photo by jon nicholson

news - Sudan's new Cold War gambit

january 10th, 2018

Note: This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill and was written by John Prendergast and Omer Ismail.

In an unexpected move at the end of last year, Sudan’s President Omar Bashir traveled to Russia and appealed to President Vladimir Putin for protection from the United States. Strangely, this occurred only a month after the United States prematurely moved towards normalizing relations with the very abnormal government of Sudan by removing comprehensive sanctions on the country. Bashir purchased fighter jets from Russia and discussed with Putin the creation of a Russian military base on the Red Sea.

Is this the opening salvo in dragging Africa into a new Cold War, in which tinpot dictators play Russia and the United States off against each other on the African side of the strategic Red Sea corridor? Bashir’s regime has a three-decade history of brutal oppression of ethnic and religious minorities, including forced displacement, endless and forgotten wars, mass killings, the demolition of churches, and extreme religious intolerance. Internationally, it has supported terrorist and extremist groups, destabilized its neighbors, and is designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Sudan is one of the most corrupt and economically mismanaged countries in Africa, so new investment resulting from sanctions relief, including by a U.S. corporate trade mission to Sudan in early December, will not benefit Sudan’s people, but rather a small group of regime leaders who control economic activity. Further, terrorist networks, traffickers, and other transnational criminal operations will also see opportunities to exploit the loose edges of expanding illicit financial activity.

Given that new black markets may accelerate with Sudan’s burgeoning global business, the U.S. and broader international community should be on high alert for any indications of a surge of criminal trade in or out of Sudan, and to ensure that early warning systems, anti-money laundering measures, and due diligence protocols are fully activated within relevant law enforcement bodies, regulatory agencies, customs offices, and banks. This is particularly the case now with the deepening ties between Bashir and Putin.

Read the full op-ed in The Hill here.



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