and the president two months before the sanctions can be lifted in July.

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