An East-West railroad, along with Trans-African highways, and electrical power, is essential for African nations to become sovereign independent nations. It is coherent with the African Union’s “Agenda 2063.” Sudan is geographically situated to become the nexus of the East-West and North South rail lines. Africa’s collaboration in recent years with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Russia, and other nations to build vitally necessary infrastructure is the only way to eliminate poverty, hunger, and disease. It will also lead to finally putting African nations on the path to building robust agricultural and manufacturing sectors. This policy stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s “non-Africa Strategy,” which will do nothing to help Africa, nor improve US Security.
Russia Wants To Help Build an African Cross-Continental Rail Line
Dec. 16, 2018
The Russia-Sudan Inter-governmental Commission announced in a report that Russia wants to participate in the construction of a cross-continental rail line, which will connect East and West Africa. TASS reported that the commission document states: “The Sudanese side expressed interest in participation of the Russian companies in constructing of the Trans-African railway from Dakar-Port Sudan-Cape Town. The Russian side confirmed readiness to work out the opportunity for participation but asked for [the] provision of all the financial and legal characteristics of this project.”
TASS explained that “the Trans-African railway line is part of the African Union’s plans to connect the port of Dakar in West Africa to the port of Djibouti in East Africa. It will run through 10 different countries (many of them landlocked) and is expected to boost trade on the continent. The route will be the expansion of the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5). The first phase of the project will be an estimated $2.2 billion upgrade to 1,228 kilometers of existing rail between Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and Bamako, the capital of neighboring Mali.
The project has already attracted Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”
On October 12, 2017 the Trump administration announced the partial lifting of sanctions against the nation of Sudan to allow the government and people of Sudan to participate in the international banking system to promote trade and economic growth. Over the last twenty years since these financial, trade, and banking sanctions were imposed, Sudan has economically suffered. President’s Trump’s executive order easing restrictions on Sudan created a new mood of optimism, with the State Department indicating that this would be the beginning of new relations with Sudan. The State Department publicly mooted that this could be the first step to removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism in the future. However, after almost four months, the U.S. government has not facilitated the transfer of money for Sudan, which is contributing to the nation’s economic strife today.
Sudan Opens a Second Front
The failure by the U.S. to implement fully the easing sanction is the result of a conflict between President Trump’s agenda and dissident factions in the State Department, supported by many in the Congress, who are incapable of relinquishing their fanatical desire to have Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir removed from office. These contradictions became obvious when Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan visited Khartoum on November 16, 2017, and conspicuously avoided meeting with President Bashir, using the excuse that the president of Sudan has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, it is well known that previous administrations supported efforts to have President Bashir removed from office. The zealots of this international alliance for regime change, who have been behind this nefarious campaign for decades, reject even tentative overtures by President Trump to chart a new course for U.S.-Sudan relations. There are unconfirmed reports that the U.S. State Department, not the executive branch, is demanding the removal of President Bashir as a precondition for further progress in U.S.-Sudan relations including removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
One week following the diplomatic snub by Sullivan, the most senior State Department official to visit Khartoum, President Bashir shocked everyone in Washington, and many in Khartoum, when he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on November 23. This surprise move was not expected by Washington. Reflecting the sentiments of most Sudanese, especially in the ruling National Congress Party, that the U.S. once again was not acting in good faith, President Bashir made his very first visit to Russia. Fearing that the goalposts have been moved again, as they have been repeatedly, and that the regime-change faction is still desirous of his removal, President Bashir asked Russia for protection from aggressive acts by the U.S. Sudan’s Rapprochement With Russia
The two presidents discussed increased economic and military cooperation, including the possibility of Russia securing a military base on the Red Sea that forms the eastern border of Sudan. According to knowledgeable sources, President Bashir will continue to look forward to improved cooperation with the U.S. and the West, but simultaneously pursue a closer alliance with Russia. President Bashir believes Russia’s veto on the United Nations Security Council, along with its military capability as demonstrated in Syria, will provide a bulwark against any future reckless policy against Sudan by the West.
U.S. Needs Sudan
For Sudan, there is no turning back from their “dual-front” policy with the world’s two superpowers, but it didn’t have to come to this. The failure to fully implement the easing of trade/financial sanctions after years of refusal by the U.S. to talk face-to-face with President Bashir, accompanied by the severe economic hardships suffered by the Sudanese people from U.S.-led sanctions, contributed to President Bashir’s first overture to Russia.
Sudan is strategically situated in East Africa in the Nile River system that connects sub-Saharan Africa to North Arica. Moreover, Sudan has for years been a valuable ally in the war against ISIS, providing useful intelligence to U.S. security forces. Also, it must be unequivocally stated, that there will be no solution to the crisis in South Sudan that the U.S. and Britain have contributed to, without the direct participation of the President of Sudan. Susan Rice, in charge of African policy in the second term of Bill Clinton’s Presidency is personally culpable for the horrific conditions in South Sudan today. She and other so-called liberals hated Sudan’s leadership, and were fierce advocates for the creation of South Sudan. Their intention was to use South Sudan as part of their arsenal for regime change, without the slightest concern for the welfare of the people of South Sudan.
Sudan is a nation rich in mineral resources, and has large tracts of arable land, not yet under cultivation. It has been known for decades, long before the creation of South Sudan in 2011, that Sudan had the potential to feed a billion people, about the size of sub-Saharan Africa’s population today. It should be recognized (if not admitted) that successive U.S. administrations have strategically failed in their policy towards Sudan, lacking a vision of how to participate with African nations to develop their huge wealth in land and in its people.
Africa needs huge investments in infrastructure to realize its potential in agriculture, industry, and manufacturing. Instead of the West fixating on extractive industries, i.e., gas, oil, and minerals, which have a minimal role in job creation, their focus should have been on railroads and energy. When the South-North and East-West railroads are finally built, their nexus will be in central Sudan. Trains carrying freight and people will be able to travel from Port Sudan on the Red Sea into West and Southern Africa, thus ensuring that Sudan will become a mega manufacturing-agricultural-transportation hub for the continent.
The Way Forward
There is a relatively easy path for President Trump to follow, to engage Sudan fruitfully. Port Sudan is already included on China’s Maritime Silk Road. China’s involvement in building infrastructure throughout the African continent is unparalleled. Were President Trump to join with China’s New Silk Road for Africa in vital infrastructure to Sudan, the U.S. would form new partnerships with Sudan and other African nations.
President Bashir demonstrated his ability to negotiate and compromise when he signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 with President George W. Bush to allow an independence referendum in South Sudan. This resulted in the peaceful separation of Sudan seven years ago, with Khartoum voluntarily giving up 75% of its oil production. With this historical perspective in mind, President Trump can put U.S.-Sudan relations on a positive course by arranging for direct, if informal, talks with President Bashir, and carrying through on the easing of sanctions pertaining to trade, finance, and banking. These actions will be well received in Khartoum and reciprocated.
Lawrence Freeman has been visiting and writing about Sudan for over 20 years, discussing economic development and US-Sudan relations with members of parliament, the NCP, and leaders of opposition parties.
The News China will build a railway from the Red Sea city of Port Sudan to the Chadian capital of N’Djamena proves just how serious Beijing is about pioneering a transcontinental Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road to more easily connect Africa’s largest country of Nigeria to the Eurasian landmass, bringing with it plenty of multipolar opportunities for China’s Pakistani and Turkish partners and showcasing the indispensable position that Sudan is poised to play in making this grand vision possible.
The Sudan Tribute [sic Tribune] recently reported that its eponymous country signed a deal with China to explore the viability of constructing a railway from Port Sudan to N’Djamena, with an eye on completing a long-awaited connectivity project that had hitherto been held up due to various degrees of regional instability. According to the publication, the original plan was to link up the Chadian and even nearby Central African Republic capitals with the Red Sea in order to provide these resource-rich landlocked states with an outlet to the global marketplace, which is increasingly becoming Asia-centric ergo the Eastern vector of this initiative. In terms of the bigger picture, however, the successful completion of the Port Sudan-N’Djamena Railway would constitute a crucial component of China’s unstated intentions to construct what the author had previously referred to as the “Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road”, the relevant portion of which (the Chad-Sudan Corridor) is a slight improvisation of Trans-African Highway 6.
Per the hyperlinked analysis above, the following custom map illustrates the full cross-continental vision that China has in mind:
Red: CCS (Cameroon-Chad-Sudan) Silk Road
Gold: Trans-African Highway 5
Lavender: Ethiopia-Nigeria Silk Road (the most direct route through resource-rich territory)
Pink: West African Rail Loop
Blue: Lagos-Calabar Silk Road
Green: Lagos-Kano Silk Road
Yellow: Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Silk Road
Each of the aforementioned tracks are described in a bit more detail in the cited article about the Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road and the author’s extensive Hybrid War study on Nigeria, but the two pertinent points to focus on in this piece are the CCS Silk Road (outlined in red on the map) and its larger purpose in possibly connecting Africa’s two largest countries and future Great Powers of Nigeria and Ethiopia. One of China’s grand strategic objectives in the emerging Multipolar World Order is to lay the infrastructural groundwork for facilitating the robust full-spectrum integration between these two giants, understanding that their Beijing-built bicoastal connectivity would bestow the People’s Republic with significant influence in the continent by streamlining an unprecedented corridor between them, thereby giving China the potential to more directly shape Africa’s overall development across the 21st century.
It goes without saying that Sudan is poised to play an indispensable role in making this happen by virtue of its advantageous geography in allowing China to circumnavigate the “Failed State Belt” of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and increasingly, maybe even Cameroon, as well by charting an overland Silk Road connectivity corridor between Ethiopia and Nigeria via Sudan and Chad. Moreover, the potential linkage of the planned Ethiopia-Sudan railwayto the prospective Port Sudan-N’Djamena railroad would enable Sudan to provide China with alternative access to these two landlocked states. Regional military leader and energy exporter Chad is already in physical touch with the outside world through Cameroon, just as the world’s fastest-growing economy and rising African hegemon Ethiopia utilizes the newly built Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway for this purpose, but the shrewd and far-sighted Chinese always feel more comfortable if they’re not dependent on a single route, hence the strategic importance of supplementary access to Chad and Ethiopia through Port Sudan.
While Sudan’s financial standing was left reeling ever since the American-backed separation of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011, Khartoum might fortuitously find itself wheeling and dealing along the New Silk Road if it’s successful in providing China with alternative market access to Chad and Ethiopia in the future, and especially if it can do the same with Nigeria in saving China the time in having to sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope in order to trade with it. For as easy as all of this may sound, however, the premier challenge that China will have to confront is to ensure the security of this traditionally unstable transit space, specifically in the context of maintaining peace in the former hotspot of Darfur and dealing with the plethora of destabilization scenarios emanating from the Lake Chad region (Boko Haram, Nigeria’s possible fragmentation, etc.).
In view of this herculean task, China could be lent a helping hand by its Pakistani and Turkish partners who each have a self-interested desire to this end, with Islamabad slated to patrol CPEC’s Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) with East Africa while Ankara is already a heavy hitter in Africa because of its recent embassy and airline expansion in the continent. Moreover, both of these countries are leaders of the international Muslim community (“Ummah”) in their own way and accordingly have soft power advantages over China in the majority-Muslim states of sub-Saharan Africa through which Beijing’s grand Silk Road projects will traverse. Seeing as how Pakistan and Turkey are also on very close relations with China, the scenario arises whereby these Great Powers enter into a trilateral working group with one another for effectively promoting their African policies through joint investments, socio-cultural initiatives, and the collective strengthening of Nigeria, Chad, and Sudan’s military capacities in countering their respective Hybrid War threats.
This is especially relevant when considering that all three transit states aren’t exactly on positive footing with the US. Washington initially refused to provide anti-terrorist assistance to Abuja when it first requested such against Boko Haram in 2014, and the Trump Administration has inexplicably placed N’Djamena on its travel ban list. As for Khartoum, it’s been under US sanctions for over two decades now, even though the State Department partially lifted some of them last month as part of its “carrots-and-sticks diplomacy” towards the country. Therefore, the case can convincingly be argued that these three African countries would be receptive to Chinese, Pakistani, and Turkish military assistance because their prospective Eurasian security partners are perceived of as being much more reliable and trusted than the Americans or French who always attach some sort of strings to their support. The only expectation that those three extra-regional states would have is that their counterparts’ collective stability would be enduring enough to facilitate win-win trade for everyone.
There’s a certain logic to the comprehensive strategy behind this Hexagonal Afro-Eurasian Partnership between Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Turkey, Pakistan, and China. Nigeria, as the West African anchor state, could help expeditiously funnel the region’s overland trade to the Red Sea via the landlocked Chadian transit state and the maritime Sudanese one, thus making Khartoum the continental “gatekeeper” of West African-Chinese trade. Turkey’s hefty investments and newfound presence in Africa could help to “lubricate” this corridor by making it more efficient, with President Erdogan trumpeting his country’s version of a moderate “Muslim Democracy” at home in order to score significant soft power points with these three majority-Muslim African states and their elites. Pakistan would assist in this vision by providing security between Port Sudan and what might by that point be its twinned sister port of Gwadar in essentially enabling the flow of West Africa trade to China by means of CPEC.
Altogether, maritime threats are kept to a minimum because of the shortened SLOC between Sudan and Pakistan (as opposed to Nigeria and China) while the mainland ones are manageable due to the military-security dimensions of the proposed Hexagonal Afro-Eurasian Partnership, but it nevertheless shouldn’t be forgotten that Sudan and Pakistan are the crucial mainland-maritime interfaces for this transcontinental and pan-hemispheric Silk Road strategy which is expected to form the basis of China’s “South-South” integration in the emerging Multipolar World Order.