December 26, 2018
Several days of protest triggered by an increase in the price of bread and petrol have created a serious political crisis for the government of Sudan. The core reason for the civil eruption is the adherence by the leadership of Sudan to the diktats by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), who have ordered the removal of subsidies for food and fuel. Sudan has been told by the Western financial institutions that its people must continue to suffer economically for future consideration of partial debt forgiveness. These same organizations have insisted that so-called market forces must determine the valuation of the Sudanese Pound. Unfortunately, Sudan acquiesced resulting in a steep devaluation of their currency causing more hardship for the already suffering Sudanese people. This is no exaggeration. During the 2018 Spring Bank/Fund meetings in DC, I attended as a journalist, the discussion with officials from the IMF/WB, US State Department, European nations, et al and representatives from Sudan. When I objected to the economic conditions that Sudan was being bludgeoned to submit to, the WB/IMF officials responded that the Sudanese people will have to undergo more pain. Their justification? It was necessary for Sudan to reduce those state expenditures that provided some economic relief for its people. That dialogue confirmed what I already knew: IMF/WB policies are not good for a nation’s health.
I re-emphasized to my Sudanese friends in the strongest terms what I have been telling them for years; for the welfare of your nation, Sudan must break from these policies. I warned my friends that the same political-financial forces who have been unsuccessful in trying to remove President Omar al-Bashir and weaken the National Congress Party for the last 25 years would change tactics. Now the enemies of Sudan will use the legitimate frustrations of the population against these harsh economic conditions to mobilize the Sudanese for regime change. There is no doubt in my mind that there are agents operating on the ground in Sudan to channel these protests into a movement for the over throw of President al-Bashir.
A repressive response will not succeed in quelling the people’s anger. In fact, that is what the enemies of Sudan are expecting. What is immediately required to prevent this crisis from escalating to a full-scale destabilization pf the nation is; 1) an abrupt termination of the IMF/WB prescriptions, and 2) articulating a national economic development plan that will utilize all of Sudan’s natural resources, most especially its people.
Submitting a message to President Al-Bashir form his Chinese counterpart, the senior Chinese official put it clearly that China’s selection of Sudan as strategic partner, was notva random or arbitrary decision, but rather an option carefully calculated and studied.
That is why the said visit was highly celebrated in Khartoum, both in form and substance, as the most important visit of a senior Chinese official, perhaps since the visit of the Chinese presidentHu Jintao to Sudan in 2007, which brought the long standing cooperation between the two countries to yet a new level.
From historical perspective, it goes down in history, that Sudan was the fourth country in the continent, to have established full diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China on 4th February 1959. Since then, China has continued to maintain good and exemplary relations with Khartoum to meritoriously culminate in the year 2015, into strategic partnership, when the Sudanese President Al- Bashir was accorded a red carpet treatment during the latter’s historic and landmark visit to Beijing.
The win-win formula was the impetus and the driving force behind Sino-Sudanese rapidly evolving relationship. As a matter of fact, If China’s contribution in the development of Sudan’s oil sector continues to be envisaged as highly significant to Khartoum, nevertheless, such engagement could not have easily streamlined without China’s own receptiveness to the prospect.
Likewise, Khartoum with its timely adoption of its Look East strategy at that time was at the right time of history; Sudan in particular was equally important to China’s efforts to develop its oil sector. No surprisingly, Sudan acted as China’s gateway to Africa.
In other words, China’s involvement in Sudan spans an important phase in the restructuring and expansion of china’s own national oil companies overseas; China’s aim at that time was to build internationally competitive firms and to enhance China’s security in regard to an energy supply.
Arguably, the most important characteristic of the historical relations between Sudan and China is that alongside the economic interactions, it was solidly based on mutual trust and respect. Hence, geographical dimension and the language barriers did not preclude the extension of the relationship on all cultural and social levels. In other words, Sino-Sudanese is a showcase for relationship based on the exchange of mutual interests and benefits and devoid of ulterior or hidden agendas.
What further features and signifies the visit of the senior Chinese official to Khartoum is the fact that it comes in the framework of China’s 900 billion dollar’s Silk Road Vision, which was recently kicked off by Chinese President Xi Jinping. It has been globally perceived as absolutely the most ambitious development and infrastructure project, with the aim of building a modern version of the ancient Silk Road.
In light of the pressing problems and challenges currently facing humankind almost all over the world, the Chinese “Belt and Road initiative, represents a glimmer of hope that will surly benefit the people all over the world, particularly the third world. The initiative firmly predicated that civilisations by and large, thrive with openness and nations prosper from trade exchange.
Not surprisingly, Sudan was among the first African countries which hailed and blessed such historic, extraordinary and momentous project. In fact,
Sudan has every reason to wholeheartedly support the Chinese initiative; taking into cognizance that Sudan historically, and due to its geographical location, was a link between the Arab world and Africa. Besides, perhaps since time immemorial, the ports in Eastern part of Sudan have been the meeting-point for convoys coming from China to Africa.
Sudan has always maintained its desire to encourage more African countries to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with China under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. In fact the package of projects planed in the womb of this initiative, represent the main starting point for the advancement of developing economies like the Sudan. Luckily enough, Sudan and China are currently putting the final touches and understandings to embark on a number of vital projects in the fields of transportation, energy and agriculture. To that effect, Mr. Zhang stressed the need to create synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Sudan’s development strategy and boost bilateral cooperation in some new areas such as agriculture, mining and port construction.
Perhaps the most ambitious developmental project in the initiative is the modernization of the railway network at the regional level; taking advantage of Chinese expertise and funding, China plans to finance and build a railway connecting Ethiopia to Sudan in the footsteps the Ethiopia-Djibouti recently constructed railway line, which besides providing Ethiopia with yet a new sea outlet for the Red Sea, shall further cement consolidate the already evolving Sudanese-Ethiopian bilateral ties in all fields of mutual benefits ..
By the same token, a similar giant project in the pipeline, is the railway line linking Sudan with Chad and Cameroon to the west, which will form the basis for the completion of the African ambitious dream of linking and connecting Africa by trains from South Africa to Egypt in the north, and from the Red Sea in the east to Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
These promising projects shall heavily boost the Sudanese economy and multiply its innumerable investment opportunities. As a matter of fact and with regard to the energy projects, Sudan has already begun to benefit from the Belt and Road initiative, unleashing serious negotiation for the establishment of the first Sudanese nuclear plant for peaceful purposes in cooperation with Chinese companies. In the same context, Sudan is currently seeking to discuss opportunities for financing solar power stations as well as constructing more dams for irrigation and electricity projects.
As referred to in the beginning of this article, Sudan enjoys a long two – decades of cooperation with China in the exploration, production and export of Sudanese oil. During his recent visit, the Chinese senior official, Mr. Zhang reiterated that the two countries need to strengthen cooperation in oil and gas exploration and development, and work actively to explore new cooperation areas under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In agriculture, taking stock of Sudan’s huge natural resources, Sudan will be one of the largest beneficiaries from the Chinese initiative. Perhaps the giant strategic projects shall include inter-alia, the implementation of a big and exemplary slaughterhouse for the export of Sudanese meat, such promising and long awaited project, shall warrant the influx of additional hundreds of millions of dollars to the Sudanese treasury, in the form of added value of livestock and carcass waste.
Moreover making use of Chinese extended expertise and technology, the two old friends are currently engaged and planning to join hand in hand, to boost Sudan’s huge potential in cotton production, with the ultimate goal of making the Sudan great again in the field of textile industry, both regionally and internationally.
On the political level, the belt and road initiative is projected to play effective role in the establishment of further pillars of stability and peace in the Sudan; via its huge development projects, the initiative shall directly address the remnant root causes of poverty and conflicts in a country like the h the Sudan.
The initiative is anticipated to play a major role in promoting and consolidating the chances of peace and stability, taking into consideration that, the initiative-per se- can and can only succeed and flourish in a framework of love, coexistence and peace. Mr. Zhang reaffirmed in Khartoum that China will, as always, support Sudan’s efforts in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as achieving domestic peace and stability.