Washington DC / Port Sudan — The US passed an act on Tuesday to support a civilian-led democratic transition, promote accountability for human rights abuses, and encourage fiscal transparency in Sudan, meanwhile Russia signed an agreement to establish a naval base in the Red Sea.
The US House of Representatives passed the Act with a majority of 335-78 votes.The Sudan Democratic Transition, Accountability, and Fiscal Transparency Act of 2020 (SDTAFT US) which was drafted on March 5, was incorporated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2021. Next, it will be voted on in the Senate.
"Fiscal transparency" refers to the handover of the military's finances, assets, and shares to the Ministry of Finance or other independent bodies under the control of a civilian led government.
The Act authorises the US President to provide assistance for strengthening the civilian government's control over security and intelligence services, to ensure that they do not contribute to the continuation of the conflict in the country or compromise Sudanese people's civil liberties.
Additionally, the SDTAFT US demands an end to any involvement of the security and intelligence services in the mining and mineral sector, including petroleum and gold.
The Act stipulates that the US will restructure and cancel Sudan's debts, following its removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in October. This action must be preceded by a statement from the US President confirming that Sudan is taking the required steps towards the financial transparency of its military and security services.
Suliman Baldo, the Senior Policy Advisor for USA-based activist think-tank Enough Project, said that the most important part of this legislation is the aim to establish a transparent mechanism to control the management of military companies and prevent corruption.
"Within six months US President will submit a report to the Congress on Sudan identifying individuals and entities that commit violations that violate this law and hinder the smooth democratic transition in Sudan," he further said.
Last year, The Sentry (a project of the Enough Project) published a policy brief which warned that entire sectors of Sudan's economy are dominated by companies controlled by senior military and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces officials, and "the reform efforts of the new civilian administration will be jeopardized by this reality, just as they were in Egypt and elsewhere." At the time, the brief recommended that the US utilise a combination of policy-based incentives and modernized financial pressures to support carefully benchmarked reforms.
Russian naval base
Also on Tuesday, Russia signed an agreement with Sudan to establish a navy base in the African nation for at least 25 years. The deal, published on the official portal of government documents, allows Russia to keep up to four navy ships, including nuclear-powered ones, in Port Sudan in Red Sea state.
The agreement can be automatically extended for 10-year periods if none of the parties object.
The document states that the Russian navy base should "help strengthen peace and stability in the region" and isn't directed against any third parties. In exchange for Sudan's permission to set up the base, Russia will provide Sudan with weapons and military equipment.
In 2019 Sudan became the second-largest purchaser of Russian arms in Africa after Algeria, with half of Sudan's total arms acquisitions sourced from Russia.
Former president Omar Al Bashir approved entry of a Russian gold mining company into the country and was negotiating construction of a Russian oil refinery, as well as a Russian naval base, when he was overthrown.
Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation, mercenaries may have been involved in repressive measures to undermine the popular revolt against Al Bashir and his regime last year, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated in a report on February 6. According to the report, the Sudanese opposition perceives Russia as "fully supporting" leaders in the military as part of its overall strategy of preserving its substantial military, strategic, and economic investments made under Al Bashir.
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