US aid chief in Sudan's Darfur ahead of sanctions decision

Khartoum - US aid chief Mark Green visited a camp for the displaced in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region Monday, the first high-ranking official from President Donald Trump's administration to visit Africa, officials said.

Green recently became head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and his trip comes just weeks before Trump decides whether to lift permanently the US trade embargo imposed on Sudan since 1997.

His visit also comes at a time when the Trump administration is planning a cut of more than 30 percent in American foreign aid.

Green is the "first high-ranking official from the Trump adminstration to visit Africa", a US official told AFP.

The trip aims to show that the Trump adminstration "wants to engage and not disengage" with Africa, the official added.

On Monday, Green visited Zam Zam camp in the state of North Darfur, which houses tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting in Darfur since the conflict erupted in 2003.

On October 12, Trump will decide whether to lift the Sudan embargo after his predecessor Barack Obama eased it before leaving office in January.

A key element of Green's visit is to see whether Khartoum allows access for humanitarian aid in Sudan's conflict zones -- a condition laid out by Obama for a permanent lifting of sanctions.

Green wants to see "whether aid is reaching the right people", the US official said.

Washington imposed the embargo over Khartoum's alleged support for Islamist militant groups. The late Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was based in Khartoum between 1992 and 1996.

Washington also argues that the conflict in Darfur has been a factor in keeping the embargo in place.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalising the region economically and politically.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by the conflict, the United Nations says.

Bashir himself is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur. He steadfastly denies the charges.

Green, who is on a three-nation trip to Africa, is also scheduled to visit South Sudan and Ethiopia.


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