Feb 13, 2020 - World

Sudan seeks to change its global image

Celebrations in Khartoum last December marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan's transitional government has reached an agreement to compensate the families of victims of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole attack, which killed 17 sailors and injured 39, it said Thursday.

Why it matters: This is part of an effort to get off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan previously harbored al-Qaeda, which carried out the attack. The designation carries restrictions on foreign assistance and financial transactions that have strangled Sudan's economy.

The big picture: This is only one of several steps to clean up Sudan's international image taken by the joint military-civilian government that replaced brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir last year.

  • The most high-profile act was the announcement this week that Bashir will go before the International Criminal Court to face charges for war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
    • It's not yet clear where (or whether) a trial will take place.
  • Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also made a historic visit to the Nuba Mountains, a rebel stronghold, and opened the isolated region to foreign aid.
  • Meanwhile, the leader of Sudan's governing council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, held a landmark meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after decades of hostile relations.

What to watch: Sudan's economy is in shambles and its transition to democracy is far from certain. The delicate power-sharing deal with the generals is slated to continue until elections in late 2022.

  • "[W]ithout outside help, including financial, the risk is that its democratic experiment will slip backwards," David Pilling writes in the FT. "Without it, the path of Egypt or Myanmar beckons."
  • "In the age of President Donald Trump, it has no obvious champion in Washington. Nor do Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states currently propping up Sudan have much interest in seeing a vibrant democracy take hold."
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