Category Archives: Omar Bashir

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.

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.

Sudan Expels Aid Groups from Eastern Sudan

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) has ordered the seven aid groups working in eastern Sudan in the states of Kassala, Red Sea, and Gadaref to suspend their work. HAC’s primary job is to protect the regime from criticism. It is not primarily interested in helping to fix the problems caused by the overwhelming centralization of power and resources by the Khartoum Regime or allowing to be fixed by anyone else.

As the humanitarian organizations are working to remedy problems largely caused by the Khartoum Regime or whose remedies are impeded by the Khartoum Regime, it would not be surprising that they would point out the inadequacies of the Khartoum Regime in their work and potentially to recommend changes.

What all of the “marginalized” peoples of Sudan and South Sudan need to understand is that the cause of their problems is ultimately the same, the Khartoum Regime does not care about them and will not allow their lives to improve substantially at the expense of the Khartoum Regime if it can at all be avoided.

Sudan reaches out to Arab League

Nabil al-Arabi, Arab League Secretary general was in Khartoum for talks with president Omer Hassan al-Bashir over the weekend. The Khartoum regime is seeking aid from the Arab League to combat potential sanctions applied by the US and United Nations failure to work with South Sudan. They haven’t said that explicitly, but it appears to be the truth. The Arab nations have consistently sided with Sudan against South Sudan and exert influence in the United Nations.

Sudan has reached security and peace agreements in the past few months with Chad, with the Central African Republic, and with the newly Ghaddafi-less Libya. It is certainly not a good thing that the newly freed people of Libya have as one of their first activities embraced Omar al-Bashir.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is being portrayed as one between the Arab world on the one side and South Sudan, Uganda, and Israel on the other. The Sudan Revolutionary Front, the group comprised of people from the Nuba Mountains and Darfur along with others who are persecuted by the Khartoum regime are treated as if they fight for others instead of the truth which is that they are fighting for their own peace, justice, and liberty. This is Sudan’s way of misdirecting the discussion and discouraging western support for the “rebel” groups.

In the meantime, with the focus of attention away from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and instead on preventing war between Sudan and South Sudan, the Khartoum regime will be able to continue its efforts to kill or expel the Blue Nile and Nuba peoples, Christians and Muslims, men, women, and children and with the approaching rainy season, the urgency grows rapidly.

Negotiations and Urgency

Thabo Mbeki of the African Union met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir to discuss arranging negotiations with Sudan. South Sudan’s response, “Sure, let’s meet.” Sudan’s response, “No, give us what we want to achieve in the negotiations as preconditions for negotiations and then we’ll negotiate.” You can read more about the meeting between Mbeki and Kiir here.

In other news, the United States has donated $30 million to the UN World Food Program to address food insecurity in South Sudan. The donation will be delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). While we have discussed the need to get food aid into the Nuba Mountains before the rainy season hits, there is also a major need to get aid to many regions within South Sudan. According to USAID’s press release:

Due to South Sudan’s poor road network, about 60 percent of the country will become inaccessible during the rainy season. This contribution helps WFP complete prepositioning of much-needed commodities across South Sudan, where roads will soon become impassable.

Meanwhile, Sudan and the UN have grossly differing estimates for the number of refugees from Sudan who are currently in neighboring countries. Sudan’s estimates are less than half of those of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Regardless, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese now reside in neighboring countries because of the inhuman conduct of the Khartoum regime in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, while hundreds of thousands more are internally displaced. Remember that the several hundred thousands Christian former citizens of Sudan have become “South Sudanese” in the eyes of the Khartoum government and are being pressured to leave. In addition, many thousands more in the border region of South Sudan have also been displaced because of Khartoum’s cross border bombing campaign and cross border raids.

Sudan Council of Churches Office in South Darfur Ordered Closed

Sudan has raided and closed the offices of the Sudan Council of Churches in Nyala along with Sudan Aid without giving any notice, according to a report from Compass Direct News. Three employees of Sudan aid were arrested. National Intelligence and Security Services also shuttered a church that was caring for the needy in the area.

Sudan Accepts UNSC Resolution

Sudan has accepted “with reservations” the UNSC resolution seeking an end to hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan. The resolution also requires Sudan to negotiate with the SPLM-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. The Sudanese parliament rejected the use of the term “disputed” to refer to those territories and others which South Sudan also claims.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, seemed to take issue with Omar Bashir’s rhetoric of late, proposing that Bashir’s confrontational language makes South Sudan “appear” to be the victim. The Foreign Minister noted that:

The talk that they [SPLM leaders] are a group that only understands the stick was interpreted to be referring to the poem of [Abu El-Tayib] El-Mutanabi that says “you shall not buy a slave without a stick” and the term insect was likened to the use of the term cockroaches by the Hutu against the Tutsi during the Rwandan massacres.

The Sudan Tribune adds that:

Karti cautioned that Africa was still reeling from “an inferiority complex” that makes its leaders prone to interpreting any statement within certain contexts even if it was well-intentioned.

I am trying to figure out how these terms could be “well-intentioned” coming from a man wanted by the ICC for genocide in Darfur while hearing them in the context of attempted genocide in the Nuba Mountains. Seems to me that it is fairly clear that Bashir’s rhetoric is appropriate for his aim and that the world needs to see Bashir for what he is, a wanted war criminal seeking unashamedly to commit more war crimes.