The first US ambassador to Sudan in 25 years arrived in the country on Wednesday in the latest sign of improved relations between the two nations after the United States removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Relations between the US and Sudan were tense during the three-decade rule of former President Omar al-Bashir. During Bashir’s time in power, the US imposed withering sanctions on Khartoum.
Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 and 1996, and the US designated Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in 1993.
“I am delighted to arrive in Sudan,” said John Godfrey, the new US ambassador to Sudan, in a tweet on Wednesday. “I look forward to deepening relations between Americans and Sudanese and to supporting the Sudanese people’s aspirations to freedom, peace, justice, and a transition to democracy.”
The US embassy said in a statement that Godfrey “also looks forward to advancing priorities related to peace and security, economic development, and food security”.
I am delighted to arrive in Sudan. I look forward to deepening relations between Americans and Sudanese and to supporting the Sudanese people’s aspirations to freedom, peace, justice, and a transition to democracy. pic.twitter.com/d14Pk9yEfw
— John Godfrey (@USAMBSudan) August 24, 2022
Godfrey’s arrival came as Sudan struggles to address widespread unrest and an economy that has been hard-hit since a military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan last year.
Relations between Washington and Khartoum started to thaw under the now-deposed transitional government led by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Hamdok took office following Bashir’s April 2019 removal, which took place after large protests against his rule.
Last year’s power grab by the armed forces threw the fragile transition that followed the toppling of al-Bashir into disarray. In recent months, protesters have filled the streets calling for an end to military rule, and many remain sceptical of assurances by the military that it wants to gradually hand power back to the people.
Al-Burhan has recently promoted a political initiative called “The Call of Sudan’s People” that he says would end the country’s political crisis and put it on the road to restoring democracy. The initiative has yet to gain the support of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), Sudan’s main civilian bloc that was removed from power by the military.
Despite the turmoil, relations between the US and Sudan have slowly improved during the last several years. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said in December 2019 that the US would appoint an ambassador to Sudan.
Sudan named an ambassador to the US in May 2020, and the US removed Sudan from the “state sponsor of terrorism” list later that year.
In January 2021 the country signed the “Abraham Accords” pledging to normalise its relationship with Israel, a move rejected by its own political parties. It has yet to finalise a deal and was not invited to a March summit in Israel with other Arab nations who signed the accords.