After being on the State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list for nearly 27 years, Sudan’s new government is successfully working to transition itself from exile to a worldwide partner. Since the historic uprising from the Sudanese people in 2019– overthrowing President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year reign– its new government is focused on building a stable democracy and defining its position in the international community.
By the U.S. Department of State’s definition, a state sponsor of terrorism repeatedly provides support for acts of international terrorism. Since the list’s creation in 1979, only four countries have been designated as state sponsors of terror. On top of the prohibitive restrictions states on the list must face, anyone else found trading with guilty states can also be sanctioned under the same legislation. Following the dissolution of diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016, the United States began lightening up on sanctions placed on Sudan to reward the country for its new stance on counterterrorism and brutality against their own Sudanese citizens. Being on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list limited, if not completely restricted, any monetary or humanitarian assistance, or investments from the United States, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Now, Sudan is in desperate need of aid in order to recover their economy and finalize their shift to democracy. Getting taken on off the list also allows Sudan access to the international banking system and eases investors’ concerns about reputational risk. These factors could alleviate the stress Sudan is feeling under their free-falling economy.
Alongside the delisting process, Sudan and Israel have begun to normalize diplomatic relations, further legitimizing Sudan’s status in the international community. After years of hostility, Sudan recognized Israel as a State, joining Egypt and Jordan as the only two Arab states with diplomatic relations to the country. This comes after Sudan’s participation in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, headquartering the Three No’s” Resolution in Khartoum, which stated there would be no peace, recognition, and negotiation with Israel. With newly warming relations, Sudan and Israel can look at the many benefits peace can bring them. Sudan now has the possibility to enter into new markets utilizing Israel’s agriculture, arms and medical industries as well as benefiting Israel’s aviation industry. Israel also may aid Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in remedying conflict over the Blue Nile.
Looking back at the 2019 revolution, it is important to continue to highlight the key role women played in overthrowing al-Bashir and what little say they have in this emerging democracy. Best put into words by Alaa Salah – a Sudanese woman who became a symbol of the revolution – in a United Nations Security Council meeting:
“Women led resistance committees and sit-ins, planned protest routes and disobeyed curfews, even in the midst of a declared state of emergency that left them vulnerable to security forces. Many were teargassed, threatened, assaulted and thrown in jail without any charge or due process. However, despite this visible role, despite their courage and their leadership, women have been side-lined in the formal political process in the months following the revolution.”
The authoritarian regime, although composed of little women representation, had 4.5% more women in offices than the 22.22% female held positions in the Sudan military-civilian led democracy currently. Within Sudan’s transitional government, two of the eleven seats of the Sovereign Council of Sudan are held by women – Raja Nicola Adbul-Masseh and Ayesha Musa Saeed who are the first two women in Sudanese history to hold head of State positions. Underneath this council, there is a cabinet of eighteen ministers, four of which are female. Asma Mohamed Abdalla –Sudan’s first female Foreign minister– as the Minister of Foreign affairs; Wala’a Essam al-Boushi, the Minister of Youth and Sport; Intisar el Zein Soughayroun, Minister for Higher Education; and Lena el-Sheikh Mahjoub, Minister of Labor (or Welfare) and Social Development.
The theme of grassroot activism was prevalent throughout the Sudanese revolution, as civil society united under a common cause. The citizen-driven protests, many of which were organized and led by women, have demonstrated the country’s capacity for broad and diverse civic participation. Since the overthrow of Bashir, Sudanese citizens have continued to make their voices heard, gathering in the thousands to express frustration over slow reforms. Moving forward, the international community has a role to play in calling for transparency and accountability from the transitional government. With Sudan’s history and recent violence against protesters, it is vital that the interests of the Sudanese people are put first. Female inclusion into the political process brings a unity, transparency, broader agenda, and locality that has been missing in the Sudanese government. A peaceful formation of conflict resolution from new perspectives will create a diversified, yet strong new democracy. Sudanese women have demonstrated that their leadership is critical in affecting society-wide change and that they must be equally included in the transition process. Women’s participation was pivotal in the early stages of the revolution and should continue to be at the forefront of the transition as well.
DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute for International Leadership is a non-partisan "do-tank" that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.