Sudan: A Failed State?

Map of Sudan (Photo credit: Google)

The Sudan has gained worldwide attention since the Darfur conflict ignited in 2003 leaving at least 200,000 people dead and 2 million displaced. The Sudan has faced extending civil wars since 1955 due to ethnic, religious and economic conflicts between Northern and Southern Sudanese. The reason to the Darfur conflict is not any different from the previous one. The conflict in Darfur, which is described as genocide, has led to war crimes charges being issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against members of the Sudanese government. On March 4, 2009, an arrest warrant has been issued for the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The Darfur conflict isn’t the first time that the Sudan was accused of genocide. The Sudan was also accused of genocide in previous civil wars between the north and the south. The Sudan has troubled relations with many of its neighbors such as Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Chad’s ambassador to the US said, “It is not strange to be placed on this list. Sudan is sinking and it wants to drag us down with it” (Blame Game, Foreign Policy). The United States has listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993. Human rights violations are not only reported in the Sudanese civil wars but slavery in Sudan has been documented. According to the Sudan Abductee Database, over 11,000 people have been abducted in the last 20 years to southern regions. According to the latest Failed States Index of 2009, the Sudan is ranked third scoring minimum 7/10 in demographic pressure, refugees, group grievances, human flight, uneven development, delegitimization of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, factionalized elites and external intervention. Regardless of all the negative issues of Sudan, growth is seen but only in the north. “It’s everywhere else, where government and foreign investment are rare, that makes Sudan one of the world’s most failed states. In fact, the wealth in and around Khartoum helped prime the grievances that provoked conflicts in the south and west, analysts say. While all the fancy building was going on in the capital, the basics needed for survival—water, electricity, and security—were missing elsewhere” (The Green Zones, Foreign Policy).

This article will discuss the issues that categorize the Sudan as a failed state specifically after the Darfur conflict begun. Therefore, the Darfur conflict will be emphasized in this article. The Sudan’s relationship with its neighboring countries especially Chad and Central African Republic, and the faraway China will also be discussed. The article will also argue whether Omar Al Bashir and his administration have brought the Sudan to its failure. Furthermore, the article will bring out ways in which the Sudan can neither endure from ethnic, religious and tribal conflicts, or be recognized for being a failed state.

The Sudan became a topic of discussion long before the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003. In 1955, the year before Sudan’s independence, the first civil war broke out in the Sudan between Northern and Southern Sudan. The southerners feared to be dominated by the people of the north. Northerners had closer ties with Egypt, which the southern Sudanese feared being controlled by. In addition, Northerners were predominately Muslims and Arabs whereas, the southerners were mostly Christians and Animists. This distinction was further emphasized when the British separated the north and south because they feared the spread of malaria and other diseases, and the influence of religions between the regions. From 1924, it was illegal for people living north of the 10th parallel to go north and for people living in the south to 8th parallel to go to the north. As a result, isolation between the regions continued and conflict began to augment.

After the independence, the Mahdist encouraged the Islamic movement in the Sudan. The Mahdist wed led by Al Mahdi. The political ambitions of the Muslim community encouraged the separation of the regions. In the North, religious and secular rivals grew. The secular side advocated a Marxist economic policy. The religious side encouraged Muslim domination including in the South. From 1958 to 1964, the military ruled. In 1965, elections brought the Muslim government and banned the communist party. In 1969, Gaafar Al Nimery came into power after being a colonel in the army. He establishes a single-party rule by the Sudanese government. The north-south conflict, the first civil war, ended under the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement.

Gaafar Al Nimeiri, first president of Sudan from 1969-1985 (Photo Credit: Google)

After ten years of peace, the civil war was reignited when President Gaafar Al Nimery violated the Addis Ababa Agreement violent unrest broke out in the south and growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood in north. In 1983, Al Nimery imposed new Islamic laws, the sharia, in Sudan including in the non-Muslim south. As a result, Southern troops rebelled and launched attacks against the northern political offense. After 1985, Omar Al Bashir toppled Al Nimeri. The series of civil wars from 1955 to 2005 left 2 million people dead as a result of not only war but also famine.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 as Darfur rebels took up arms accusing the government of neglecting the region of Africans in favor of Arabs. Darfurians suffer from drought and famine, and diminishing resources, which the government failed to pay attention to. The rebel groups are the Sudan Liberation Movement or Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were on one side with non-Arab Muslim tribes such as Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit. On the other side are the Sudanese militia and the Janjaweed along with Afro-Arab tribes. The Sudanese government denies accusations of using Arab militias, the Janjaweed, against the rebels. The United Nations (UN) described the conflict as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises because at least 200,000 people died and 2 million people left displaced. As a result of the conflict, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government expelled 13 international agencies from Sudan and three local agencies from Darfur. There are many different interpretations of the warrant, which many Arab and African countries opposed. “Some worried that the negotiations for peace between the Government and the JEM rebels were put at risk by the actions of the Prosecutor. Moreover, some blamed the warrant for violence against UN peacekeepers and the refusal of the Government of Sudan to allow them into the country. Many stated that the issuance of the warrant would be a destabilizing factor of the already fragile situation in Darfur and attributed the failure to reach a peace agreement to the action of the ICC” (ICC Arrest Warrant for Omar Al Bashir on Charges of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes).

Omar Al Bashir, current president of Sudan (Photo Credit: Google)

Sudan is an example of a mismanaged state. It has a long history of leaders who were enforcing policies that fulfill their own desires and not the desires of the people of the nation.  As Rotberg said, “state failure is largely man made, not accidental” (Art & Jervis, International Politics). Leaders in the past such as former President Jaafer Mohamed Nimeri was responsible for the second civil war by abrogating the Addis Abba Agreement and continued to force the Arabization of the nation although the South repeatedly refused. This is how freedom of the South was neglected and discrimination of the region continued. The Mahdist is yet another source of oppression and slave raids from the North by leading the Mahdist Revolution. Like Nimeri, the Mahidst supported Arabization of the African nation but the Southerners saw him as a liberator because he did not embrace and enforce Islam, he also generated regional and tribal divisions in the North. Dr. Hassan Al Turbai and Abdel Rahman Sewar Al Dahab wanted to introduce their own verion of Shari’a traditional Omar Al Bashir came into power in a coup in 1989 and has ruled the largest African and Arab country since. When Al Bashir came to power, Sudan was divided by the second civil war between north and south Sudan, which ended in 2005 when the government signed a deal. Under this deal, the late John Garang and his SPLM/A signed a peace deal with Al Bashir to form a national unity government. As a result, either the First or Second Vice President should be from Southern Sudan. John Garang was the first but after his death, Southern Sudanese Silva Kiir Mayardit became the First Vice President. But just as the second civil war was coming to an end, the Darfur conflict broke out. When Al Bashir came into power by force in 1989, he developed a policy exploiting real or perceived differences between tribes such as the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa in order to destroy them because their power threatened his. This ignited the Darfur conflict because these ethnic tribes formed the JEM and SLM/A opposing the government and the Janjaweed militias (ICC Arrest Warrant for Omar Al Bashir on Charges of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes). Al Bashir denies backing up Arab Janjaweed militias to attack black African communities. Al Bashir’s policies show that he does not call for a unified nation and sees the Southern Sudan as nothing but an oil-rich region. He has struggled in maintaining strong relationships with other figures in the Sudanese government specifically Southern Sudanese figures. Maybe this is because Al Bashir comes from an uneducated farming family but when he joined the army, he rose through ranks. In the Sudanese government, Al Bashir remains the most prominent figure, exercising more power to himself making it difficult for any other person to overshadow him (Profile: Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, BBC News).

Due to the Sudan’s continuous civil wars and the failure of the government to contain them, human rights violations, troubled relations with its neighboring countries, slavery and much more led to the Sudan to be categorized as a failed state by numerous political critics. According to Robert I. Rotberg, the author of Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes and Indicators, “the Sudan has long been failed.” Rotberg justified this when he said, “A weak state in the north, providing political goods at minimal levels for its mostly Muslim constituents, became the nucleus of a truly failed state when its long was with the south…The Sudanese war has the dubious distinction of having inflicted the largest number of civilian casualties…coupled with the largest internally largest displaced and refugee population in the world (4 million). Slavery (north against south) flourishes, as well…the central government writ rarely runs. It provides no political goods to its southern citizens, bombs them, raids them, and regards black southerners as enemy” (Art & Jervis, International Politics, page 429). But to Rotberg, the only thing that is keeping the Sudan from being categorized as a collapsed state is its oil wealth (Art & Jervis, International politics). In an article called Analysis-Sudan a failed state? Depends where you live, Opheera Mcdoom, the author, argues that the Sudan is not the most failed state because of its oil wealth, and Sudan’s capital, Khartoum’s status. Mcdoom makes the argument on the basis of U.S based Foreign Policy magazine, which ranked the Sudan the first as a failed state in 2007 even ahead of Iraq and Somalia. According to Mcdoom, the Sudan has high-speed wireless, French cafes and renovated airport terminal in Khartoum. In addition, Khartoum is the safest capital in Africa. But outside Khartoum, the 2007 Foreign Policy Index to Mcdoom makes sense because of the Sudan’s constant violence and instability (Mcdoom, Sudan a failed state?). Since 2007, the Sudan has gone down to two ranks being recognized as the third failed state in the world, according to the Failed States Index of 2009. So what does this tell us about Sudan’s status as a state? Furthermore, Sudan was ranked 150 on the Human Development Index. Between 2000 and 2007, its HDI rose by 1.12% annually from 0.491 to 0.531 today (Human Development Reports). Sudan’s economic growth has resulted in a decline in extreme poverty from 85% to 60% (Rural Poverty Portal). Although Sudan has showed some improvement, it still remains as a failed state but steps farther away from being a collapsed state. For Rotberg, failed states have two defining criteria: “They deliver very low quantities and qualities of political goods to their citizens, and they have lost their monopoly on violence” (Disorder in the Ranks, Foreign Policy). Sixty percent of Sudan’s population is poor. The government is incapable of feeding its own people leading to them to starvation. The Darfur conflict itself began because Darfurians did not receive any necessary resources from the government. Sudan has not only lost its monopoly on violence but there’s also a rise of criminal and political violence. The Sudanese government has been accused of arresting, torturing and killing Darfurians. Sudan fits the criteria of a failed state under the reasons mentioned above and even more. Furthermore, Sudan engaged in three long civil wars since 1955.  The Sudanese government is facing a rise of ethnic and religious regimes such as the SPLA/SPLM. Sudan has no control over its boundaries creating hostile relationships with its neighbors because many have crossed borders due to instabilities within the state (Guarak, Sudan a failed state, Sudan Tribune).

Due to the Darfur conflict, thousands of people have fled across the border to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) causing tensions between the Sudan and the two countries (AlertNet, Reuters). In Chad, there are approximately 218,000 Darfurians refugees, 46,000 refugees from CAR and 90,000 displaced Chadians. Janjaweed militias have already crossed borders and attacked refugee camps. In CAR, approximately 150,000 are displaced. The Chadian government has accused the Sudan government of aiding its rebels. In addition, the Chadian government supports the Darfur rebels by allowing them to operate from Chadian rebels so that the rebels can help the government tackle their own rebels. Sudanese government demanded Chad’s three rebel groups unite at a November military conference in West Darfur but the conference failed. Chadian rebels have built a base on CAR’s northeastern border with Sudan, according to CAR government officials. CAR claims the Sudanese government assists its rebels, which Sudan denies. Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir refusing UN peacekeeping forces is making difficult to control the situation. Furthermore, “As long as the problem of Darfur is not solved, you will not have peace in Ndjamena or Bangui,” Lamine Cisse, the top UN official in the CAR, told the New York Times. “The conflicts are all linked, and solving one requires solving all” (Hanson, Stephanie, Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic).

China’s relationship with Sudan on the other hand is favorable. China invests in Sudan’s energy sector. Sudan is the second country in which China relies on for oil. China purchases more than 60% of Sudanese oil output, accounting for more than 6% of Chinese imported oil. China National Petroleum (CNPC), the Chinese state-owned oil company, is the largest investor in the Khartoum’s Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company through its 40% stakes, and its asset in the country is valued at more than 7 billion. In return, Sudan is one of China’s most major arms buyers. The Sudanese government uses these arms to commit atrocities and genocide against the Sudanese people especially in Darfur. This shows that China is supporting the Sudan government in the atrocities it’s committing. Sudan seems to be following China’s footsteps since China has been a target of criticism by human rights. China has also been criticized for its role in fueling the conflicts in Sudan through its supply of weapons. Furthermore, China protects the Sudanese government for all its human rights violation records and has been the voice of the Sudan at the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, China has been responsible for many of the infrastructure in Sudan especially in its capital Khartoum. China has aided in building bridges, roads and airports in Sudan. But according to Steve Paterno, the author of China interference and influence in Sudan, believes that “providing such nice infrastructures to the despotic regime in Khartoum is worse than issuing pilot licenses for commercial jets to the aircraft hijackers.” In addition, Paterno believes that the Chinese built unnecessary dams, which caused many deaths, displacements and environmental risks (Paterno, Steve, China interference and influence in Sudan, Sudan Tribune).

Map of Darfur in Sudan (Photo Credit: Google)

The long civil wars, fought before the Darfur conflict, are the roots of the Darfur war itself. The Darfur conflict is fought for similar ethnic and religious reasons of wars since 1955 then separation of north and south Sudan might be the only solution. The Sudanese government is seriously considering the separation of the north and south regions. According to the BBC News, Omar Al Bashir said that if the south voted for independence in a referendum next year then the National Congress Party would accept although they do no want the south to secede. Chaim Kauffmann, the author of Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars, said, “Separation reduces both incentives and opportunity for further combat, and largely eliminates both reasons and chances for ethnic cleansing of civilians” (Art & Jervis, Art & Jervis International Politics). Kauffmann also proposes other solutions for ending a civil war: “with complete victory of one side; by temporary suppression of the conflict by third party military occupation; or by self-governance of separate communities” (Art & Jervis, Art & Jervis International Politics). As much as the north tried to control clashes in the south, it failed so the first option is eliminated.

There is no third party military since the conflict is between the Darfur rebels and the Sudanese military. However, the UN or any other peacekeeping force could be considered as the third party but Omar Al Bashir has refused their interference in the conflict. Sudan’s government refused to let the UN run a peacekeeping mission in Darfur on its own so it operates with the African Union (UN aiding Darfur rebels, BBC News). Furthermore, Al Bashir sees international organizations intervening as means of putting pressure on the Sudanese government, which is an insult to him. “We are telling those people who are saying that they want to put pressure on the Khartoum government that we will remain firm and never bow to anyone except the Almighty God,” he told cheering crowds in 2004 (Profile: Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir, BBC News). Regardless of Omar Al Bashir rejection of humanitarian intervention or any other intervention, humanitarian interventions can only contain the conflict temporarily by providing aid for people who were inflicted by the conflict; they cannot resolve the conflict. Therefore, the second option could not be the solution. Nevertheless, in Sudan’s situation the international community is needed regardless of the Sudanese government’s policies. This is a case of emergency therefore, international communities not just organizations need to respond. Responding to Sudan’s crisis may in fact help our international community, as it is an oil producing country. In an article called Causes and solutions for Darfur written by a radicalist, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim said that “Americans should ask themselves how helping Sudan will serve U.S. interests. In other words, why should we care? There are pragmatic reasons, like the price of oil in the world market; both Sudan and neighboring Chad are oil-producers” (An-Naim, Abdulahi, Causes and solutions for Darfur, SignOnSanDiego). Like An-naim, Francis M. Deng, the author of New Sudan in The Making?, believes that Sudan is valuable to the international society. “Its vast arable land, supported by abundant water supplies, has been projected as providing a potential breadbasket for North Africa and the Middle East. The country is rich in livestock, also of importance to the Middle East, and in minerals, known to be abundant, but as yet unexplored, and apparently still far from being exploited. Sudan, therefore, remains a country in which the stakes are high in opposite directions: a success story that can have positive regional ramifications in Africa and the Middle East, or a failed state with devastating consequences in the region and beyond” (Deng, Francis, New Sudan in the Making). If Sudan is so important for other states then why aren’t the states intervening with exception to Qatar. The international community by forcing itself onto Sudan’s status will exert pressure onto the government, which is what is needed. This pressure will encourage change in the Sudanese government. Former US ambassador said, “Unless the pattern of rapacious elite governance that has characterized Sudan for decades changes, the mounting process of disintegration and genuine state failure will only gain momentum…until such sustained international pressure is exerted, half the people of Sudan will need protection- from their own government.” John Ashworth, an expert on Sudanese affairs also believes that for Sudan to change to the better it has to see change in the structure of the government. “Morally Sudan is a failed state. … For Sudan to become a strong moral state needs … a change in the basic power structure which keeps an unrepresentative minority in power,” said Ashworth (Mcdoom, Opheera, Analysis-Sudan a failed state? Depends where you live, Reuters Foundation).

The south called out for self-governance even before the Darfur conflict making unity between the regions almost impossible. The Sudanese government is considering the separation of the regions. Furthermore, the regions are ethnically and religiously different and isolated, and have been for many decades. It is difficult to try to bring the north and south together now because they have greatly grown apart. Therefore, the third option is the most feasible solution. Although separation might be the solution, it is difficult to determine how Sudan divide into two different countries might function. Its probable that South Sudan might function successfully but the North may not since most of the valuable resources are in the South. Since many other states depend on Sudan for its natural resources and minerals if Sudan separates into two different states then its not certain that the South may cooperate with the Middle East or any other Arab states since it has been pressured by the Arabs internally and externally since colonialism.


17 thoughts on “Sudan: A Failed State?

  1. I hope is enough for the northerns to be in north sudan and we should in south sudan come 2011 election .the two people in the picture has wasted our bright future in southern sudan ,yet we have enough resourse. show is a very big NO for unity again in sudan

    • I agree that our past leaders and even our present leader have destroyed Sudan. But, I wouldn’t easily say that it would be better for the north and south to separate. It’s just not a black and white issue.

      But thanks for commenting!

  2. As pleased as I am to see the Southern Sudanese population with the power to decide their own future, putting personal pride aside, I do not believe that creating another autonomous state is the long term solution. There is always the possibility of tribal warfare erupting within southern Sudan as different tribes vie for power, which will only lead to citiznes seeking refuge in the North. Another, perhaps more abstract point, is the fact that the United States of America thrives on the differences in ethnicity of its citizens, this has become a major source of strength for the country. Not many states in the world enjoy the diversity that Sudan alone has, although this has been labeled by the U.S and subsequently the U.N as the source of conflict, under the right supervision, it can become a great power. Sad to see the splitting of a great nation and I do hope that it bring about peace, however every other aspect of the conflict at the moment seems to be indicating otherwise.
    OH and the oil in Sudan is very deep to drill for, by the time the southerners have the capability to drill for it, at least 20 to 40 years would have gone by, as well as the fact that the North has claimed much of the Abeyie oil fields in the south.
    And just my opinion on Sudan being a failed state is that, by definition, a failed does not have the capacity to defend or support its citizens. Somalia and Afghanistan exemplify these characteristics as the government in Somalia has no authority beyond a few hundred meters past the capital city and Afghanistan has become a political conflict playground for the U.S to enter as they please and seek to create an ally in the nation. Sudan is a fully sovereign state that can defend itself and as a result is not occupied, and the government in the north is fully capable (even if not willing) to control and ensure security throughout the state.

    • south will never go tribal as you think and other do.
      SPLM have interest of rulling whole sudan. they do not like separatist Ideas.
      It is getting use for political time only. when time come we will see.

  3. I do think the ethnic communities and their traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution, (especially the Luo communities) can help resolve this civil war.

  4. I think power dynamics in every conflict is the key.
    What do you think about the power dynamics in the Sudan crisis?
    What can be the most realistic and peaceful solution for sustainable peace in Sudan?
    Can education be one solution or will be manipulated by the parties?

    • Honestly, I don’t know what is the mot realistic and peaceful solution for peace in Sudan. I do think, however, if the Sudanese government quits its racism and tries to treat all Sudanese equally and concentrate on developing other areas then maybe Sudan can be a better place. Yet, I do know that that’s probably impossible and unrealistic but it would definitely be a solution. Education and infrastructure are always great solutions for anything but it depends who’s in charge and those who are in Sudan are truly one of the most corrupted people.

  5. Pingback: The Ozi Zion Blog » Blog Archive » Trying to understand Sudan

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  7. Pingback: Sudan Wives Speak A Language Husbands Don't Understand » Traveler

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