Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Artist rendition of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD

Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Lawrence K Freeman

October 14, 2019

Completion and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-(GERD) will profoundly affect not only the future of Ethiopia, but all of the Horn of Africa, and the entire African continent. It reflects the bold visionary thinking that characterizes Ethiopia’s unwavering determination to eradicate poverty in the second largest nation on the continent with 103 million people. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth for the last decade due to its unparalleled commitment to constructing new infrastructure projects. Although an emerging nation, Ethiopia with assistance from China, completed the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti railroad in October 2016. This is the first and only electrified rail line in sub-Saharan Africa- (SSA), reducing travel time from several days by truck to hours by rail, effectively freeing Ethiopia from the limitations of a landlocked nation via Djibouti’s port.

Ethiopia’s former Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, who conceptualized the developmental state, proposed building a dam on the Blue Nile, laying the first foundation stone on April 2, 2011. Thus, initiating the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile that will be the largest in Africa. The GERD will be 175 meters tall, 1,800 meters wide, with a reservoir of 79 billion cubic meters-(BCM), more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam in the US. It will have the potential to generate upwards of 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Upon completion, Ethiopia will be the largest net exporter of electricity in Africa with transmission lines to its neighbors that include Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Ethiopia will also become second only to South Africa in power generation in SSA, as it strives to achieve its interim goal of producing 15,000 MW. The GERD, self-financed by bonds sold to the Ethiopian people, is not only a source of tremendous pride, but an indispensable component of Ethiopia’s resolve to expand its manufacturing sector and become a “middle income” nation by 2025. A nation must have abundant and accessible electricity in order to power an industrialized economy. With more than 60% of its population deprived of access to electricity, and energy demands growing every year, Ethiopia wisely realized that utilizing the potential hydro-power of the Blue Nile to drive its economic growth was not an option; but a necessity.

Sovereignty Superior to Colonialism

 Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of violating the 1959 agreement for utilization of water from the Nile River, which stipulated that 55.5 BCM of waters be allocated to Egypt, 18.5 BCM to Sudan and that no other nation could interfere with the flow of water in the Nile.  There is no basis in law or physical topography for Ethiopia to adhere to this agreement for the following reasons:

  • The 1959 water agreement is a rewrite of the British imperialist 1929 water treaty, when Egypt was a British colony that governed Sudan under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1956).
  • The Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands that joins the White Nile in Khartoum, provides 85% of the Nile water as it travels north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Ethiopia, as an independent nation that was never colonialized, was not a signatory to either water agreement.
  • Ethiopia has the sovereign right and obligation to utilize its natural resources, in this case water, to improve the living conditions of its people.

The Nile River, although the longest in the world at 6,650 kilometers, is not the most voluminous. Historically, the Nile was the only water way to cross the Sahara Desert from SSA. Today ten nations in Eastern and Central Africa are part of the Nile Basin with their total population approaching 500 million, whose present and future needs exceed the 84 BCM of Nile water. For development of the Nile Basin, it is urgently required that:

  • a new approach to water management for the region, which supersedes the archaic colonial agreement.
  • a new system for generating additional water. A crash program to create billions of cubic meters of fresh water through desalination is an obvious solution.

In essence, a “second Nile” must be created. Nuclear energy, utilizing its higher heat source, would be ideal for removing salt through evaporation, and, equally as important, supplying thousands of megawatts of power to energy-starved nations.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2020 (Courtesy of MGN.TV)

Shared Common Interest

The Declaration of Principles, signed in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia calls for cooperation among the three nations to resolve disputes concerning the GERD among themselves. The report states: “The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.”

The shared vision of the Nile Basin should be to promote prosperity for all the nations involved. The common shared interest of the upstream and downstream nations is one and the same: to uplift millions of Africans out of poverty and present the expanding youth population with economic opportunities to obtain a meaningful and productive life that secures a future for their families.

 Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shourky warned Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s moving forward with the operation and filling of the Renaissance Dam is unacceptable and a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles and will have negative consequences for stability in the region.” Within Egypt threats of military action have recently resurfaced, but such unwarranted aggression is highly unlikely, and would be roundly condemned by the international community.

According to Xinhua News, Egypt is looking for the United States to play an “international instrumental role,” a position presently not supported by the US State Department. Egypt’s attempt to bring in an outside party to mediate disputes concerning the Nile waters is in direct violation of the Declaration of Principles.

Exercising its sovereign rights, Ethiopia has already completed 60% of the construction of the GERD, and although there have been delays, it is expected to begin producing electricity by the end of 2020. Egypt has no choice but to accept this reality and continue to engage discussions regarding the management of the Nile.  There are substantive legitimate issues respecting the effects of the GERD on Egypt, a downstream nation that is almost totally dependent on Nile water. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Blue Nile is inviolate. In 2018 the National Independent Scientific Research Group-(NISRG) was established to discuss the filling of the dam’s reservoir. The NISRG consisting of scientists from Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, has met several times, and has reported to the Minister of Water Affairs of each nation.

How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political Economic Analyst for Africa with thirty years of experience in Africa promoting infrastructure development policies.

Can IGAD Achieve Peace Without Economic Development?

September 17, 2019
{Below is a provocative article that challenges the accepted method of achieving peace without economic development. I have always strongly believed that true peace and sovereignty can only be obtained, if the common-shared interest of the parties involved is a the center of negotiations. Improving the living conditions of all the people involved in the conflict is essential for long term viable peace. For example, after the unnecessary separation of Sudan, the West, which helped engineer the creation of South Sudan, failed miserably to build up the economy of the newly created South Sudan. As a result, the people of South Sudan are suffering massively from horrific living conditions. While I do not agree with Mekki Elmograbi’s approach of solely relying on the private sector and the so called free market, I concur with the thrust of his argument. It is clear to me, that the search for peace without economic development is a fool’s errand, and will not succeed.}

igad logo big

By Mekki ELMOGRABI

Could the endless search for peace be a trap? Yes, because “sustainable peace objectives with high standards of security and stability” is the bait that entices stakeholders to ignore the need for private sector development and regional economic integration until peace is achieved.

“We hear questions like peace through development! The maxim is good in theory but in reality, political peace is touted at the cost of economic integration. I no longer believe in everlasting peace as a condition to development or economic growth. In a simple economy, market people could pay to build a police station to increase security in border areas. IGAD, in the meantime, when it is not preoccupied with the “peace trap” it can advise governments on how to allocate the taxes from borders markets to local roads and how to create security in the area. Feasibly, IGAD and AU can hold peace talks and workshops at borders to promote markets and countryside African resorts rather than five-star hotels in the cities.”

Read: IGAD and Peace Trap!

Nation State vs Ethnicity in Africa

Mahmood Mamdani raises proactive questions on the role ethnicity in Africa and Ethiopia in particular. (See excerpts and article below).

Africa has been plagued to this day by two legacies from colonialism (British): 1) the intentional failure to build infrastructure; 2) the deliberate fostering of ethnicity. Historical literature is replete with evidence of the British creation of ethnic and/or native administrative units as a central feature of their divide and rule colonial policy. Lord Frederick Lugard, who authored the infamous “indirect rule” stratagem, implemented his scheme in Nigeria when he became the Govern General Nigeria in 1914, and ruled the North and South differently. Similarly, the British cultivated the North versus South conflict in Sudan with their separate Southern policy exemplified by their 1922 Passport and Ordinance Act. There are more examples available.

Accentuating ethnic, tribal, religious, and geographical distinctions is used as a means to thwart the creation of sovereign Nation States, particularly in Africa. A functioning Nation State is not founded on a collection of minorities, or even a majority. Instead, it is created on principles that define its responsibilities to provide for the general welfare of its citizens and their posterity, which must include nurturing the creative potential of each child. Nation States transcend differences within their populations by uniting all their people in a common mission, not only to develop their nation, but to contribute to the future of mankind as well.     

Ethiopia uniquely evaded colonization with its 1896 military victory against the Italian army in Adwa, led by Menelik II. Yet as Mamdani points out, Ethiopian Federalism accommodates ethnicity, which is divisive today, and is being used to undermine the central-federal government. By following the core economic thesis of Meles Zenawi’s “Developmental State” Ethiopia has embarked on a bold campaign to transform their country through government directed investment in infrastructure, while protecting their economy from being invaded by foreign financial predators. As a result of Ethiopia’s relative success among African nations in performing this necessary Nation State function, it has become the “enemy” to those forces-internal and external-that oppose development of African nations. Not surprisingly in the last six months there have been renewed efforts to liberalize-deregulate Ethiopia’s financial system in an attempt to weaken its commitment to the “Developmental State” model. 

Therefore, the suggestion of a new kind of non-ethnic federalism is a conception that could lead to strengthening the institution of the Nation State in Africa.   

The new Tram in Adds Ababa typifies Ethiopia’s approach to infrastructure.

“Ethiopians used to think of themselves as Africans of a special kind, who were not colonized, but the country today resembles a quintessential African system, marked by ethnic mobilization for ethnic gains.

In most of Africa, ethnicity was politicized when the British turned the ethnic group into a unit of local administration, which they termed “indirect rule.” Every bit of the colony came to be defined as an ethnic homeland, where an ethnic authority enforced an ethnically defined customary law that conferred privileges on those deemed indigenous at the expense of non-indigenous minorities.

An interesting book worth reading by Mahmood Mamdani is: “Saviors and survivors.” It about Sudan and Darfur, but also discusses the creation of ethnic groups.

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Will the Destabilization of Sudan Caused by IMF/World Bank Policies Lead to Regime Change?

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.

Sun setting on the Nile River in Khartoum

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.

Review below interview with Lawrence Freeman on danger of protests in Sudan leading to regime change.

Africa’s East-West Railroad is 50 years Over Due

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).” 

 
 
 

 

Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa Should NOT Have the Majority of Poor People.

This  is absolutely unacceptable. There is no objective reason for Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa to have the highest percentage of poor people in the world, with all its natural resources and people. This is the result of failed policies that began with the so called “Washington Consensus” beginning in the 1980s. Under the International Monetary Fund’s diktats and Structural Adjustment Programs(SAPs), the economies of African nations were destroyed and many have still not recovered.  African nations are beginning to follow a different model in collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The IMF and World Bank models which measure statistical monetary aggregates ignore the most essential ingredient necessary to create economic growth: technologically advanced infrastructure platforms, integrating rail, energy, water, and roads. Only in the last ten years is infrastructure finally being built, after it was outlawed under colonialism and neo-colonialism, (except for roads and rail for resource to port and transporting colonial soldiers).  For example, the Sudanese people are suffering terribly from a lack of economic growth, because Sudan has been threatened not to deviate from IMF dictated macro-economic parameters. The Sudanese people will rebel, if Sudan continues to adhere to the murderous policies of the so called “free market.”

It is time for African nations to over throw the old model and break free from the monetarist grip of the IMF and WB. Inclusive growth, as it is called, will only happen when there is improvement in the real-physical economy. 

It is projected that by 2050 Nigeria will have 400 million people and Africa as a whole 2.4 billion. Despite the hysteria of the “zero-growthers,” Nigeria and Africa are not suffering from over population, but underdevelopment of its vast wealth. Each new human born can be a new source of wealth, if their creative potential is nurtured and developed. Thus, the Africa continent  with its projected large population, should become the center development (not poverty) of world economy, if we act now to massively expand infrastructure across the continent.

Nigeria to host 90% of extremely poor by 2030, says World Bank

New Course on African History: The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

I will be teaching this course in the Fall at the Community College Baltimore County, and Frederick Community College, Maryland, USA

The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

New! The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
7 sessions, 14 hours

Africa is the poorest continent with hundreds of millions of people living on $2 per day. African nations have the greatest deficit in basic infrastructure like roads, rail, and energy. It’s the only continent where cholera is endemic. African nations are also spending billions of dollars importing food when they have an abundant amount of fertile land. Learn about the causes for Africa’s current condition due to it’s unique history of slavery and colonialism. With the recent China-Africa Summit-(FOCAC) in Beijing, one should be optimistic that economic conditions on the continent are changing for the better

Instructor: Lawrence Freeman has been involved in Africa for almost 25 years and has made over two dozen visits to the nations of Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia. He has studied the history and political economy of several Africa nations. Lawrence has attended weekly seminars and forums on Africa in Washington DC including Congressional hearings on Africa. As a result, Lawrence has attained an in-depth knowledge of both historical and current developments of Africa. He has written dozens of articles analyzing the political economies of Africa nations including Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He specializes in promoting policies for physical economic development, and has presented his ideas to government and non-government circles alike in both Africa and the United States. Lawrence is the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and played a prominent role in the International Conference to Save Lake Chad in Abuja, Nigeria from Feb 26-28, 2018. He is promoting the Transaqua water project to recharge the shrinking Lake Chad

LR565 The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
5-Digit  Number: 16290
Tue, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., 11/6 – 12/18 Location:  Conference Center/E-106
Tuition: $50.00          Fee: $114.00     Total: $164.00
MD residents age 60+ pay fee only

China’s Belt & Road Initiative Truly is Helping Africa Develop

Below are edited excerpts from a new report by the China-Africa Research Initiative-at Johns Hopkins in Washington DC (Brief #23, 2018). It provides a useful analysis that refutes the misinformation that China is “stealing” Africa’s resources.

“Silk Road to the Sahel: African ambitions in China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

Yunnan Chen

Where Does Africa Fit?

THE BRI SIGNIFIES A SHIFT IN CHINA’S economic engagement with Africa, away from the resource trade characterized by the boom of the 2000s, towards a greater emphasis on infrastructure, industrial cooperation, and connectivity. From single bilateral infrastructure projects, there has been a new term ‘corridorization’ of infrastructure: creating economic corridors and networks at a regional scale to promote cross-border trade and integration.

East and North Africa have been the focus of the BRI in Africa, though countries in West and Southern Africa have also signed cooperation agreements under the framework of the BRI.  As part of the ‘maritime silk road’, Chinese actors have been linked to several major port and transport projects. Chinese firms have invested heavily in Egypt’s Suez Canal corridor, with plans to expand to a second canal as well as new terminals at the port of Alexandria.

China’s Maritime Silk Road connecting Asia to the East-coast of Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Djibouti has emerged as a BRI hub. As well as being the location for its first overseas naval facility, China has financed multiple economic infrastructure projects totalling US$1.8 billion in the small African state, including a new multipurpose port at Doraleh (with specialized terminals for livestock and LNG), as well as a new free trade zone complex adjacent to the port, commissioned in July 2018 . In Kenya, Chinese firms have also won construction contracts for three berths for the new deep-water port in Lamu.

Politically, the BRI’s presence in Africa has been expanding. The most recent Johannesburg Forum of China Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC)  declared as one of its goals: “[to] actively explore the linkages between China’s initiatives of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Africa’s economic integration and sustainable development agenda”. Countries linked to the BRI; Morocco, Egypt, and Ethiopia, have also been singled out in FOCAC among ‘industrial cooperation demonstration and pioneering countries’ and ‘priority partners for production capacity cooperation countries’; these countries have seen a rapid expansion of Chinese-built industrial zones, presaging not only greater trade but also industrial investment from China. However, it may also suggest further stratification in China’s political engagement with Africa as a region, increasing the geopolitical importance of select countries.

Continue reading Silk Road to the Sahel

Floating Energy Plants Will Help Light-Up Africa

Turkish floating power plant will supply 150 megawatts of power to Sudan’s national energy grid

Turkish floating plant starts power supply to Sudan

By Huseyin Erdogan

ANKARA

Turkey’s floating power plant, the Karadeniz powership Rauf Bey, started electricity production in Sudan, a member of the Istanbul-based Karadeniz Energy Group, Karpowership, announced Tuesday.

The powership, which has 180 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, will supply 150 MW of power to Sudan’s national energy grid.

The plant is important for the stability of the country’s national grid as it caters for the country’s increased energy demand.

The company announced on April 27 that it signed an electricity production and sales agreement with Sudan’s electricity company, STPGC.

Karpowership is the sole owner, operator and builder of the first powership fleet in the world. Since 2010, 15 powerships have been completed with total installed capacity exceeding 2,800 MW.

An additional 5,000 MW of powerships are either under construction or in the pipeline.

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African nations desperately need energy to develop their economies, build industries, and to expand their agriculture and manufacturing sectors. With hundreds of additional gigawatts of power, the continent can be transformed; hunger and poverty can be eradicated . Energy is an essential category of infrastructure that every nations needs to achieve higher levels of economic growth. Africa should have nuclear energy, and floating nuclear power plants can contribute to supplying power to the continent. I have been advocating this idea for decades, and now its time has come!

New Era of Floating Nuclear Plants Begins

May 22, 2018—With great ceremony, the Russian city of Murmansk welcomed the floating nuclear plant Akademik Lomonosov on May 19. The plant had traveled from St. Petersburg where it was built. It will receive its supply of nuclear fuel in Murmansk, and then proceed to the Arctic circle town of Pevek, where it will begin to supply power to the population of approximately 50,000 people in the area next year.

New Era of Floating Nuclear Plants Begins

Russia’s floating nuclear plant, the Akademik Lomonosov

Constructed by the state nuclear power firm, Rosatom, the 144×30 meter, 21,000-ton barge holds two 35-MW nuclear reactors similar to those used to power Russian icebreaker ships. The barge can produce enough electricity to power a town of 200,000 residents, far more than the 5,000 who live in Pevek, Russia’s northernmost town.

Small, portable nuclear reactors have long been employed by the U.S. Navy, and presumably other militaries as well, but previous attempts to produce them for civilian purposes have met with sabotage. The United States actually did have such a plant in operation in Panama in the late 1960s, but it is being dismantled, and plans for production for use off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States were ditched in the 1970s. This, despite the nuclear Navy’s sterling safety record, and the obvious advantages of such plants for isolated areas suffering from a lack of electric power.

Among the obvious places crying out for such a deployment is Puerto Rico, which has now suffered the second-longest electricity blackout in history. (The longest was in the Philippines in 2013.) At least 20,000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack electricity as a result of Hurricane Maria (which hit last September), and a new hurricane season is about to begin. Indeed, the “repaired” system is so fragile that most of the Island was plunged into darkness about a month ago, as a result of a contractor accident.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry actually mooted the possibility of using small modular nuclear reactors to reach remote places in Puerto Rico last fall. But despite a verbal commitment to nuclear energy, the Trump Administration’s embrace of deregulation has so far been unable to halt the whittling away of the mainland nuclear fleet, much less been able to initiate the nuclear renaissance which is needed to move the U.S. economy into the next level of productivity.

The American System of Economics rests firmly on a commitment to constant increases in scientific progress and productivity, of which nuclear fission and fusion are prime examples

Pres. Trump: Don’t Lose Sudan

Sahalian-Sahara Railroad From Port Sudan Will Transform Sudan & Africa

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.