CAIRO (AP) — Germany’s top diplomat said Tuesday his country has been working to readmit Sudan into the international economy after the military’s overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April amid mass protests against his three-decade rule.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas landed in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, in the first such visit to the African country by a top German diplomat since 2011.
His trip was part of Germany’s efforts to help overhaul Sudan’s battered economy and reach peace with armed groups, which remain among the top challenges facing the country’s new administration.
It came two weeks after the formation of a power-sharing government by the pro-democracy movement and the generals, which will rule Sudan for a little more than three years until elections can be held.
Maas said at a joint news conference in Khartoum with Sudan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok that Berlin would discuss with the international community ways to end Sudan’s international pariah status.
He said his government would also discuss with the parliament, or Bundestag, in Berlin ways to cooperate on economic development with the new government in Sudan.
Maas also met with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council. He said he “stressed the importance of transferring power to a civilian government.”
The United States named Sudan a state sponsor of terror in 1993, and the designation stuck through the al-Bashir regime. In 2017, Washington began a formal process to de-list Sudan, but this was put on hold when mass protests began in December. Moves to de-list Sudan could resume once the country’s political situation has stabilized.
Hamdok, the prime minister, said he has held a “long discussion” with the U.S. administration about removing Sudan from Washington’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
“We are expecting a big breakthrough that will lead to removing Sudan from the terror list,” he said. “It is a convenient circumstance.”
De-listing Sudan would allow the transitional government to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, part of its efforts to revive the ailing economy.
Hamdok told a local TV station last month that Sudan needs up to $8 billion in foreign aid in the next two years and another $2 billion deposited as reserves to shore up the plunging local currency.
Sudan was plunged into an economic crisis when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 after decades of war, taking with it more than half of public revenues and 95% of exports. Sudan has been battling rebellions in its long-neglected provinces for decades and is nearly $60 billion in debt.
Hamdok also said at the news conference that he would work with rebel groups to achieve “sustainable peace” that would eventually lead to a slash in military spending, which takes up as much as 80% of the state budget.
Sudan has also been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades, and while a rebel alliance has joined the pro-democracy coalition, it argues that it should be represented in the transitional government.
The power-sharing deal calls for the government to reach a peace agreement with the rebels within six months.
The Sovereign Council said Hamdok, a former U.N. official, would announce his Cabinet within 48 hours. According to the power-sharing agreement, the protest-appointed Cabinet was to have been announced late in August.
Hamdok is to form a Cabinet of not more than 20 ministers, but the military will nominate the defense and interior ministers.
He said his talks with the protest leaders are underway to ensure adequate representation for women and all of Sudan’s regions in the transitional government.
In another development, the sovereign council agreed to restore the BBC’s broadcasting license, ending a ban imposed by al-Bashir’s government on the British network’s Arabic service in 2010, the state-run SUNA news agency said Tuesday.