On 23rd October, United States President Donald Trump informed Congress of his intent to formally rescind Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, a day after the Sudanese government transferred USD 335m into an escrow account for American terror victims and their families. In his certification of recission, the president stipulated that Sudan has not provided support for acts of international terrorism in the last six months and has provided assurances not to do so in the future.
Additionally, on 26th October President Trump certified that the Sudanese government had taken “demonstrable steps” to ensure that atrocities were not committed in Darfur by actors aligned with the state, as well as other measures to implement the agreements reached in the 2004 Nairobi Declaration on the Final Phase of Peace in the Sudan.
Sudan had been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, during the period when Osama bin Laden lived in the country as a guest of then president Omar al-Bashir. Its removal comes amid a backdrop of improved relations with the international community since al-Bashir’s deposal in April 2019. Most strikingly, Khartoum agreed to end its “state of belligerence” and begin “economic and trade relations” with Israel on the same day as President Trump’s action.
This followed the signing of a landmark peace deal in Sudan earlier in the month. On 3rd October, the Juba Peace Agreement was signed between the Sudanese government and rebel groups, including the Sudan Revolutionary Front. As a result of October’s developments, the US also announced the provision of USD 81m in humanitarian assistance to Sudan.
Agila Saleh Issa – President of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives – has been removed from the European Union’s sanctions list. The action, taken on 2nd October, came as a result of his recent “constructive engagement in support of a negotiated political solution” to the Libyan crisis. In the same action, Nuri Abu Sahmain – former ‘president’ of the General National Congress – was also delisted, on the basis of his “absence of any recent role in the Libyan political process”. The United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) removed both individuals from its own Libyan sanctions list on the same day.
Later in October, Libya’s warring factions signed a “permanent ceasefire” agreement. As part of the deal, all mercenaries and foreign fighters must leave the country within three months. This comes after progress was made in UN-backed negotiations in August, which led to a deal being reached with Haftar forces to lift partially its blockade on key oil fields. The developments have been welcomed by the African Union, US, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and EU, although the latter cautioned that it is ready to turn to its “instrument of sanctions against possible spoilers”.
Elsewhere, on 15th October the EU imposed targeted restrictive measures upon Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin. In doing so, it accused Prigozhin of “providing support for [PMC] Wagner Group’s activities in Libya”, including “repeated breaches of the arms embargo” and “deployment of mercenaries […] in support of the Libya National Army”. This action was mirrored by the OFSI on the same day.
Prigozhin is already subject to US sanctions, having first been designated by OFAC in December 2016. More recently, his networks in Sudan and the Central African Republic were also targeted.
On 5th October, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to lift the sanctions it had previously imposed on Mali in the aftermath of the military coup in August. The AU followed suit on 9th October, lifting its suspension of Mali as a member of the body.
Despite setbacks in September, the road towards the lifting of sanctions was paved by the military junta’s decision to remove a provision afforded to its leader – Colonel Assimi Goïta – which stipulated that he may replace the new civilian interim president – Bah Ndaw – during the transitional period. The amended Charter of the Transition, which was published on 1st October in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Mali, was welcomed by ECOWAS.
The EU’s sanctions regime against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaida has been renewed for another 12 months. The action, taken on 19th October, means the regime is now set to expire on 31st October 2021.
Earlier in October, the OFSI amended a number of listings on its ISIL/al-Qaida sanctions list. All 255 individuals and 84 entities, several of whom are African or based in Africa, remain subject to an asset freeze.
Elsewhere, the UNSC published its Panel of Experts’ report on al-Shabaab’s finances. In the report, dated 28th September, the panel noted that the group routinely moves money through the formal banking system in Somalia. It recommended that member states ensure that the UNSC’s Somalia sanctions list “comprehensively reflects the threat posed” by al-Shabaab and the Islamic State in Somalia. The panel also urged the Somalia sanctions committee to propose the deletion of deceased individuals from the list “in a timely manner”.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) called for a removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the EU, US and other western actors. The statement was made ahead of 25th October, which SADC has marked since 2019 as its “Anti-Sanctions Day”. On the day itself, the AU reaffirmed its demand for the “immediate and unconditional removal of sanctions” imposed against Zimbabwe.
The local bodies’ position has gained support from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also called for the “unconditional lifting” of these restrictive measures” and dismissed the existing sanctions as “illegal”. Conversely, Tibor Nagy of the US State Department contended that the measures “target those who violate human rights or engage in corruption”, rather than the Zimbabwean people.
Days later, Zimbabwe’s cabinet approved a bill that would make it a criminal offence for a local to campaign or call for the imposition of sanctions against the country. The draft legislation has been sent to parliament for approval.
Democratic Republic of Congo
On 23rd October, the White House continued the US national emergency with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which had been set to expire on 27th October, by a further year. The emergency was first declared in October 2006 by President George W. Bush, following “widespread violence and atrocities” in the DRC. In July 2014, President Barack Obama ordered for additional measures to be taken to deal with the national emergency. When extending the emergency last month, President Trump stated that the situation in the DRC “continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the US”.
Earlier in the month, on 20th October, the OFSI amended five entries on its DRC sanctions list. All remain subject to an asset freeze.
Elsewhere, the chair of the UNSC’s DRC sanctions committee disclosed that several proposed updates to the committee’s sanctions list have been circulated to member states for review.
The EU renewed its sanctions regime on Burundi on 29th October, with the measures now set to expire on 31st October 2021. The restrictive measures were first introduced in October 2015 in response to a deteriorating situation in the country in the wake of then president Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in office. The EU subsequently sanctioned individuals close to him for “undermining democracy”.
On 23rd October, the EU extended its sanctions regime on Guinea by a further 12 months, with the measures now set to expire on 27th October 2021. The regime was initially adopted in October 2010, during the rule of the National Council for Democracy and Development, a military junta that ruled the country between 2008 and 2010.
The mandate for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was extended by the UNSC until 31st October 2021. The mission was established by the council in 1991 in order to implement settlement proposals in the disputed territory, which had been agreed by Morocco and the Polisario Front in 1988.