By Eric Reeves
March 4, 2017 (SSNA) — A series of recent dispatches from Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga make painfully clear the consequences of gross mismanagement of the Sudanese economy by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, which retains its monopolistic hold on national wealth and power despite the absurdly factitious “new government” announced by President (and indicted génocidaire) Omar al-Bashir. The grotesque misdirection and illegal appropriation of national wealth increasingly takes a large toll on the people of Sudan, with widespread suffering in the form of acute shortages, medical crises, and the continuing deterioration of meaningful existence for the people of Darfur, especially those facing the prospect of displaced persons camp closings. The regime consistently refuses to accept the economic reality of losing large oil revenues with the secession of South Sudan, and has failed to invest in critical sectors of the economy or to commit to equally critical elements of the decaying national infrastructure. Health and medical care are deteriorating in conspicuous ways throughout Sudan. This was true even during the years 1999 – 2011 when the regime was flush with petro-dollars.
The aggregate effects of this economic mismanagement, while clear to the people of Sudan who bear their terrible burden, are ignored by those who have thrown their support to this genocidal junta: the Europeans, the Gulf Arab States, the African Union, and the United States, as well as traditional supporters Russia and China. The general pretense is that the economy has struggled because of causes that cannot be traced back to the regime’s mismanagement. This is convenient but is finally an immensely destructive lie.
Just how destructive are the economic policies of the regime? I have written frequently on this topic before and Appendix A comprises a list of publications, recent and more distant in time, that focus sharply on this question. Here I wish to point to recent, specific implications of the destructive policies and priorities of the Khartoum regime as it oversees Sudan’s national wealth. This is the first of a series of analyses.
The devastating consequences of economic mismanagement and gross self-enrichment affect the health, livelihoods, and lives of many millions of people across Sudan. Here the destruction of Zimbabwe under the thuggish and long-ruling Robert Mugabe offers a number of suggestive comparative points, however different the two countries may be and the nature of the two authoritarian leaderships (on Zimbabwe, see “How to Kill a Country,” Samantha Power, The Atlantic, December 2003 | https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/12/how-to-kill-a-country/302845/ ).
On virtually ever point of economic health and development, Sudan deserves a failing mark, despite lies of the sort increasingly promulgated by European countries eager to partner with the Khartoum regime and corrupt international actors such as the International Monetary Fund. In an October 2013 “IMF News Release,” Edward Gemayel, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Sudan, declared that: “Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies” (http://www.4-traders.com/news/IMF-International-Monetary-Fund-Press-Release-Sudan-Meeting-of-the-Technical-Working-Group-on-E–17345158/). This claim by Gemayel is so preposterous, so completely at odds with the economic policies of the current regime both prior to and subsequent to Gemayel’s remarks of 2013, that one must assume a perverse, finally immoral agenda guiding them.
We might well wish to ask Gemayel what he makes of the Khartoum regime’s spending priorities for the country and how they contribute to “sustainable economic policies”:
Sudan tribune | December 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has appropriated more than 29 billion pounds (SDG) (about $1,8 billion) to defense and security which represents the largest single spending item in the 2017 budget. According to Sudan’s 2017 budgetary estimates seen by Sudan Tribune, 5bn pounds have been allocated to the sovereign sector while 2,3bn was appropriated for agriculture and forests spending.,,,
Sudan’s security apparatus has expanded vastly and military expenditure continued to rise as the government relies increasingly on militias such as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and the Rapid Support Forces (SRF) in military operations. Last year, Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir said “If 100% of the state’s budget was allocated to the army to secure the country, then that is still not enough.”
Does Gemayel think that this grotesque overspending on the military and security services has nothing to do with the immensely destructive rate of inflation that is crushing so many Sudanese seeking to purchase the most essential commodities, including food, medicine, and cooking fuel? The regime’s Central Bureau of Statistics recently put the official inflation rate at 32.9 percent; but the CBS is little more than an extension of Khartoum’s propaganda apparatus and those who follow the Sudanese economy consistently put the inflation rate at over 50 percent—a rate that threatens to become hyper-inflation of the sort that completely destroyed Zimbabwe’s currency.
There is virtually no foreign exchange currency (Forex) in the Central Bank of Sudan, which makes many imports impossible, certainly in adequate quantities. Many critical medicines are available only to the very rich. Flour and bread shortages are reported with increasing frequency, driving up prices ferociously. There are also shortages of refined petroleum products, since the “sustainable economic policies” Gemayel speaks of did not include building an adequate domestic petroleum refining capacity: diesel fuel and cooking oil must be imported as a consequence. Transportation costs are skyrocketing, which has particularly serious effects for the peripheral regions of Sudan, including Darfur, where inflation is being felt particularly acutely. Food prices in much of South Kordofan are increasingly beyond the means of many Sudanese. And the value of the Sudanese pound against hard currencies continues is precipitous decline, making imports even more expensive for the average Sudanese civilian.
The examples—and effects—of the shortages could be multiplied endlessly, even in Khartoum and Omdurman.
The following are all from Radio Dabanga:
Bread shortage as Khartoum bakeries shut-down | February 26, 2017 | KHARTOUM
Acute shortage of bread in Sudan | January 9, 2017 | KHARTOUM / EL OBEID / EL GEZIRA
‘Children in Sudan dying from lack of clean drinking water’ | November 1, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Sudanese MPs: People dying of thirst in Red Sea and Blue Nile | November 9, 2016 | RED SEA / BLUE NILE
Shortage of petrol in Khartoum and other Sudanese towns | February 14, 2017 | KHARTOUM / EN NAHUD
Bus fares soar in eastern Sudan | November 9, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Transport crisis developing in Sudan capital | December 5, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Power cuts disturb life in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref | February 20, 2017 | EL GEDAREF
Sudan: Pharmacies swept up in high drug prices | November 22, 2016 | KHARTOUM
34 patients lose eyesight completely, Khartoum eye centre closed | February 24, 2017 | KHARTOUM
And when humanitarian organizations face funding shortages (sometimes a cover excuse for leaving what are intolerable operating circumstances), Khartoum almost never provides replacement resources, no matter how critical the human needs:
Swedish group plans to close 20 aid centres in South Kordofan
Sudan Tribune| November 26, 2016 (KHARTOUM) -A Swedish humanitarian group announced this week it would gradually end its activities in the troubled South Kordofan State where they provide nutrition and health assistance to some 200,000 people.
Failure to invest in critical infrastructure projects is also taking a heavy toll, making further nonsense of Gemayel’s claim about the regime’s “sustainable economic policies.” There are increasingly serious and numerous water shortages, and this is the major reason behind the vast outbreak of cholera in many regions of Sudan in recent months—an outbreak the regime refused to acknowledge, even as the laboratory evidence was conclusive. See:
“What the Cholera Epidemic in Sudan Tells Us About the Absurdity of Lifting U.S. Sanctions on Khartoum” | January 25, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-20U (Sudan Tribune | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61489 )
Why does the IMF offer no substantial correction to the outrageous, mendacious, and destructive pronouncements of Gemayel? In fact, the IMF says nothing even in the face of such vast economic self-destruction.
As subsequent analyses will show in detail, the economy continues to function as a kleptocracy. And self-enrichment by the regime that takes increasingly desperate form as financial and economic pressures continue to increase at terrifying rates.
The economic disaster in greater Sudan certainly extends to Darfur, where people are particularly vulnerable, especially to hikes in food prices. And yet again the international community refuses to speak honestly about the grim realities. Europe and the UN are deeply complicit in this moral corruption. A recent visit to Darfur by European Union officials is all too revealing. An “information-gathering” visit—certainly defined and overseen by Military Intelligence (MI), with extreme constraints on what could be seen—was reported only by Radio Dabanga:
‘Situation in Darfur improved’: EU diplomat | February 12, 2017 | EL FASHER | The security and humanitarian situation in Darfur has significantly improved, according to the head of the EU Delegation to Sudan. On Wednesday, in a meeting of EU ambassadors with the North Darfur government in El Fasher, EU Ambassador Jean-Michel Dumond said that the EU stays committed to the projects commenced under the auspices of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA). The mandate of the DRA ended in July last year.
Unmentioned by EU Ambassador Jean-Michel Dumond are the four devastating human rights reports on Darfur from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International over the past two years, together providing us a devastating portrait of human suffering and destruction that rises to the level of “genocide by attrition”:
“Men With No Mercy”: Rapid Support Forces Attacks Against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan,“ Human Rights Watch | September 9, 2015
“Sudanese Army Attacks against Civilians in Tabit,” Human Rights Watch| February 11, 2015
“Darfuri Students Arrested, Detailed and Tortured for Speaking Out,” Amnesty International | January 18, 2017
“Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air: Sudanese Government Forces Ravage Jebel Marra, Darfur,” Amnesty International | 109 pages; September 29, 2016
The last of these provides overwhelming evidence of Khartoum’s use of chemical weapons in the massive military campaign against the people of Jebel Marra (Central Darfur) for much of last year (2016). There was no mention by the expedient Dumond of the many areas where “development” is irrelevant because there is no humanitarian access.
Withering humanitarian operations in Darfur are increasingly under-funded, with no replacement capacity provided by Khartoum, even as the regime speaks of the “Sudanization” of relief efforts. As it has for the past fourteen years, Khartoum continues to impede, harass, and obstruct humanitarian efforts in Darfur. The claim by Obama administration Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power that there has been a “sea change” of improvement in humanitarian access in Sudan is simply false; her claim is thoroughly belied by the facts on the ground. All we have really seen, beyond a couple of gestures designed for international consumption, are “promises” by Khartoum to facilitate humanitarian access for the next few months (until the decision to lift sanctions from Khartoum is finalized by the Trump administration, an almost certain outcome of the July review by this hideously cruel and ignorant group of men). Khartoum’s promises have of course consistently proved worthless since the regime came to power by military coup in 1989.
There was no mention by Dumond of the fact that the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) is acknowledged by all—even if silently by some—to have been a complete failure. The Darfur Regional Authority that emerged from the DDPD achieved virtually nothing of significance, certainly if we consider the levels of violence that currently prevail, and the roughly 3 million Dafuris who have been displaced from their homes and cannot return because of insecurity or because their lands have been violently expropriated by Arab militia groups, including some from Chad, Niger, Mali, and elsewhere in West Africa (a fact regularly reported from the early years of the Darfur counter-insurgency). See:
“Changing the Demography”: Violent Expropriation and Destruction of Farmlands in Darfur, November 2014 – November 2015″ | December 1, 2015 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1P4
Dumond made no mention of this deliberate, genocidal “change in demography,” first urged by notorious Arab Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal in a widely distributed memo of August 2004 from Misteriya, North Darfur (http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Oo/). Hilal urged that Darfur be “emptied of African tribes,” and current levels of displacement suggest how successful Hilal and Khartoum have been.
There was no mention by Dumond of the threat to close the camps for displaced persons, a threat that the regime has been explicit about for more than a year. I wrote at length in January 2016 about the comments of the Khartoum regime’s Second Vice-President, Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman, speaking in North Darfur in late December 2015. I cited a dispatch from Sudan Tribune, December 28, 2015 that included the following:
In a speech delivered before the representatives of former rebel groups and IDPs in El-Fasher, North Darfur on Monday, [Second Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdelrahman] said Darfur has “completely recovered from the war and is now looking forward to achieve a full peace, stability and development.”
“IDP camps represent a significant and unfortunate loss of dignity and rights of citizens in their country” he said and called on the displaced “to choose within no more than a month between resettlement or return to their original areas.”
He further reiterated his government’s commitment to take all the measures and do the needful to achieve this goal, stressing that “the year 2016 will see the end of displacement in Darfur.” Abdel Rahman told the meeting that he has just ended a visit to Karnoi and Tina areas in North Darfur, adding the two areas which were affected by the conflict have totally recovered. He said his visit with a big delegation to the two areas “is a message sceptics in the fact that security and stability are back in Darfur”…
A year later, Radio Dabanga reported:
Displaced given days to vacate South Darfur camp, February 17, 2017 | KALMA CAMP – The Commissioner of Nyala locality in South Darfur has given the residents of Centre 4 of Otash camp near the state capital less than a week to vacate it before it is dismantled. The spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, Hussein Abusharati, told Radio Dabanga that a Land Cruiser mounted with a Dushka machine gun drove into the camp on Thursday afternoon. “It moved through the camp using a loudspeaker, calling on the displaced to evacuate the camp by Feb. 22, without specifying an alternative place for the 14,000 displaced to live.”
The emptying of Otash 4 was delayed be two weeks, and has not yet occurred. But there simply can be no doubt about ultimate Khartoum’s intentions. And even a partial emptying of camps that house, however poorly and insecurely, more than 2.5 million people will be catastrophic, producing overcrowding in other camps and leaving many completely without food, shelter, or water.
Why was there no statement from Ambassador Dumond about this looming catastrophe? Does he believe with Vice President Hassabo that “security and stability are back in Darfur”? Has he seen Hassabo’s remarks as reported by Human Rights Watch:
Ahmed [a defecting soldier interviewed by Human Rights Watch] said that a few days prior to leaving for East Jebel Marra, Sudanese Vice President Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman directly addressed several hundred army and RSF soldiers:
“Hassabo told us to clear the area east of Jebel Marra. To kill any male. He said we want to clear the area of insects. … He said East Jebel Marra is the kingdom of the rebels. We don’t want anyone there to be alive.”
Does Ambassador Dumond understand the word “genocide”? Does he care about its commission in Darfur?
An extraordinarily revealing news exposé from last year provides far too much of the answer, as the EU seeks to stanch the flow of African migrants to Europe by partnering with the Khartoum regime—providing high-tech surveillance and registration equipment, with an unfathomable decision by Germany to assist in the building of what will be “concentration camps” outside Khartoum—prison-like camps where people will be “concentrated” on the basis of ethnicity, place or country of origin, as well as political and religious views. See:
Der Spiegel (May 13, 2016), “Questionable Deal: EU to Work with [Sudan’s] Despot to Keep Refugees Out” | http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/eu-to-work-with-despot-in-sudan-to-keep-refugees-out-a-1092328.html
There was no mention by Dumond of the threats to transportation in much of Darfur posed by armed Arab militias, often obstructing humanitarian supplies. This was particularly true of Sortony IDP camp last years, and became so serious that the UN had to fly, at enormous cost, people from Sortony of the el-Fasher area, where IDP camps are already badly overcrowded.
Armed pastoralists closes Darfur main road
Sudan Tribune | December 6, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Armed pastoralists Monday closed the road linking Nyala and El-Fasher the capital towns of South and North Darfur states and seized passenger buses in Darbat area, in East Jebel Mara locality.
Radio Dabanga, Tabit in North Darfur ‘besieged by armed herders’ | January 26, 2017 | TABIT
Such actions ensure that we will continue to see reports directly linked to the denial of adequate humanitarian access to Darfur (reports from Radio Dabanga unless otherwise indicated):
Insecurity, lack of education harm Darfur’s Sortony camp | February 21, 2017 | KABKABIYA (North Darfur)
Health, water crisis spreads disease in Darfur camps | February 15, 2017 | KASS / TAWILA
Darfur camp residents complain of attacks, poor services | February 19, 2017 | MURNEI / MERSHING
Seventh mother’s death highlights midwife shortage in South Darfur | February 16 – 2017 | NYALA
Darfur IDPs complain from severe cold, lack of shelter materials | Sudan Tribune | December 21, 2016 (NYALA) – Thousands of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in South Darfur state have complained from the severe weather conditions saying there is an acute shortage of blankets and plastic sheets to protect them…
Darfur’s Jebel Marra hit by disease, displaced need winter aid | January 15, 2017 | JEBEL MARRA / KHARTOUM
Thirst in North Darfur’s Shaddad camp | January 9, 2017 | SHADDAD CAMP
Three die of food poisoning in North Darfur camp | January 29, 2017 | SHANGIL TOBAYA
Why does none of this figure in the assessment statement made by Dumond and the other EU officials who accompanied him? One answer of course is that they would never have been allowed to see what Khartoum did not want them to see: they had no freedom of movement, and the orchestrated “assessment survey” was hopelessly corrupt, as Dumond and his fellow travelers surely knew. This was all of a piece with the shocking expediency revealed by Der Spiegel a year ago.
PREFACE TO SUBSEQUENT ECONOMIC ANALYSES
If we want to understand why the regime survives amidst deep and widespread civil unrest and resentment, we need to see clearly the costs of expediency by the most consequential international actors—the UN, the EU, the U.S., Arab states, and the African Union—in turning a blind eye to realities in Sudan. This includes not only rapidly escalating repression—detention of scores of political prisoners and human rights activists, extremely severe curtailment of newspapers; it includes not only the pursuit of what are genocidal counter-insurgency wars in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, entailing the commission the grossest violations of human rights and international law; but it includes as well the destruction of a Sudanese economy.
In the face of all this, the world continues to pretend to believe the view most cynically articulated by former U.S. special envoy for the Sudans Princeton Lyman, who preposterously suggested a very different political future for Sudan in December 2011:
“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman)
We have seen nothing of the sort—only the fantastically concocted “National Dialogue,” culminating in the sham of a “new government” formed by President al-Bashir with First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh as Prime Minister. There has been no meaningful “reform,” merely the most transparent repackaging of the National Islamic Front since it renamed itself the “National Congress Party” in the late 1990s.
In looking away from the outrageous economic destruction wrought by this regime, whatever we call it, the world is ensuring that this destruction in many cases cannot be reversed. Here it is particularly important to note the sale and long-term leasing of large tracts of agricultural lands to Arab and Asian countries that are seeking to provide for their own long-term food security needs. This comes at the expense of future agricultural needs in Sudan, where half the population lives under the international poverty line and millions of people are suffer from either Acute Malnutrition (see Action Contre la Faim | http://actioncontrelafaim.ca/what-is-acute-malnutrition/what-is-acute-malnutrition/) or, more dangerously, Severe Malnutrition (see World Health Organization | http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/malnutrition/en/).
Unless the international community recognizes not only the brutality of this regime, but its enormously destructive management of the Sudanese economy, Sudan as a country will remain in desperate condition for the foreseeable future. Ignoring this reality, as the international community is presently doing, in no way diminishes the danger to the people of Sudan—now and in the future. A ruthless military junta is determining fate of many millions of Sudanese children—and are being accommodated as they do so.
APPENDIX: What we know about the Sudanese economy and its destruction by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime:
- “What the Cholera Epidemic in Sudan Tells Us About the Absurdity of Lifting U.S. Sanctions on Khartoum” | January 25, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-20U(Sudan Tribune| http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61489 )
- “The Final Betrayal of Sudan: Obama administration’s lifting of economic sanctions; UN Ambassador Samantha Power justifying the move, claiming a ‘sea change’ of improvement in humanitarian access”| http://wp.me/p45rOG-20F(The Huffington Post| http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-reeves/the-final-betrayal-of-sud_b_14167508.html )
- “Massive Funding Shortages Leave a Vast Population at Acute Health Risk in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile”| November 19, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Yn
I’ve looked at the long history of economic mismanagement and how the regime has achieved its status as one of the very most corrupt in the world, with the regime enriching itself through creation of an extraordinarily powerful kleptocracy:
- “On the Invisibility of Darfur: Causes and consequences over the past five years”| October 22, 2016 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1WS (Part Two at http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Xy)
- “Kleptocracy in Khartoum: Self-Enrichment by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party, 2011 – 2015,” Enough Project Forum Report | http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/enough-forum-release-kleptocracy-khartoum
- “Watching the Bubble Burst: Political Implications of Sudan’s Economic Implosion,” Enough Project Forum publication, 17 September 2014 | http://www.enoughproject.org/reports/enough-forum-watching-bubble-burst
Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.