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Sudan, Which Once Sheltered Bin Laden, Removed From U.S. Terrorism List

After 27 years as a global pariah, Sudan has been officially removed from the American State Sponsor of Terrorism list.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum made the announcement in a Facebook post, saying that the statutory 45 days had lapsed since President Trump gave Congress notice of the administration's intent to delist Sudan, so the declaration could now come into effect.

Sudan was first added to the list in 1993 after the United States said it had provided assistance to terrorist groups. The country gave safe haven to Osama Bin Laden and it was implicated in the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and then in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

But last year, a popular uprising led to the ouster of the Islamist government of Omar al-Bashir. The leadership who replaced him promised a new era for the country. Getting off the State Sponsor of Terrorism list became a priority, not just because it would allow Sudan to rejoin the international community, but because it would provide opportunities to escape a deep economic crisis.

Across Sudan, a lack of foreign exchange makes fuel scarce, so people line up for blocks to obtain it. In the capital, Khartoum, residents stand outside bakeries for hours, waiting for bread. It means regular Sudanese view these international treaties with suspicion, because their worries are much more pressing.

On Thursday, Ismail Yasin and his wife, Selma Abdullah, set up a tea shop on an abandoned plot on the banks of the Nile.

"Right now in Sudan, we're living through the worst condition," Yasin said. "People have nothing left but to cry."

About a year ago, a glass of tea was going for about 3 Sudanese pounds. Today that is about 30 pounds. Inflation has at times this year topped 200%. Yasin says that his family can no longer afford to eat bread every day.

"If my child gets sick," he said, "it's just God who will help."

The government of Sudan says that getting off the terrorism list will help it deal with this economic crisis. The delisting, they say, will bring in foreign investment and open the door to help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. As part of the deal, the Sudanese government agreed to pay $335 million in compensation to the victims of the terrorist attacks and separately it agreed to normalize ties with Israel.

Yasin feels all of this has nothing to do with him.

"Nobody cares about the regular people," he said. "Nobody cares if people eat or have access to basic needs."

Abdullah, his wife, nods as she stirs sugar into one of her teas. Right now, she says, she is working many more hours just to stay afloat.

A year ago, Sudan was full of hope. A three-decade-long authoritarian state had been toppled. Young people looked forward to a more liberal state, and everyone believed new opportunities were coming.

Abdullah says at the moment, it's hard to believe in those promises. She's starting to think, she said, that the revolution was "not worth it."

"It was better before," she said. "Now it seems everything is getting worse."

Today, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said, Sudan had been liberated from the "global blockade the behavior of the ousted regime had forced upon us."

He tweeted a video touting the bright economic future ahead of Sudan.

"Today we return with all our history, our civilization, our country's greatness and the vigor of our revolution to the international community," he wrote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.