Oil has turned Sudan’s economy into one of the fastest growing economies in the world. While Western media and governments and activists label Sudan as having “one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises” they in turn portray it as a land of cracked earth and starving people. Sudan is booming in spite of Western sanctions and declarations. American sanctions have kept most Western companies out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will make up to $3 billion in direct investment this year.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and the tenth largest in the world. It houses the type of mineral resources Western countries want. So, note the latest West scheme to get the land: It will occur in January 2011 when the people of Southern Sudan will likely vote to succeed from the North. The US wants the south to secede. Then, they can get their hands on the oil and energy resources. The Southerners will take with them about 80 percent of the country’s oil revenue. But with little governance and poor infrastructure, many fear, the South could be at risk of becoming a failed state from the outset.
The civil war between North and South Sudan is the longest in African history, claimed 2 million people’s lives and finally ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Since then, the two sides have been slowly working their way toward the referendum. But many issues – from how to distribute oil wealth to even where the border would be drawn – still must be resolved. Even though most of Sudan’s oil is in the South, it can only be exported through the North to Port Sudan.
North or South, “What is the best way to deal with Sudan” is the question. Among President Obama’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers is Susan E. Rice an African-American that is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice and her supporters are adversarial and like taking “a hard line” to bring Sudan “into line”. They charge Sudan’s President Omar el-Bashir of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general who is Special Envoy to Sudan. Gration recommends the US remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and suggests that constructive engagement with Sudan would better advance US goals.
Oil and real estate investment currently drive Sudan’s economy. Unified Sudan’s G.D.P. is predicted to increase by 12 percent this year. Cotton and other agricultural products are traditionally engines of the economy, but the new growth comes largely because of Sudan’s increased its crude oil production. The economic boom also strengthens President el-Bashir’s hand at home with an infrastructure binge that poured hundreds of millions of dollars into roads, bridges, power plants, hospitals and schools, projects that has boosted his popularity substantially.
On the other hand, in Juba, the capital of the South, there are just three paved roads. From hard scrabbled Juba, Salva Kiir is the man the U.S. has helped operate as president of Southern Sudan. Kiir is former rebel guerrilla in a rebel army that Western activists have been supporting for decades. His regime has long been a rebel darling of donors from the Bush years. His blend of defiant nationalism and Christian piety resonates among hard line Washington ideologues that seek to reshape Sudan. In the Obama’s era, the U.S. has been poured than $600 million annually into Southern Sudan to bolster Kiir’s government. Obama inherited the Sudanese nation-building from his the Bush administration that crafted the CPA. Since 2005, America has injected some $6 billion into the country and is the largest single donor to Sudan, and Sudan is one of the top recipients of USAID disbursements, behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As activists celebrate their election victories in Southern Sudan, the question should be posed as to whether this is just another case of Westerners leaving natives with Bibles while they take the land?
(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)