CAIRO (AP) – The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have announced that Sudan has met initial criteria for external debt relief of more than $ 50 billion, another step for the African country to East to join the international community after nearly three decades of isolation.
The two international financial institutions said in a joint statement Tuesday that Sudan “has taken the necessary steps to begin benefiting from debt relief”, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s total external debt. They said Sudan will benefit from the relief if it continues on its current path of reform for another three years.
“Debt relief will help Sudan implement reforms essential to improve the lives of its people by freeing up resources to fight poverty and improve social conditions,” the IMF said.
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF, praised the measures taken by the transitional authorities of Sudan in recent months which have led to “this historic step in difficult conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Sudan’s joint military-civilian government that has ruled the African country since a popular uprising in 2019 has taken a series of bold steps in an attempt to revive a battered and distorted economy in which smuggling is rampant. These include floating your currency, starting to tackle heavy government subsidies, especially on fuel, and seeking investment from international donors.
But some measures also threaten to further impoverish some of the country’s poorest and have met opposition from pro-democracy activists who have led the popular uprising against autocrat Omar al-Bashir who ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years.
Al-Bashir was overthrown by the military in April 2019 amid a public revolt against his Islamist-backed regime. The country has since embarked on a fragile path to democracy, with daunting economic challenges posing a major threat to this transition.
Georgieva of the IMF urged the authorities to “maintain and expand” the implementation of the reforms, adding that the IMF would continue to support the government to “ensure a more prosperous future” for the country.
The announcement by the World Bank and the IMF also provided for $ 2 billion in grants dedicated to reducing poverty and supporting a sustainable economic recovery over three years.
“Today marks an important milestone that will allow Sudan to significantly reduce its debt burden. This is a potentially transformative outcome for a country of 44 million people that has suffered from conflict, instability and economic isolation for decades, ”said World Bank Group President David Malpass .
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also hailed the decision as an “important step”, which came after “hard work, dedication and a strong partnership with the international community”.
“This is a great day for Sudan and reaffirms that all the efforts and sacrifices of the Sudanese people are recognized and rewarded,” he said.
The transitional government of Sudan has sought to reintegrate the country into the international community as it faces daunting political, security and economic challenges.
The country was an international outcast after being placed on the list of US terror sponsors in the 1990s. This has largely excluded Sudan from the global economy.
Former President Donald Trump removed Sudan from the blacklist after the transitional government agreed to pay $ 335 million in compensation to victims of attacks by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network as the terrorist leader lived in Sudan. The withdrawal was also an incentive for Sudan to normalize its relations with Israel.
The World Bank and IMF have said that Sudan’s normalization will give it access to additional financial resources essential to strengthen its economy and improve social conditions.
Sudanese protesters, meanwhile, took to the streets of the capital Khartoum and other cities in the country on Wednesday. They called for justice for the other protesters killed in the uprising against al-Bashir and the crackdown that followed his overthrow.
Authorities deployed security forces in the capital and closed major roads ahead of the protests. Officials said in a statement that more than 50 police officers were injured.
An Associated Press video showed forces using tear gas to disperse protesters on their way to the presidential palace in Khartoum. No casualties were reported.
Local media reported that police arrested Al-Bashir supporters at a hotel in Khartoum. The al-Tayar daily reported that some protesters were also arrested. He shared an 18-second video showing uniformed police in a truck, one beating a protester.