Related Articles
Forward article link
Share PDF with colleagues

Sudan counts on China for critical cash amid sanctions

China remains Sudan's largest trade partner, but within a few weeks the US will decide whether to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism

FOREIGN minister Ali Karti told local media that US observers had completed a six-month monitoring and assessment programme and are expected to make a recommendation to US President Barack Obama within weeks.

“The recommendations have been completed and submitted. This issue will be presented for a decision from the [US] president and then it will be reviewed whether this should be presented to Congress,” Karti told the pro-government newspaper Al-Rayaam.

Inclusion on the US state sponsors of terrorism list prevents a country receiving US arms exports, controls the sale of items with both military and civilian applications and, crucially, both limits US aid and requires the government to vote against loans to the country from international financial institutions.

Last year, the Obama administration pledged to de-list Sudan by mid-2011 in return for government co-operation with January’s independence referendum in southern Sudan. South Sudan formally seceded from Sudan on 9 July.

Ibrahim Ghandour, a senior member of Omar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, said recently: “There is a general view in Sudan that the Americans are not up to their commitments, and they’re just buying time to put pressure on the government. Many politicians here feel that the idea of regime change is still at the forefront of the US political plan.”

Strained relations

Relations between the US and Sudan have grown increasingly strained since the Sudanese army’s incursion into Abyei in May. The growing number of credible allegations of ethnic cleansing – some observers have claimed genocide – in South Kordofan state have added further stress to the relationship, as has the continuing conflict in Darfur. Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the 2003-07 war in Darfur.

“There is a general view in Sudan that the Americans are not up to their commitments, and they’re just buying time to put pressure on the government. Many politicians here feel that the idea of regime change is still at the forefront of the US political plan”

For Bashir’s regime, removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism would be significant, especially as Sudan is struggling to put its faltering, oil-dependent economy back on track. South Sudan’s independence saw the north lose 75% of its pre-secession production of 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) – and income from that oil – overnight.

Although the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) contained provisions to help ease the economic shock, the IMF estimates Sudan stands to lose about $5.2 billion in oil revenue between now and 2015. Deep cuts have already been made to spending as part of an austerity budget unveiled on 11 July, but the government has not yet managed to rein in spiralling inflation, or deal with its estimated $38 billion foreign-debt burden. Access to international financial help and the opportunities that would arise should sanctions loosen could prove a lifeline for Sudan’s crippled economy.

But removal from the US’ terror blacklist does not automatically mean sanctions against Sudan, imposed by both the US and UN, would be eased, or even lifted. While the ICC warrant for Bashir’s arrest remains outstanding, doubts remain that the international community would willingly ease the pressure on Sudan.

Pressing problems

But some observers say that while removal from the terror list is important to the regime, its internal problems are more pressing. Fouad Hikmat, the International Crisis Group’s Sudan expert said: “Stability in Sudan is maintained by coercion, by the use of force, by brutality, by the continuation of the war in Darfur. Internal challenges are the priority for Bashir, more than international isolation.”

China – Sudan’s largest trade partner, as well as one the biggest buyers of Sudanese oil – is still firm in its commitment to doing business with the north

Bashir’s regime is not without friends, however. China – Sudan’s largest trade partner, as well as one the biggest buyers of Sudanese oil – is still firm in its commitment to doing business with the north.

During a two-day visit to Khartoum in early August, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi reiterated the political and economic support for Sudan. "China is ready to help Sudan in developing its existing oilfields and production … and develop our co-operation in agriculture and other sectors,” said Yang.

Speaking at the same press conference, Karti claimed that China had offered Sudan a $15.5 million interest-free loan. He added: "President Bashir has granted China National Petroleum Corporation three promising new petroleum blocks and offered a partnership with national oil company Sudapet in the fields where it operates."

Also in this section
Big guns boost UK North Sea commitments
12 October 2018
Shell and Equinor have bolstered their offshore presence in the UK, while Total has made a sizeable discovery
Chill in the air for Canadian drillers
10 October 2018
Labour day heralded the unofficial start of the Canadian drilling season. This year it’s beginning amid uncertainty
Canada's pipeline paralysis hits Trudeau hard
10 October 2018
A Canadian court has blocked plans for a pipeline expansion