Sudan gives rebels respite, announces ceasefire

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan has promulgated a decree extending a unilateral ceasefire with rebels until the end of October.

Al-Bashir’s decree is coming two weeks before the U.S. plans to lift a 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan.

The U.S. said on Jan. 13 it would lift the embargo but would wait 180 days before doing so to see whether Sudan acts further to improve its human rights record and resolve political and military conflicts, including in warring regions such as Darfur.

On Jan. 15, Bashir extended the ceasefire, in place since October 2016, for six months in response to the U.S. move.

The U.S. said then that it would unfreeze Sudanese assets and lift financial sanctions as a response to Khartoum’s cooperation in fighting Islamic State and other militant groups.

Fighting between the army and rebels in Kordofan and Blue Nile regions broke out again in 2011, when South Sudan declared independence.

Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-led government.

Sudan previously announced short-term truces in these regions in June and October 2016, after which fighting eased in the southern Blue Nile and Kordofan but carried on in Darfur.

Sudan’s economic problems have been building since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income.

NAN reports that the UN said up to 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced during the Darfur conflict.

On Thursday the UN Security Council agreed to gradually reduce the number of peacekeepers in Darfur that could almost halve the number of troops over the next year if conditions are conducive and the government is cooperative.

Sudan is one of six countries whose citizen are subject to new restrictions on travel to the U.S., following a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Tuesday to revive parts of President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Sudan said on it hoped the restrictions would not affect the planned lifting of sanctions. (Reuters/NAN)

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