US, Western and Arab states pledge $1.5 billion for Sudan's troubled transition

AP , Reuters , Thursday 25 Jun 2020

Western countries donated some $900 million at a conference hosted by Germany to support Sudan’s struggling transition AFP

The United States, Western and Arab countries pledged $1.5 billion at a conference hosted by Germany and held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic to help Sudan ease an economic crisis hampering its transition towards democracy after the fall of autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir.

Acting USAID administrator John Barsa said that the US 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.

The European Union pledged 312 million euros ($350.13 million), France 100 million for various specific projects, among them planned cash transfers to poor families with the help of the World Bank, officials said at the online event.

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.

The United Kingdom pledged 150 million pounds ($186.17 million) and the United Arab Emirates $300 million.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, running Sudan under a precarious, transitional power-sharing deal with the military since Bashir's overthrow in a popular uprising last year, is desperate for more foreign support.

Hamdok warned that without it, instability could spread through a volatile region in east and northeastern Africa and disaffected young people would keep migrating by sea to Europe.

"We expect our partners to support us to have a successful transition," he said. "I do not want to paint a rosy picture. Any transition is messy and there are so many challenges."

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.

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 US State Department because of the country's former support for radical Islamic extremist groups.

Barsa said the US would ``work with'' Sudan to get the designation lifted.

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