UK pledges $55 million in aid during Raab visit to Sudan

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrived in Khartoum late Wednesday on the first visit by a British foreign secretary to the East African country in over a decade.

FILE: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks during a joint press conference with Sudanese foreign minister at Khartoum airport on January 21, 2021. Picture: Ashraf Shazly/AFP.

KHARTOUM - Britain's top diplomat announced on Thursday almost $55 million in aid to Sudan and around $455 millions to clear its arrears to the African Development Bank.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrived in Khartoum late Wednesday on the first visit by a British foreign secretary to the East African country in over a decade.

Raab signed a memorandum of understanding with Sudan's finance minister which provides for "the disbursement of 40 million pounds ($54.9 million) to the Sudan Family Support Programme", the British embassy said in a statement.

The amount will provide "1.6 million people with direct financial support," it said.

Britain also "stands ready to provide 330 million pounds ($455 million) as a bridging loan to clear the arrears to the African Development Bank," Raab said during a news conference in Khartoum.

He added that Britain's assistance to Sudan "will be 125 million pounds this financial year."

The visit, the embassy says, shows British "support" Sudan's transition following the April 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir following months of mass protests against his rule.

Raab held talks with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, the head of Sudan's ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and other officials.

Topics discussed included Sudan's economic reforms, recent border tensions with Ethiopia which triggered deadly clashes in recent weeks, and Addis Ababa's controversial dam on the Blue Nile.

His visit to Sudan comes after days of deadly clashes in the country's troubled Darfur region that left more than 200 people dead and scores wounded.

"It is true that we have very unfortunate incidents in Darfur since the announcement of the pullout of UNAMID," Sudan's acting foreign minister Omar Qamareddine said, referring to the UN peacekeeping mission.

Sudanese authorities have already dispatched reinforcements of around 6,000 troops to contain the violence in Darfur, the minister said, adding that more troops will be sent.

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since the ouster of Bashir whose three-decade rule was marked by economic hardship, internal conflicts and international sanctions.

In October, it signed a peace agreement with the country's main rebel groups in the hopes of ending long-running conflicts.

It has also been forging closer ties with the United States, and last month, Washington removed Khartoum from its blacklist of "state sponsors of terrorism".

Earlier this month, Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding with the US to clear Sudan's arrears to the World Bank.

"This move will enable Sudan to regain access to over $1 billion in annual financing from the World Bank for the first time in 27 years," the government said.

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