Sudan has taken another step to shake off its past as a pariah state, two years after the country’s longtime leader was ousted. And on Wednesday, the country received a big boost from the Trump administration.


For decades, Sudan was known as an international pariah state, but officials have been working there to build democracy since the country’s longtime leader was ousted two years ago. Today, Sudan received a boost from the Trump administration after signing a pledge to normalize relations with Israel. NPR’s Michele Kelemen has the story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the last administration official to visit Khartoum. And today, in an event broadcast by Sudanese public television, he and the Minister of Justice of African nations signed the Abraham Accords, intended to strengthen relations between the Arab states and Israel.


STEVEN MNUCHIN: It’s a great honor to be here with you today. And I think we will have a huge impact on the people of Israel and the people of Sudan as they continue to work together on cultural and economic opportunities.

KELEMEN: Sudan had already agreed to this, but today it formalized its intention by signing a document with Mnuchin. The Trump administration convinced three other Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel – Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. All in return for incentives provided by the United States. In the case of Sudan, the United States was already seeking to strengthen a faltering new government. Now, as part of that deal, he has removed the African nation that once housed Osama bin Laden from the list of terrorist sponsoring states. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin also announced that the United States will help Sudan repay its debt to the World Bank with a bridging loan of more than $ 1 billion.


MNUCHIN: This will create significant positive opportunities for Sudan by releasing significant amounts of funds to both the World Bank, the IMF and the United States.

HIBA AHMED: (spoken language not English).

KELEMEN: Sudanese Acting Finance Minister Hiba Ahmed signed the MoU with Mnuchin and said it would help Sudan access around $ 1 billion a year in World Bank funding for the first time in nearly three decades. That’s good news, says Cameron Hudson, who worked on Sudan at the State Department and is now part of the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

CAMERON HUDSON: It’s an economic lifeline they need. They must be able to clear their arrears to the World Bank, get on the path to debt relief so that they can start to turn around the economy and, most importantly, be able to demonstrate to the Sudanese people that There is an advantage that comes from rejecting an autocratic regime and moving towards democratic governance.

KELEMEN: It has been almost two years since the longtime leader of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted. Since then, the transitional government has struggled to exit international sanctions while grappling with a financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hudson says he hopes the new Biden team will follow through on promises made by the Trump administration.

HUDSON: I think they will for different reasons, though. I think they won’t because they intend to see Sudan normalize its relations with Israel. I think they are going to do it because providing these loans and this money is the right thing to do to help Sudan and to secure a democratic partner in a very tumultuous part of the world.

KELEMEN: He says the Trump administration is giving Team Biden a success, and no new team, he adds, wants to fumble with that.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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