BERLIN: The United States, Germany, and other Western nations have pledged hundreds of millions in aid to Sudan, to help the struggling African nation a year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir.
The pledges came during a conference hosted by Berlin and held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Acting USAID administrator John Barsa said that the U.S. alone would give $356.2 million toward development aid and democratic transition programs. The funds included a nearly ten-fold increase in development assistance compared to 2019, he said.
Sudan’s interim government has been grappling with an economic crisis since it took office last year, also navigating a treacherous transition to civilian rule. On top of that, its dilapidated health system is ill-prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Sudan has reported than 8,800 cases of the virus, including 548 deaths, but testing is limited.
Two-thirds of the country’s more than 40 million people live in poverty, and the government has inherited a debt of 60 billion dollars and a rapid inflation rate, and badly needs an injection of funds from foreign donors. The nation’s currency, the Sudanese pound, is trading on the black market for double its official rate of 55 pounds to the dollar.
Germany said it would give 150 million euros ($168 million), of which 118 million euros will go toward development aid, food security, vocational training, support for refugees, and poor families, including in the war-torn region of Darfur. A further 32 million euros will go toward humanitarian aid and stabilization programs.
Germany’s development minister, Gerd Mueller, said he hoped the conference would make progress on debt relief for Sudan.
“In return I expect the government to resolutely continue on its path of reform and work toward religious freedom and full equality for women,” he said.
France pledged a total of 100 million euros, or about $112 — a mixture of previously announced aid and newly bolstered assistance.
On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund announced that they had reached a preliminary deal to reform the country’s economy and while the government grapples with the spread and economic fallout of the coronavirus.
One major economic stumbling block for Sudan is the fact that it remains listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department because of the country’s former support for radical Islamic extremist groups.
Barsa said the U.S. would “work with” Sudan to get the designation lifted.
Another obstacle is the transition to full democratic rule. The uprising that toppled al-Bashir in April 2019 led to a power-sharing deal between civilian appointees and the military. Pro-democracy activists have said that the military leaders have stalled in handing over power to civilian leaders.
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