Sudan and Algeria, new areas of interest for American diplomacy in Africa

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, head of the Sovereign Council in Sudan, in Khartoum on August 25, 2020.

Africa is back in the sights of the United States. While the head of US diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, is engaged in a race against time to resolve his country’s dispute with Sudan ahead of the presidential election in the United States, the head of the US Military Command in Africa (Africom ), Stephen Townsend, visited on Wednesday September 23 in Algeria.

“The United States has an opportunity which presents itself only once to finally provide compensation to the victims of the terrorist attacks of 1998 carried out by Al-Qaeda against the embassies of the United States in Kenya and Tanzania”Mike Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators AFP has been aware of. “We also have a single, narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan, which has finally got rid of the Islamist dictatorship.”, he added.

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At the heart of this issue, the inclusion of Sudan in the American blacklist of states supporting terrorism. This sanction, synonymous with hindering investment for the country, dates back to 1993. The crisis worsened with the attacks of 1998, which killed more than 200 people. The Sudan of Omar al-Bashir had then become an outcast for having welcomed the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.

In recent years, Washington has changed its tone when the former Sudanese autocrat began to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and played the game of peace in South Sudan. The United States reconnected with Khartoum, already under former Democratic President Barack Obama, then engaged in dialogue to remove Sudan from its blacklist. The revolution that swept through Omar al-Bashir in 2019 only accelerated the movement. Since then, Mike Pompeo has not spared his support for the transitional prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok.


But the negotiations stumbled over the thorny legal dossier of compensation for the families of the victims of the 1998 attacks. The Secretary of State now believes that a solution is in sight and has made it happen. “One of its first priorities”, a spokeswoman for American diplomacy told AFP. His ” plan “ provides for the payment by Khartoum, into a blocked account, of funds which will only be paid under conditions to the United States to compensate the plaintiffs. American media have cited the total amount of 335 million dollars (approximately 287 million euros).

Among these conditions, the withdrawal of Sudan from the anti-terrorism blacklist and the adoption of a law proclaiming the “Legal peace” with Khartoum, to avoid the risk of new prosecutions. In his letter, Mike Pompeo pressured the US Congress to vote for this provision. “This law should enter into force mid-October at the latest in order to guarantee the payment of compensation to victims as soon as Sudan is removed from the list of states supporting terrorism”, which will happen ” very probably “ by the end of October, he explained. That is, before the US presidential election on November 3. Within the government, however, there are concerns about resistance from some influential Democratic senators.

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Why such eagerness on the part of a Secretary of State otherwise little interested in Africa? This is probably in the name of another file dear to the Trump administration. Mike Pompeo visited Khartoum at the end of August on a tour to convince Arab countries to normalize their relations with Israel. The president-candidate’s camp wants to capitalize on the historic agreements concluded under his aegis by the Hebrew state with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – a success that was lacking in its diplomatic record, which is more favorable to Israeli interests and therefore likely to galvanize its evangelical electorate.

Abdallah Hamdok seemed to shower American hopes, claiming that he had “No mandate” to settle this sensitive issue. But the negotiations are continuing behind the scenes, with positions perhaps less fixed. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, head of the Sovereign Council in Sudan, who had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, had three days of talks this week in Abu Dhabi with a US delegation. On the menu, of course, the exit from the blacklist, but also, according to the Sudanese official agency Suna, “The future of Arab-Israeli peace” and “The role that Sudan should play in the achievement of this peace”.

Regional tensions

In parallel to this front, but further north on the continent, General Stephen Townsend, head of Africom, paid a visit to Algiers on Wednesday amid regional tensions, in particular in Libya and Mali, a t – we learned from an official source. General Townsend, “Accompanied by members of the American Embassy in Algeria”, was received by the head of state, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, said a statement from the Algerian presidency, which does not disclose the content of the discussions. The high-ranking American officer also had talks with the Algerian army chief of staff, General Saïd Chanegriha, and the foreign minister, Sabri Boukadoum.

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“We have a lot to learn and share with each other. Strengthening this relationship is very important to us ”, explained the head of Africom, quoted in a press release from the United States Embassy in Algeria. “Algeria is a committed partner in the fight against terrorism. Weakening violent extremist organizations, malicious activities and strengthening regional stability is a mutual necessity ”, pleaded General Townsend. It was the first visit to Algeria by an Africom commander since 2018.

Algeria, which fears the risks of instability at its borders, is trying to reactivate its role on the regional diplomatic scene and is trying to assume a role of mediator in the crises in Libya and Mali.

The World with AFP


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