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Issue Brief March 8, 2018

Sudan: Politics, Engagement, and Reform

By Johnnie Carson and Zach Vertin

The first paper in the new Atlantic Council Sudan Task Force series, “Sudan: Politics, Engagement, and Reform” examines the political landscape in the country in the wake of renewed bilateral engagement, addressing questions of governance, inclusion, and reform.

Co-authored by Ambassador Johnnie Carson and Zach Vertin in collaboration with the Council’s Sudan Task Force, the issue brief offers recommendations for continued progress toward democratic transformation in Sudan, in both the medium and long terms.


Carson, a Sudan Task Force member and a senior adviser to the president of the United States Institute of Peace, was formerly assistant secretary of state for African affairs and US ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. Vertin, also a Sudan Task Force member and currently a visiting lecturer at Princeton University, previously served as director of policy for the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

The authors argue that Sudan’s political, economic, and social problems are the result of poor governance, corruption, and a lack of political inclusion. The country’s long-term political stability, economic growth, and international normalization will depend on its ability to strengthen its democratic institutions, improve governance, and enlarge the space for greater political participation for all its citizens.

The issue brief urges the US administration to initiate negotiation of a Phase II of US engagement, building upon the process and success of Phase I (January 2015-October 2017). After two decades of hostile relations, the historic progress made must not be allowed to slip away. To this end, the issue brief recommends a series of benchmarks for the United States and Sudan as they consider the next phase of engagement.

Additional issue briefs in the Sudan Task Force series include “Sudan: Prospects for Economic Re-engagement” and “Sudan: Soft Power, Cultural Engagement, and National Security.”

Image: On 28 August 2017, Ambassador Mark Green, Director of the United States Agency for International Development, USAID (pictured in foreground, wearing a blue shirt) visited Zam Zam IDP camp, near El Fasher. While in North Darfur, Mr. Green also met with UNAMID leadership, local authorities, UN agencies and NGOs. Photo by Amin Ismail, UNAMID.