Category Archives: Khartoum

Sudan – The Failing Economy and The Future

Over the past few months, I have written several articles dealing with the state of the Sudanese economy and implications for the ongoing conflicts in which Sudan is involved. I wrote in October about ongoing attempts to bail out the Sudanese government in direct contradiction to the sanctions imposed upon it for its genocidal actions, but I wrote as early as May and  June that the economic situation will eventually have a major impact on Sudan’s ability to maintain its military or to avoid uprisings in the streets. Economically, things have gotten much worse in the months since. Professor Eric Reeves wrote a lengthy description of the economic situation faced by the Sudanese government in which he detailed an array of major problems. I encourage you to read the full article, but wish to highlight here some of what Professor Reeves describes. He notes that:

  1. Sudan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world which makes business investment there very difficult and expensive to conduct as well as causing resentment and distrust.
  2. Sudan is one of the worst performing economies in the world. There is negative economic growth in Sudan. The economy is getting smaller at a rate of -11.2% per year.
  3. Inflation is sky-high. In October the official rate was 45.3%. Meaning that next year, everything will cost nearly one-and-a-half times what it does right now. The inflation rates for food and fuel are much worse than that. As bad as this is, Reeves notes that in September, the official rate was listed at 42% but some suggest that the actual rate was closer to 65%.
  4. The Khartoum Regime has sold off much of its oil assets in order to pay current bills.
  5. Anti-regime protests forced Khartoum to reinstate fuel subsidies that the World Monetary Fund demanded that it end so that Sudan’s currency market could stabilize.
  6. The Sudanese government is now printing money to service its increasing debt resulting in both inflation in prices and devaluing of its currency. One US Dollar now is exchanged for 6.5 Sudanese Pounds in the black market compared with 5 pounds earlier this year.
  7. Sudan has limited foreign currency reserves and thus is facing a situation in which it is forced to use its own devalued currency to purchase needed items in foreign markets including the 400,000 tons of Sugar it imports each year.
  8. Arab governments are reticent to offer financial backing to the regime. Only Qatar (and I would add, probably Iran) has offered aid. Claims to the contrary about large deposits in the Central Bank of Sudan actually diminish the regimes credibility and therefore credit with other nations and exporters.
  9. Future prospects of oil income are far more limited than they once were with most of the oil reserves located in South Sudan. In April, 2012 Sudan was actually listed as a net oil importer by the International Monetary Fund meaning that it uses more oil than it produces.
  10. Agricultural land has been poorly managed or destroyed and Sudan no longer has sufficient native agriculture to meet national food needs.
  11. A huge percentage of Sudan’s gross domestic product GDP is going to pay for military operations. These bills are being paid in Sudanese Pounds which are being devalued. Thus soldiers who are being paid the same wages each month are seeing the value of what they are being paid diminish. With 50% inflation, someone paid $3000 per year is now being paid the equivalent of $2000. That is going to promote resentment and could spell the collapse of the regime’s efforts to defend itself.
  12. Political support is weakening along with increasing resentment among those who work for and support the regime.

Professor Reeves concludes:

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan.  For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive.

The world needs to stand up to the Khartoum Regime and force it to change its ways or leave power, not only for the benefit of the greatly suffering peoples in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile, but also for the sake of Sudan itself and its population held hostage by an irrational, destructive, and hate-filled regime.

An Israeli Strike on Sudan’s Weapons Factory

There are conflicting reports about what happened overnight at the Yarmouk weapons factory just south of Khartoum.  The Sudan Tribune reports that Sudanese officials are denying reports that any foreign entity was involved and that the explosion was occurred during routine maintenance of the facility. However, the Times of Israel quotes Minister of Information Ahmed Belal Osman as saying that four aircraft coming from the east struck the facility. The Sudanese minister is quoted as saying that Sudan believes that Israel carried out the attack and that Sudan may seek to take the matter to the UN Security Council.

Weaponry from China and Iran is evidently stored and distributed from Yarmouk in addition to whatever weaponry the factory produces itself. It is entirely possible that Israel did indeed strike the factory. Israel has said nothing about the matter, its usual response to such questions.

Some might ask, why would Israel strike Sudan? It is possible that at least some of the weaponry that reaches the Gaza strip originate in Sudan. Iranian weapons delivered to Sudan could be destined for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or others in Gaza. Considering the rocket barrages now faced by Israel and the recent cross border attacks against Israeli soldiers, it is entirely possible that Israel chose to strike at the source of the weaponry used. We will likely never know.

The extent of the damage at the factory is unknown at this time.

UPDATE*****November 25, 2012

We now firmly believe that Israel did in fact strike the complex in order to take out 40 shipping containers most likely filled with long range rockets destined for Gaza. Iranian ships docked at the Port of Sudan only a few days after the strike and were likely there to transport the weaponry to the Sinai Peninsula where they would be smuggled into Gaza. Here are a few articles that add more details.

From J.E. Dyer on October 24

From the Guardian Newspaper citing the Satellite Sentinel Project on October 27

A Sickeningly Happy Smile

I don’t know about you, but I feel sick when I look at the picture of Omar Bashir’s beaming smile as he shakes hands with Salva Kiir. Bashir looks like a child who has just been told that if he shakes this man’s hand, he gets to go to Disney World. I can’t help but wonder how either man could smile at the other, much less beaming like that. Bashir is a war criminal.

Then again, looking at the situation in which both men find themselves, if they have made any progress toward an oil transfer agreement, how they can smile might actually be understandable. South Sudan’s economy is in a shambles and is only deteriorating faster as the days pass and oil does not flow. Without oil flowing, right now South Sudan is closer to becoming a failed state than prospering one. Salva Kiir is in jeopardy of becoming the leader who ran South Sudan out of business.

But Sudan is not much better off. It’s economy is in a free fall and subsidies which were essential in placating the masses so that they would not rise up against the Khartoum Regime have had to be removed. There are mass protests in the streets. Foreign governments and investors would not think about investing in Sudan or even loaning it money. In addition to the protests, rebel groups in the west, south, and east all are challenging it and the ones in the south are fighting, fairly successfully, for control over the last oil reserves the nation possesses. Opposition parties have gained enough momentum to publicly challenge the ruling party and there is for the first time in a long time, a reasonable hope for regime change.

Thus, the smile, that sickeningly happy smile.

Peace and a renewed flow of oil solve the major problems that both men face. Sudan needs it badly. South Sudan is probably in as good a negotiating position as it could hope for. Khartoum can’t afford to delay the opening of the spigot. So, a tentative agreement that allows the oil to flow.

“We’ll deal with the border region later. No one attack the other. We both need the money.” That is the obvious discussion. Mutual butt-saving.

In South Sudan, Salva Kiir will be able to fulfill promises for his suffering people and things will dramatically improve. Peace will bring massive investment and growth. The economy in the South could boom. The people will be vastly better off in the short run especially. Kiir’s butt saved.

But this will certainly put a damper on change in Sudan. The Khartoum Regime will strengthen. The inevitable collapse will not merely be delayed for a bit, but perhaps it will no longer be inevitable at all. Bashir’s butt saved.

The return of subsidies will quell demonstrations. In Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan, there will be a newly strengthened Sudanese Armed Forces and police presence. Opposition leaders will suddenly become silent, at least the ones who do not go missing. Things could get a lot worse.

I know that it is a stretch to read to much into the smile of a consummate liar, but I just get the feeling that he’s not lying. Bashir seems genuinely happy. That makes me sick.

All Things Being Equal, There Is No Morality

It is becoming more and more the norm that newspapers and editorials present “both sides” of any and every issue. To be considered unbiased, it seems that one must invariably find fault with each side of a dispute and to present both sides as equally responsible for any problems. The logic is that one side cannot be correct or right. They only have one opinion, one view. The other side’s view must be equally valid or they would agree with the first side. This makes no sense. It is an abdication of journalistic ethics to make no effort to determine right or wrong, truth or lies. Yet it is the new standard.

Ask both sides. Print both views.

The latest in this trend of politically correct moral equivalency may be found in a recent New York Times editorial about Sudan and South Sudan. The Times Editorial Board wrote:

South Sudan, along with Sudan, created this crisis, and they have the means to fix it.

The two sides fought a civil war that killed more than two million people before a peace deal in 2005. In the past year, they barely avoided a return to all-out conflict. Violence continues in Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, a rebel-held area where the Khartoum government is trying to bomb and starve the people into submission. Thousands have been displaced.

It is difficult to see how South Sudan created the crisis by stopping the flow of oil that was providing an endless supply of money for Sudan to use to buy weaponry from Iran with which it has been using to bomb the border region, including into South Sudanese territory, and to commit genocide first in Darfur and now in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Was there no conflict ongoing before South Sudan stopped the flow of oil in January, much less when it went into Heglig in March and April? In fact, I think it safe to say that there were many attacks ongoing by the Sudan Armed Forces in the border region prior to South Sudan’s military response in Heglig.

Here’s an article about the Sudan Airforce bombing Jau in Unity State in South Sudan on February 14.

Here’s one about the bombing of Western Bahr-al-Ghazal state in January.

Then of course there is the bombardment of South Sudan friendly civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile which is ongoing, but began long before the flow of oil was shut off from the south or any South Sudanese troops set foot in Heglig. Satellite Sentinel’s report from January of 2012 details similar events for months prior. One could potentially make the argument that defending civilians against genocide is a good reason to conduct military operations, but the international community has made it pretty clear that the people are on their own and that South Sudan cannot offer official help. “Genocide away,” I guess. “Never again” are words for commemorations rather than policies.

But more to the point, how can one forget the bombing of Yida Refugee Camp in Unity State in South Sudan on November 10th, 2011?  The Times must believe that Sudan’s bombing of the refugee camp must have been justified in anticipation by several months of South Sudan’s future military action or else it would be difficult to argue that “South Sudan created this crisis,” even limiting the “crisis” in question to the past year alone. Moral equivalency cannot possibly allow for Sudan to be the obvious aggressor even when its leadership is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court!

This all said, while restoring the flow of oil through Sudan will bring money into the South Sudanese economy, it also will provide Sudan with a much needed influx of capital with which to fund its military and police activities, harming the possibility of regime change in Sudan and prolonging the ongoing crisis of oppression caused by the Khartoum Regime for decades now.

Appeasing the Opposition and the Politics of Bread

A little under two weeks ago, I wrote that with the economic crisis and ongoing protests in Sudan that:

The regime has a choice of how to weaken, but not to avoid weakening. It can try to maintain some control by ceding some power to the internal opposition, hoping to quell rioting, or it can risk a complete collapse by defending the periphery while continuing to fight in the center as well.

The regime seems now to have made a choice. I has chosen to cede some power to the internal opposition. According to an article in the Sudan Tribune, the regime is seeking “alternation of power.” I am not sure if what is implied is an alteration of the current standing of the minority parties or a true alternation of power with the National Congress Party NCP at some point not being in charge. I cannot at this point envision the latter as being a primary option at this point for the regime.

It is not insignificant that in addition to discussing changes in the distribution of power that the regime is strengthening discussion of creating an new Islamic constitution. This was discussed in March and caused discord among the opposition because the Popular Congress Party PCP is in favor of it along with the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, but the National Consensus Forces NCF saw it for what it is, a way to splinter the opposition so that the regime can maintain power. The PCP at the time backed down when the NCF accused the regime of:

Forging an alliance with “religious fanatics” in order to prolong its rule of “tyranny”.

Al-Turabi, as leader of the PCP, has distanced himself and his party from these discussions, but clearly this is a carrot being offered by the NCP in an attempt to split the internal opposition. The question is whether or not it will be accepted.

Meanwhile, Sudan is now facing both a bread shortage and significant inflation of food prices. People are now having to stand in long lines for bread in Khartoum. The regime reversed a decision to lift subsidies on wheat which would have immediately increased the cost of wheat by over 50%, something recommended by the minister of finance in order avoid economic catastrophe.

The regime is facing calamity and has very few options left with which to stave it off. It simply cannot continue to fund the military and police to the extent it has been doing so while its people starve, but neither can it continue to subsidize the cost of food substantially.  The fact that the regime has chosen not to be fiscally responsible out of fear of strengthening the rebellion will lead to a downgrading of its credit and a diminishing ability to address financial concerns going forward. Sudan is heading for a cliff with a deteriorating ability to turn away.

Nerve Gas May Have Been Used Against Protesters

Reports this morning from Omdurman are that the Khartoum Regime used tear gas in heavy quantities against the crowds of protesters and directly into Al-Sayid Abdel Rahman Al-Mahdi Mosque, the epicenter of Friday’s protests. The mosque is the base of the Ansar religious sect affiliated with the opposition National Umma Party (NUP). The Sudan Tribune reports that the government may have used “nerve gas” as well at the mosque.

Police fired tear gas into the mosque as soon as the prayer service ended in an attempt to disperse the crowd quickly. They then used rubber bullets against those who tried to protest the dispersal. The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested many people who were in the area. Maryam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, NUP member and daughter of the party leader, reports that during the attack on the mosque, the police used a type of

“Nerve gas” that caused paralyses, twitching and suffocation among dozens of worshippers.

Seeking Peaceful Resistance amid Violent Oppression

As the number of refugees flowing into South Sudan continues to increase along with the severity of the famine and drinking water crises in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, protests in Sudan against the Khartoum Regime continue. The government is using tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition to disperse protests. They are also evidently beating protesters and preventing people from accessing health care. A Standing Committee of Sudanese Physicians press release from June 29 stated that:

We witnessed the police force and large numbers of regime thugs take control of Omdurman ‘s hospital A&E entrance to prevent those injured from gaining access to the admission desk to receive treatment.

Yassir Arman, Secretary General of the SPLM-N, said in a press release from July 5th that:

As of now, more than 1,500 activists are in jail. Some of them are subject to torture including some leaders from the SPLM-N.

Meanwhile, the Khartoum Regime may indeed be allowing some aid into South Kordofan, but only into areas controlled by the regime and only if distributed by organizations supported by the regime. In other words, humanitarian aid is not at all being allowed to reach those most in need, those being attacked by the regime.

The resistance to the regime continues. In Khartoum, the opposition parties have gone to the extent of creating a “Democratic Alternative Charter” that calls for the end of the rule of the regime, but seem to be doing so primarily, if not solely, based upon economic issues and, in particular, the ending of gas subsidies. The parties do not seem to be interested in sharing power with those not in Khartoum.

This brings up more from Yassir Arman’s press release. He stated that:

The SPLM-N and the SRF will continue to support the non-violent and peaceful paths of the uprising. The uprising will continue, and the SRF, in our last meeting, resolved the following: 1) to support and to seriously be involved in the peaceful uprising; 2) to set a mechanism that will enable effective participation of the SRF supporters; 3) to look for a comprehensive alternative with other political forces. Ending the war is a priority that cannot be done without the SRF.