Brief Timeline of Key Sanctions Events in Sudan (adapted and updated from Hufbauer et al.)

October 06, 2011

1983: Civil war breaks out between government forces, insurgents of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which is composed mostly of non-Muslims from southern part of country that oppose government efforts to impose Islamic law (sharia) over whole country. (National Journal, 10 December 1988, 3130; Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 13 May 1989, 1132–35)

December 1988:  US economic, military aid disbursements to Sudan (except for food aid) are frozen because of Sudan's failure for over a year to make $12 million in payments on its debt to US.  (Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 13 May 1989, 1135)

March 1989:  After US administration requests $52 million for Sudan for FY 1990, Congress passes nonbinding resolution, offered by Congressman Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), calling on President George H.W. Bush to reconsider extending nonhumanitarian aid to Sudan unless government makes progress in delivering food aid to refugees, negotiating end to civil war. Resolution is later attached as amendment to foreign assistance appropriation bill. (Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 13 May 1989, 1133)

28 February 1990:  US Agency for International Development announces that nonhumanitarian aid can no longer be disbursed to Sudan because of amendment to Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act of 1989 (in each annual appropriations since 1986) barring aid to countries in which democratically elected government has been deposed in military coup, as happened in Sudan in June 1989 when Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir overthrew the civilian government of Prime Minister Mahdi. (New York Times, 16 July 1989, 4; Congressional Quarterly Weekly, 13 May 1989, 1135; Washington Post, 24 May 1990, A48)

25 April 1991: Because of insufficient protection of workers’ rights, President Bush suspends GSP benefits for Sudan. (CRS1992, 94)

18 August 1993: The US places Sudan on the State Department list of countries designated as supporters of international terrorism, which prohibits provision of nonhumanitarian economic aid (already blocked), restricts dual-use exports and arms sales, and requires US representatives at international organizations to vote against loans to Sudan. (International Trade Reporter, 25 August 1993, 1419)

1994-96: Sudan turns over the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal to France; a year later, Sudanese Islamic fundamentalists are implicated in an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. A year after that, U.S. withdraws diplomats citing security concerns. (COMPASS Newswire, 11 November 1994; Washington Post, 2 July 1995, A27; Washington Post, 24 November 1996, A32; New York Times, 15 February 1996, A6)

24 April 1996: President Clinton signs the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which bans Americans from engaging in any financial transactions with governments on the US list of terrorism sponsors, including Sudan. The sanctions provision is added in reaction to Louis Farrakhan’s travels to Libya to meet with Muammar Gadhafi to discuss ways in which Libya could support Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam activities. (Time, 5 February 1996, 14; International Herald Tribune, 25–26 January 1997, Washington Post, 23 January 1997, A1; US Information Service,8 June 1996)

Mid 1996: Sudan expels Osama bin Laden, responding to pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia. (New York Times, 11 July 1996, 6)

August 1996: Regulations implementing the US Anti-Terrorism Act authorize financial transactions with the Governments of Syria and Sudan, except for transfers from those governments in the form of donations, and transfers when a US person believes the transaction will be used to support terrorist acts in the United States. The administration writes the regulations so as to avoid what it interprets as unintentional sanctions on Syria and Sudan, the only countries on the terrorism list not already subject to comprehensive US sanctions. (US Information Service Washington File, 15 May 1997; Washington Post, 23 January 1997, A1)

11 June 1997: The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, HR 1685, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), is introduced in the Congress calling for sanctions against countries where religious persecution is found to exist. The bill singles out Sudan and calls for immediate and comprehensive sanctions on the country. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduces parallel legislation in the Senate. (Journal of Commerce, 11 June 1997, 2A; 143 Congressional Record, H 5129; Wall Street Journal, 7 July 1997, A20)

11 July 1997: The House of Representative passes, 377-33, HR 748, a bill to reverse the administration interpretation of section 321 of the Antiterrorism Act of 1996 that allowed most financial transactions to continue with Sudan and Syria. (Journal of Commerce, 11 July 1997, 3A; HR 2431)

4 November 1997: President William Jefferson Clinton, seeking to stave off harsher and less flexible congressional action, imposes broad sanctions against Sudan by executive order. The action blocks all Sudanese government assets in the United States and bars all trade as well as a wide range of financial transactions with Sudan. (New York Times, 5 November 1997, A7; US Information Service, 4 November 1997)

7 August 1998:US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are bombed; 263 people including 11 Americans are killed. Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian terrorist, is believed to be behind the attacks. (US Information Service, 9 August 1998; Financial Times, 25 August 1998, 12)

20 August 1998:In response to the embassy bombings, the US bombs a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan believed to be linked to bin Laden and producing chemical weapons, as well as three training bases in Afghanistan used by bin Laden’s terrorist network. (US Information Service, 25 August 1998; Financial Times, 25 August 1998, 12)

Late September 1998: Two Sudanese diplomats reportedly hold private discussions with State Department officials and are told that Sudan must stop supporting terrorism, halt production of chemical weapons, and end the war in the south to normalize relations with the US. Meanwhile, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail declares that the Sudanese do not want confrontation with the US and are prepared for a “constructive dialogue” with the US on issues of conflict. (Washington Post, 30 October 1998, A35)

23 March 1999: An official with the US Agency for International Development tells Congress that the US has given more than $130 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan so far in 1999, bringing the total amount disbursed since 1989 to $750 million. (US Information Service, 23 March 1999)

28 April 1999: President Clinton announces general policy of exempting exports of agricultural goods, medicine and medical equipment from unilateral sanctions, including existing sanctions cases. No US financing will be allowed for the sales, but Sudan could now buy U.S. food, subject to licensing conditions to be established by U.S. Treasury. (US Information Service, 28 April 1999a; 28 April 1999b; Journal of Commerce, 4 May 1999, 8A)

3 May 1999: US Treasury Department unfreezes businessman SalehIdris' $24 million in American assets. Treasury maintains that to prove Idris has links with terrorist Osama bin Laden would jeopardize American intelligence agents. Idris was the owner of the Khartoum pharmaceutical factory bombed by the United States, which maintained the plant had produced biological weapons for bin Laden. Idris maintained that he had no links to bin Laden and that the factory had never produced weapons of mass destruction. (Washington Post, 7 May 1999, A38; International Herald Tribune, 17 May 1999, 8)

Early June 1999: In remarks published in a Lebanese magazine, Sudanese President Bashir declares the Sudanese government is ready to cooperate with the United States to make clear it is not supporting terrorism in any way. (Washington Post, 11 June 1999, A18)

2001: Sudan is placed on the Tier 3 list (sanctionable) under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 for failing to meet minimum human rights standards set out in that legislation. Because Sudan is already subject to broad sanctions, the action is mostly symbolic. (CRS 2005, 13)

11 September 2001: Al Quaeda uses hijacked airplanes to destroy the two World Trade Towers in New York City and to hit the Pentagon, killing thousands. A fourth plane crashes in Pennsylvania, apparently when passengers try to retake cockpit.

28 September 2001: Noting Sudan’s recent cooperation on terrorism, UN Security Council removes the 1996 air embargo imposed following the attempted assassination of President Mubarak. This step was facilitated by Sudan’s post-9/11 warming towards the US, which chose not to veto the resolution. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher explains that "We have noted that [Sudan] recently apprehended extremists within that country whose activities may have contributed to international terrorism… [and that] they have worked with us to eliminate the presence of terrorist groups that could threaten American interests. They've provided information on the past doings of terrorist groups in Sudan." Regarding US sanctions, Boucher says Sudan will have to take additional steps before sanctions can be lifted. (Financial Times, 29 September 2001; Washington Post, 30 September 2001, A14)

29 May 2002: Washington sends first diplomat to Sudan in six years, naming Jeffrey Millington to the post of charge d’affaires. (Washington Post, 30 May 2002, A21)

21 October 2002: President George W. Bush signs the Sudan Peace Act, which requires the Administration to make semi-annual reports to Congress as to whether “the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement are negotiating in good faith” and calls for sanctions if the President cannot make this determination, including instructing US executive directors of international financial institutions to vote against loans, credits and guarantees for Sudan; to consider downgrading diplomatic relations; to take all possible steps to deny oil revenues to Sudan; and to seek a UN Security Council resolution to impose an arms embargo against Sudan.  President Bush certifies that negotiations are continuing in subsequent years.(CRS 2005, 15; International Trade Reporter 19, no. 41, 17 October 2002; Inside US Trade, 14 June 2002, 8)

Spring 2003: Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM; also known as Sudan Liberation Army, SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) join forces in Darfur and challenge the Government of Sudan, accusing the Government of systematic discrimination against African ethnic groups. The Government dismisses the SLM and JEM as terrorist groups, and begins a scorched earth campaign, encouraging the Janjaweed (Government-supported Arab militias) to target civilian populations suspected of supporting the SLM fighters. Tens of thousands will eventually die and roughly 2 million will be displaced from their homes. (CRS 2005, 2; ICG; State Department Background Note on Sudan,

18 May 2004: State Department removes Sudan from a list of countries considered “noncooperative” in the war against terrorism. Spokesman Richard Boucher notes “Sudan has taken a number of positive steps on cooperation against terrorism over the past few years…[and] the U.S.-Sudanese bilateral counter terrorism information sharing has improved remarkably but they remain on the state terrorism list because of the presence of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some other concerns we have.” Sudan still faces US sanctions because it remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and Secretary of State Powell declares that the US will not normalize relations with Sudan until the crisis in Darfur is addressed. (CRS 2006, 13; Voice of America press releases and documents, 18 May 2004)

23 December 2004: President Bush signs the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act, which amends the Sudan Peace Act to allow the President to provide funds “to support the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement that applies to all regions of Sudan, including the Darfur regions” and “to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis in the Darfur region and eastern Chad.” (CRS 2005, 16; White House press release, 23 December 2004)

2005: Congress passes the Assistance for International Malaria Control Act and amends the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act with respect to Sudan in an attempt to distinguish between the Government of Sudan, the people of Sudan, and the areas of the country outside government control.  (CRS 2005, 13, 14)

9 January 2005: Government of Sudan and the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement; also known as SPLA) sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which officially ends a 21 year-old civil war by providing for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of troops from southern Sudan, and the repatriation and resettlement of refugees. Under the accord, sharia will apply in the north but not the south. After a six-year interim period of self-rule, the south will hold a referendum to decide whether to remain part of Sudan or secede. (State Department Background Note on Sudan,; Washington Post, 10 January 2005, A9)

13 October 2006: President Bush signs the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, which calls on the president to block the property of, and prohibits transactions with designated individuals and entities associated with Sudan’s government. President Bush issues Executive Order 13412 to implement the asset blocking provisions of the legislation. The new legislation also eases sanctions against areas of southern Sudan, provided that transactions don’t involve the Sudanese government. (Mondaq Business Briefing, 25 March 2007)

June-July 2007: UN Security Council Resolution 1769 authorizes the deployment of a joint African-Union/United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur.  (The Economist, 14 July 2007; CRS 2011, 14)

July 2008: The International Criminal Court indicts Sudanese President Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asks ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir. The charges relate to actions committed in the Darfur region. This is both the first time the Court has sought action against a sitting head of state and that it has sought an indictment for the charge of genocide.  (The Economist, 17 July 2008; Financial Times, 15 July 2008; CRS 2011)

October 2009: President Obama unveils a new comprehensive policy towards Sudan that encompasses possibly lifting sanctions and removing the country from the State Department’s state sponsor of terrorism list. The policy’s three priorities are: implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, ending the conflict in Darfur, and ensuring that Sudan does not become a safe haven for international terrorists. The policy also specifies that relations will not be normalized unless progress is made on all the issues.  (CRS 2011, 5)

December 2009:  A law authorizing referenda on independence for southern Sudan, and whether residents of Abyei wish to be part of the north or the south, is passed. (Reuters, 31 May 2010; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 4 January 2011)

September 2010:  Certain restrictions on licensing regulations in the agricultural sector and restrictions on spare parts for trains are removed.  (CRS 2011, 7)

7 February 2011:Following the announcement of the referendum results setting southern Sudan on a course towards independence in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulates all of Sudan, and indicates the United States will begin the process of withdrawing Sudan’s state sponsor of terrorism designation. (

14 June 2011: Responding to the recent outbreak of violence in Abyei and Southern Kordofan, two border regions between northern and southern Sudan, State Department spokesman Mark Toner states that “if Sudan chooses to escalate further the situation and pursue a military solution to the future status of Abyei and Southern Kordofan, the United States will not move forward on the roadmap to normalization of relations, and Sudan will face deeper international isolation.” (US State Department Daily Press Briefing, 14 June 2011)


Hufbauer, Gary Clyde, Jeffrey J. Schott, Kimberly Ann Elliott, and Barbara Oegg. 2007. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered. Third Edition. Washington:  Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2004. To Guarantee the Peace: An Action Strategy For a Post-Conflict Sudan Supplement I: Addressing U.S. Sanctions Against Sudan.

U.S. Congressional Research Service. 1992. Economic Sanctions Imposed by the United States against Specific Countries: 1979 through 1992 (revised). Washington, August.

________. 1998. Economic Sanctions to Achieve U.S. Foreign Policy Goals: Discussion and Guide to Current Law (updated). Washington, June.

________. 2005. Sudan: Economic Sanctions (revised). Washington, October.

________. 2006. Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and U.S. Policy (revised). Washington, February.

________. 2011. Sudan:  The Crisis in Darfur and Status of the North-South Peace Agreement. Washington, April.

U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control. 2008. What You Need to Know About U.S. Sanctions An Overview of the Sudanese Sanctions regulations.  Washington, July 25.