By Nabeel Biajo | | Voice of America
WASHINGTON – The United States government announced this week it will begin visa restrictions on people believed to be undermining Sudan’s civilian-led government. The order will affect former officials of ousted President Omar Al Bashir’s administration and others, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The Trump administration will implement visa restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 212(a)(3)(C) on individuals residing inside and outside Sudan “believed to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in undermining the transitional government’s efforts to implement the July 17, 2019, Political Agreement and August 17, 2019, Constitutional Declaration,” the statement said.
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Individuals who engage in corruption or abuse the human rights of citizens will also be denied U.S. visas, according to Pompeo.
Sudan’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., Amira Agarib, welcomed the decision.
“We consider this a positive move, and it indicates that our relationship with the U.S. is evolving and that we are making progress in getting Sudan removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Agarib told South Sudan in Focus.
A longtime Sudanese analyst was not impressed with the announcement. In a tweet, Eric Reeves, a 20-plus year Sudanese analyst and Senior Fellow at Harvard University said, “Unless the name of the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (#Hemeti) is on the list, it is nothing more than a charade by the Trump administration – not a serious effort to end violations of human rights in Sudan.”
On Tuesday the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released the Sudan Program and Darfur Sanctions Guidance, which loosens restrictions on individuals and companies doing business in Sudan.
“U.S. persons are no longer prohibited from engaging in transactions with respect to Sudan or the Government of Sudan that were previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations,” OFAC said.
OFAC’s sanctions on individuals and entities accused of being involved with the conflict in Darfur remain in effect. Sudan also remains on the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List, although transitional government officials have been trying to get Sudan off the list.
U.S.-based companies including Microsoft and Zoom Video Communications are already working in Sudan, according to Agarib.
“The U.S. is now allowing American companies to do business with Sudan, and this is an additional step and a follow-up on the U.S. government’s decision in 2017 to lift economic sanctions that had prevented U.S.-based banks and other institutions from doing business with Sudan, and this further shows that Sudan is now a priority to the U.S.,” Agarib told VOA.
Imposing visa restrictions on individuals who undermine the transitional government “reflects the Department of State’s commitment to work with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok,” civil society activists and others who want to deliver freedom and justice to the Sudanese people, Pompeo said in his statement.
“This shows that Sudanese-American relations are in the process of being normalized, and we expect very soon that Sudan will be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Agarib told VOA.
Sudan’s new ambassador to the United States, Noureldin Satti, arrived in Washington a few weeks ago. It marks the first time in more than 20 years that Sudan is being represented at the ambassador level in Washington following three decades of bad U.S.-Sudan relations during Bashir’s rule.
Carol Van Dam contributed to this story.
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