S. government analysts report that the Sudanese have violated the border with the Central African Republic during various military expeditions (Sudan 2). Furthermore, although millions of Sudanese have been displaced by these civil wars, so too has it been forced to deal with large numbers of refugees from neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia and Chad, seeking refuge from their respective conflicts as well (Sudan 3). According to these analysts, "Armed conflict, poor transport infrastructure, and lack of government support have chronically obstructed the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations" (Sudan 2).
The Aftermath of the Discovery of Oil.
In their book, Africa's Thirty Years War: Libya, Chad, and the Sudan, 1963-1993, Burr and Collins (1999) report that on the on hand, the Sudan is blessed with abundant natural resources, but on the other hand, the nation has been unable to exploit these to their maximum advantage for a variety of reasons, none of which are unique to it: "The same themes that have determined the course of their hostilities have characterized the violence in other regions of Africa during the generation since independence. These themes are, unfortunately, a familiar litany of confrontation between leaders, tribes, regions, races, and religions, of nomad against farmer, of cultivator against city dweller" (Burr and Collins 1). Unlike other areas of the African continent, though, the Sudan has historically been more susceptible to drought, insect infestation, and indigenous famine (Burr and Collins 1). According to these authors:
This vast region of three million square miles forms a right triangle anchored by three capitals: Ndjamena south of Lake Chad on the Chari River, Khartoum at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles, and Tripoli on the Mediterranean. Throughout time, however, these hostile lands have been crossed by their inhabitants, who have fashioned complex and historic relationships that since 1963 have commanded the attention and consumed the energies of African and Arab politicians, regional and international institutions, and the leaders of the West and the Third World. (Burr and Collins 1)
Human misery is a compelling issue and the international community has responded in various ways to the crises in the Sudan, but some observers question whether even these levels of assistance have been based on humanitarian considerations or the fact that there is much to be gained by currying favor with whoever was in control of the Sudan at the time. "At first blush, this seems counterintuitive. How is it possible that natural resources like oil and gold, which have fueled empires and contributed to great wealth in places like the Persian Gulf and Houston, Texas, are actually making poor countries poorer? Since the economies of nearly half of the world's poorest countries depend on these sectors, developing a coherent answer to the question is crucial for addressing the problem of global poverty more effectively" (Slack. 48).
The impact of the "resource curse" on the Sudan is no exception, and absent such wealth, it is reasonable to assume that the country would have long ago attempted alternatives approaches to development than those that have historically been used. According Cyper and Dietz (1997), "A large natural resource base actually hinders the transition to the more optimal path of export substitution; an apparent resource blessing turned into its opposite, a so-called 'resource curse.' The availability of ample natural resources and/or foreign capital can thus be viewed as permitting the system to continue on its old tracks, thus avoiding the political and, at least short-term, economic pain of having to move to a different policy package" (312). Indeed, these very processes have played out in textbook fashion in the Sudan. For example, Suliman (1994) reports that, "It is a deeply disturbing indicator of the devastation of the social fabric and the natural environment that Sudan's relatively small population is increasingly unable to sustain a livelihood in a huge and resource-rich country. The discovery of oil in commercial quantities at the beginning of the 1980s raised hopes of salvation of the country's economic crisis. But the oil was found mainly in the South, and as with the prospect of saving water with the Jonglei Canal, success depended on control of the area" (3).
Current and Future Trends.
Today, Sudan has managed to overcome a long history of civil war and a longstanding "resource curse" by virtue of its natural resources and the impact of colonialism to emerge from its previous status as an "international basket case" to one of the more promising developing nations in Africa. Although Sudan has achieved some substantive progress in many economic, political and social areas in recent years, based on large part on the enormous commitment of resources and the role played by the international community, much remains to be done. According to U.S. government analysts, Sudan achieved this economic transformation through sound economic policies and investments in its infrastructure; however, the country continues to experience one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, but over the past decade and a half, Sudan has been actively implementing various International Monetary Fund (IMF) macroeconomic reforms (Sudan 4).
On a positive note, Sudan began exporting crude oil in 1999 and in the last quarter of 1999, reported its first trade surplus; these trends, together with the country's efforts to reform its monetary policy, have managed to stabilize the exchange rate (Sudan 4-5). Furthermore, increased oil production, revived light industry, higher oil prices, and the implementation of a number of export processing zones have helped to sustain the country's GDP growth at about 10% in 2006 (Sudan 5). Despite these gains, though, the country remains highly dependent on agricultural production as its most important sector, employing fully 80% of the workforce and contributing 35% of GDP; however, most Sudanese farms remain rain-fed and susceptible to drought (Sudan 5). Moreover, chronic instability caused by the long-standing North/South civil war as well as the Darfur conflict, adverse weather, and reductions in world agricultural prices have all combined to keep the majority of the Sudanese population at or below the poverty line for the foreseeable future (Sudan 6). In late 2006, the government announced its plans to introduce a new currency, the Sudan Pound, in January 2007 at an exchange rate of $1.00 equals 2 Sudanese Pounds (Sudan 6).
The research showed that today, Sudan once again faces a crucial crossroads in its history. The same forces that are driving globalization appear to be especially pronounced in Sudan because of the country's strategic position in the region as well as its abundant yet still largely unexploited oil reserves. By any measure, complex problems require complex solutions and the direction the country takes in the next few years concerning human rights, fiscal management and international relations will likely determine whether the historic problems faced by this country will be resolved. What became clear from the research, though, is that the people of Sudan deserve better, but many of the problems experienced by this country throughout its turbulent history have been directly related to ethnicity rather than wealth. These same types of problems are being played out in various scenarios around the world, and it is reasonable to assert that international observers will be watching Sudan closely to see how this country resolves - or fails to resolve - these issues in the future.
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Cypher, J.M. And J.L. Dietz. The Process of Economic Development. London: Routledge, 1997.
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El-Tigani, Mahgoub. (2001). "Solving the Crisis of Sudan: The Right of Self-Determination vs. State Torture." Arab Studies Quarterly 23(2):41.
Fisher, Julie. Nongovernments: NGOs and the Political Development of the Third World. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1998.
Gatkuoth, James Mabor. (1995). "Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Sudan." The Ecumenical Review 47(2):206.
Moeller, Susan D. Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War, and Death. London: Routledge.
O'Ballance, Edgar. Sudan, Civil War and Terrorism 1956-99. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan Press, 2000.…