Sudan has no museum for its genocide victims, but is building one centered around US sanctions

Not acknowledged.
Not acknowledged.
Image: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
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Sudan is set to add one more to the list of its museums: a center to commemorate how the United States economic sanctions impacted the north-east African nation.

The proposed museum will document how the two-decade embargo affected economic production, besides cultural, technological and intellectual development. The Sudanese culture minister, al-Tayeb Hassan Badawi, said the museum will be modeled after Japan’s Hiroshima museum, the Rwanda genocide memorial, or South Africa’s apartheid museum, according to state news agency SUNA.

The decision to build the museum comes after president Donald Trump recently issued an executive order revoking the sanctions. In 1993, the US designated Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and in 1997 imposed a comprehensive trade embargo and blocked all government assets that were in the US.

But following a 16-month bilateral effort, the Trump administration agreed to lift the blockage after Sudan agreed to cede hostilities in areas like Darfur, improve humanitarian access in conflict-ridden regions, and collaborate with the Americans in tackling the threat of terrorism.

Yet the building of the museum only serves to push the government’s narrative and highlights its hypocrisy as it deepens its effort to cultivate an image of being an underdog. The landmark will also bolster its posture, which casts off the devastation caused by rebel fightings, brutal killings, and burning of villages. With little credible footing, Sudan’s government hopes to embolden its people to continue resisting what it implies is US imperialism—long after the sanctions have ended.

Indeed, the broad sanctions radically impacted the lives of ordinary citizens, increased the country’s isolation, and affected key service and financial sectors of the economy. Originally intended to pressure the government, the ban made it hard for people to conduct business, send or transfer money, or even access medical care. The secession of South Sudan in 2011 only increased these problems, as the government lost much-needed oil revenues. Through it all, officials have insisted they had succeeded “partially to outrun this siege.”

The embargo also strengthened the hand of the ruling elite, and especially president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been ruling the country for almost three decades now. Al-Bashir’s incompetent government has continued to harass and jail activists and opposition members, shut down the internet, and continued to perpetrate violence against its own people in areas like Darfur and South Kordofan.

President al-Bashir himself is wanted by the International Criminal Court for coordinating the killing, raping, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians from Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

And while those killed and maimed in Darfur might not get a landmark soon, the new museum of sanctions will go a long way to show that Khartoum has come out on top.