- Created: Monday, 21 December 2015 11:59
- Written by Charles Chinweizu
‘If the south goes there will be no more Sudan’ – Malik Agar, Sudan Revolutionary Front ‘rebel’ leader and former governor of Blue Nile state, 2009.
On 28 October 2015, President Obama extended US sanctions on Sudan for the 18th consecutive year as part of a strategy to maintain Sudan in political and economic isolation. Its aim has been to break Sudan up into smaller bite-size chunks so as to deny vital energy resources to strategic rival China, Sudan’s main trade partner. South Sudan, a creation of imperialism which broke away in 2011 has descended into war barely three years after it was formed. The imperialists do not want South Sudan to collapse entirely, and are determined to keep it as a thorn in the side of Sudan regardless of the human cost.
In 1982, Sudan was the top recipient of US aid in sub-Saharan Africa. The US wanted to sever Sudan’s ties with Gaddafi’s Libya, counter Soviet influence in the country and prise Sudan out of the non-aligned movement. There has been continuous civil war in Sudan since independence in 1956, apart from a 10-year gap between 1972 and 1982. Its origins go back to the British colonial occupation and its deliberate divide-and-rule strategy: the north and south were governed as two separate administrations to encourage separate identities. The British imperialists ‘developed’ the north and ignored the south.
After a military coup brought General Omar al Bashir to power in June 1989, USAID suspended its ‘non-humanitarian aid’. The blockade was progressively tightened in the 1990s after Sudan supported Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In August 1993, Sudan was designated a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. Sudan gave refuge to Osama Bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalist groups until 1996. In November 1997, President Clinton imposed sanctions on the country and in August 1998 authorised the bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory on the pretext it was a chemical weapons factory. It was sub-Saharan Africa's largest pharmaceutical plant, the only source of drugs that were lifelines to hundreds of thousands of people. Following the 9/11 attack in September 2001, the US according General Wesley Clark, put Sudan on a list of ‘seven countries [the US] was going to take out in five years … Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran’.
Sudan is believed to hold Africa’s largest unexploited oil reserves. Asian countries, especially China, have been the main beneficiaries of oil exploitation which began in 1997. The unilateral withdrawal of US capital left the way open for Russian and Chinese capital which built a local arms industry and Sudan’s oil infrastructure.
To deny oil supplies to China, the US, France, and Britain and their local allies began an armed rebellion in west Sudan (Darfur) in February 2003. The ‘rebels’ then split into 30 infighting factions, much to the chagrin of the imperialists who had armed them. The imperialists used Israel in an attempt to unify the rebels. The Darfur war has cost the lives of over 300,000 people and displaced around 2.5 million people. Most victims of Darfur’s civil war died of starvation, malnutrition and preventable diseases. The imperialists constantly urged the Darfur ‘rebels’ behind the scenes not to agree to any proposals put forward by Sudan in rounds of negotiations that have become meaningless.
The constant behind-the-scenes machinations of the imperialists culminated with the secession in July 2011 of South Sudan, which took with it oil revenues that exceeded $7bn annually. Sudan lost 75% of its oil revenue as a consequence, 46% of public treasury revenues and 80% of foreign currency earnings. With state expenditure ($10.2bn) exceeding income ($8.1bn), Sudan has been forced to adopt austerity policies and to cancel subsidies on fuel, wheat and strategic goods. The IMF has supported this. This has inevitably led to social explosions and deadly protests such as those in September-October 2013 which were brutally repressed by the government with 210 people killed. Sudan’s economic problems are in essence political.
With Sudan’s economy buckling, the imperialists hoped that South Sudan would finish off the job. It hasn’t quite happened that way. A political crisis when South Sudan President Salva Kiir tried to consolidate his power by dissolving decision-making organs led to an explosion of violence in December 2013. Tens of thousands of people have died, 1.64 million people are internally displaced, and another 628,000 have fled into neighbouring countries, while over 4.6 million people (more than a third of the population) face starvation. In April 2014, the US froze military aid and the EU imposed an arms embargo. Eight ‘ceasefire’ agreements have failed so far to achieve peace.
The UN in March 2015 reported that South Sudanese soldiers and their allied militias killed civilians, kidnapped and raped women and girls, burned down and destroyed villages and forced some 100,000 people to flee their homes. Some people were burned alive in their homes. The ‘rebels’ have also carried out similar crimes. Israel has been training soldiers in South Sudan and selling the country arms, making it complicit in the war crimes. Israeli ‘transport aircraft land at the airport in South Sudan every day’ unloading arms and mercenaries (Al-Monitor.com). Up to 300 British troops are to be sent to South Sudan and Somalia under the pretext of ‘training, engineering, and mentoring’.
The economic blockade on Sudan did not end with South Sudan’s secession, and now violent conflicts have erupted in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in the southern part of the country. Whatever the motivation of these new ‘rebels’, it is clear that they are being used to further the imperialist’s agenda of regime change. In response Sudan is looking for new allies for investment. Iraq is to build an oil refinery in Bor port. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to invest $10 billion in agricultural land. Saudi Arabia is the destination for the largest number of Sudanese migrant workers, followed by Kuwait, Qatar and UAE. In exchange, Sudan has sent 900 troops to support Saudi Arabia’s bombing and occupation of Yemen. Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria have recently started exploration in new Sudanese oil fields.
Imperialist interference has underdeveloped Sudan and as a consequence the country is steadily disintegrating. With so much bloodshed, displacement and destruction, Sudan’s future looks bleak unless the the US and British imperialists are ejected from the region.