At Paris Summit, US adds economic assistance in support to Sudan, urges end to Darfur conflict

The United States will do “all it can” to support Sudan’s transition to democracy, including by providing debt relief and additional economic support, USAID Administrator Samantha Power said on Monday in remarks at the Paris Summit on Sudan.

The 30-year rule of Omar al-Bashir – who took power in a coup in 1989 and whose regime was toppled in a military coup amidst protests calling for his removal in 2019 – had isolated Sudan politically and saddled it with a large debt burden.

French President Emmanuel Macron convened the Summit to build international support for debt relief and additional economic assistance as Sudan’s transitional government works to implement economic reforms and maintain peace and stability, both which are seen as critical to its three-year long political transition and reintegration into the global community.

“After decades of violence, and repression, it is time for Sudan to reclaim its voice in the concert of nations and to ensure the country is able to turn the page from its dark past,” Power said.

Relieving its debt burden of some $50 billion would facilitate access to external financing for which developing the agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and information technology sectors is a priority.

This in turn would make the economy more attractive to private trade and investment. Additionally, the IMF notes that debt relief can also free up resources to increase spending on health and education, for example. 

So far, the U.S. has provided a $1.5 billion “bridge loan” to clear Sudan’s arrears with the World Bank and will provide grants to “help fill additional financing gaps” to support the economy and help address the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several European countries have provided bridge loans to Sudan to clear arrears with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank and will also provide grants.

And the goal now is for other countries to provide debt relief. France called for all bi-lateral creditors to provide debt relief in a “coordinated and equitable manner” starting in June and to do so through the IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

Power noted that the U.S. has provided “full bi-lateral debt forgiveness” to every country that has reached its “completion point” under the HIPC Initiative, meaning a country has taken measures to implement poverty reduction and other economic reforms agreed to at the initial “decision point”.

The IMF has said that Sudan “has made tangible progress toward establishing a strong track record of policy required” to achieve its completion point to access the full agreed-to debt relief.

Power highlighted the measure to float the Sudanese pound, which she said would support “long-term economic stability,” though this and other measures may impose economic hardship in the near-term if people and businesses aren’t supported.  

Besides providing economic assistance to Sudan, the U.S. has been working with the Sudanese leadership on a diplomatic resolution to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia – the latter two countries also participated in the Summit. Other African countries to participate were Rwanda and South Sudan.

And the GERD dispute is just one of the “regional flash points” the U.S. is committed to assisting Sudan in seeking a resolution. It is also committed to assisting Sudan in managing conflict on its borders.

Power on Monday urged those involved in conflict to work towards peace, particularly in the western Darfur region, which she said “is still the site of bitter violence,” noting the “escalating attacks” between militias and the Rapid Support Forces.

She noted that the Sudanese government has sent additional troops to the region.

But more than resolving the conflict in Darfur, Power called on the Sudanese government to “redress grievances,” and protect and include marginalized people in Sudan’s development.

“Sudan cannot embrace its bright future if it falls victim to ghosts of its past,” she said.

Power underscored the role women played in the 2019 protest movement that led to the overthrow of the al-Bashir regime, noting that 70 percent of protestors were estimated to have been women.

While Power noted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s “public support of women’s rights,” France urged Sudan to form a Transitional Legislative Council with a “significant” percentage of women, said President Macron in a statement.

According to the 2019 constitutional declaration, women are to make up a minimum 40 percent of the 300- member Council, though women’s rights advocates in Sudan have said that is not sufficient. Last year, they called for greater representation in all levels of government.

In February, Prime Minister Hamdok announced a new cabinet that he reportedly described as “inclusive”. Appointees included leaders of rebel groups and Mariam Assadiq Al Mahdi as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Participants in the Summit on Monday included representatives of 20 countries, the EU, the UN, the African Union (AU), the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.  

Chairman of the Sovereignty Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Hamdok of Sudan also participated.

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