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US sanctions companies linked to Sudan forces as clashes rage on

June 1, 2023 at 7:13 pm

Smoke rises during clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum, Sudan on May 05, 2023 [Ahmed Satti/Anadolu Agency]

The United States, on Thursday, imposed sanctions on companies it accused of fuelling the conflict in Sudan, stepping up pressure on the Army and a rival paramilitary force to stop fighting raging in Khartoum and other regions, Reuters reports.

The US Treasury Department said it targeted two companies linked to Sudan’s Army and two companies tied to the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

“We will not hesitate to take additional steps if the parties continue to destroy their country,” a senior US administration official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said.

“The targeting of the companies is far from symbolic,” the official said, adding that the measures are intended to choke off the parties’ access to weapons and resources that allow them to perpetuate the conflict.

Sudan’s Army and the RSF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

READ: Sudan Army reportedly suspends participation in Saudi-hosted cease-fire talks

The conflict, which broke out on 15 April, has killed hundreds, forced more than 1.6 million to flee and turned one of Africa’s greatest cities – the three-part capital of Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – into a war zone.

Residents said heavy artillery fire could be heard in northern Omdurman, and intermittent firing in southern Bahri on Thursday.

“We are being terrorised by the sounds of heavy artillery around us. The house has been shaking,” 49-year-old Nadir Ahmed said in the Thawra neighbourhood of Omdurman. “Where is this ceasefire we hear about?”

Clashes also continued near a market in southern Khartoum, where at least 19 people were killed and 106 wounded on Wednesday, according to a member of a local neighbourhood committee.

Sanctions, warnings

The United States, alongside Saudi Arabia, has been leading efforts to try to secure an effective ceasefire, though both sides have breached a string of truces.

The senior US official said neither party to the conflict has left peace talks taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and that talks were continuing.

Thursday’s action – the first punitive measures imposed under an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden in May – slapped sanctions on Sudan’s largest defence enterprise, Defence Industries System, which the Treasury said generates an estimated $2 billion in revenue and manufactures arms and other equipment for Sudan’s Army.

Arms company, Giad, also known as Sudan Master Technology, was targeted, as well.

On the RSF side, Washington imposed sanctions on Algunade, which it said is involved in gold mining and is controlled by RSF Commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and his brother, as well as Tradive General Trading, which it said is a front company controlled by another brother and involved in procuring vehicles for the RSF.

The companies, which are all key to the business and procurement activities of both forces, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Washington also issued an updated business advisory to highlight growing risks to US business and individuals exacerbated by the conflict, including trade in gold from a conflict-affected area, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said in a separate statement.

READ: Sudan war spells more disaster for Darfur city on Chad border

He added that visa restrictions were imposed on individuals in Sudan, including officials from both the Army and the RSF and leaders from the former Omar Al-Bashir government. Those hit with visa restrictions were not named.

‘Warning shot’

Outside Khartoum, clashes have flared in major cities in the western region of Darfur. A regional rights group said at least 50 people have been killed in the last week in the western-most city of El Geneina.

In the city of Zalingei, it said that city’s hospital and university were looted and people were being killed “randomly”.

The calm Red Sea coast city, Port Sudan, has served as a base for the United Nations, aid groups and diplomats as well as some government officials.

However, a curfew was declared in the city earlier this week as the Army warned of “sleeper cells” sneaking into the city. Residents say buses have been stopped from entering the city, which is a key evacuation point.

Food and assets were being looted in El Obeid, a regional hub to the south-west of Khartoum, the World Food Programme said. “Food for 4.4 million people is at stake,” Agency chief, Cindy McCain sai

Leaders of the Army and RSF fell out over the chain of command under a planned transition to civilian rule. They had held top positions on Sudan’s ruling council after toppling former President Omar Al-Bashir.

Cameron Hudson, a former US official, now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while the sanctions targeted companies important to the war effort, they will have little impact on the parties’ ability to continue to wage war and are unlikely to be enforced by Russia or the United Arab Emirates, which have ties to the RSF.

“It’s hard to think this sanctions announcement is the thing that will dissuade entities already doing business with these corporations from continuing,” Hudson said.

“This feels like more of a warning shot than a direct hit, which is odd, given that we are long past the time when warning shots should be used.”

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