Journal Essay

Sudan's Islamists and the Post-Oil Era: Washington's Role after Southern Secession

Harry Verhoeven and Luke A. Patey

Fall 2011, Volume XVIII, Number 3

Mr. Verhoeven is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford's St. Cross College. Dr. Patey is a project researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies.

This January, the people of southern Sudan gave a resounding yes vote in their referendum on independence. The result leaves Northern Sudan facing a political and economic turning point as Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ends and Southern Sudan secedes. Much has been made of the risk of a possible resumption of war between the central government in Khartoum and the former rebels of Sudan's People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), and many have questioned the viability of an independent South Sudan, a landlocked and desperately poor region in the heart of Africa. Yet one of the most important determinants of war and peace, both between and within the North and South, is how the Khartoum regime decides to deal with the momentous changes that Sudan is undergoing. If reformists in the regime — mainly young party faithful, pro-democracy Islamists and pragmatic business interests — are not provided with outside motivation, many of the same die-hard fundamentalists and security hawks that organized the brutal counterinsurgencies in the South and Darfur might again rise up. This would undoubtedly spur a new crackdown on opposition across Northern Sudan, possibly retightening the application of Sharia law and fueling new violence in South Sudan. The outbreak of renewed violence in the Nuba Mountains in June 2011 and Khartoum's ruthless response are in part a consequence of insufficient creative engagement with the reformists, playing into the hands of hardliners.

This article examines two critical, interrelated factors shaping the internal deliberations and power struggles within the Khartoum regime: Northern Sudan's economic future after secession and the role of the United States and the international community after the end of the CPA. President Omar Al-Bashir and Vice President Ali Osman Taha face internal contestation from both security hawks and reformists as they try to respond to the loss of 80 percent of Sudan's proven oil reserves and associated petrodollars. The oil bonanza of the past decade gave the regime a second life and partially transformed Northern Sudan. However, despite serious investment in hydroelectric dams and roads, doubts remain as to whether Khartoum can withstand the gathering economic storm.

As Sudan began 2011, its year of living dangerously, the Sudanese pound was receiving intense support from the central bank to prevent a major devaluation, reflecting the worries of both ordinary Sudanese and international actors as Sudan entered the precarious final stages of the CPA. The current economic downturn is only amplified by regional winds of political change: the "Arab Spring" and the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali. While critics allege that Juba's secession will deprive Khartoum of petrodollars and bring Bashir to his knees, Islamist economists retort that they have been preparing for a long time to live without oil. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

This question is of great importance to the American-led international community. It must decide whether to normalize diplomatic relations — and lift economic sanctions — with Bashir's controversial government after Southern independence, or continue a policy of isolation and perhaps tacit support for regime change in the light of continuing human-rights violations and the Darfur conflict. A decision by Washington to fully re-engage with Sudan and lead bilateral and multilateral debt-relief efforts would undoubtedly have a positive impact on Khartoum's economic fortunes and help to stabilize a difficult transition. It might also further entrench Bashir and Taha in power and result in the prolongation of authoritarian rule and associated conflicts in Sudan, at a time when populations across North Africa are demanding greater freedom and justice from their own rulers, as well as dramatic changes in Western policy toward the region as a whole.


Ever since taking power, the Al-Ingaz (Salvation) regime has had a turbulent relationship with the outside world. The 1989 coup d'état initially hid its true Islamist face. Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, feared the response of fiercely secular Cairo and its American allies and voluntarily went to jail. Leaving Brigadier Omar al-Bashir as the government's figurehead to reassure his fellow generals in Egypt, Turabi secretly assumed control from his cell, setting up a shadow government through his powerful Shura council that really pulled the strings in Khartoum. Sudan had been an Egyptian-American ally throughout most of the 1980s under Jaafar Nimeiri and Sadiq Al-Mahdi, confronting Marxist Ethiopia and Qaddafi's Libya and receiving extensive debt relief and International Monetary Fund rescue packages in return.1 Sudan's Islamic Movement was ideologically and organizationally quite distinct from Egypt's Muslim Brothers,2 but Turabi's personal regional ambitions and Islamic revolution set him on a collision course with the West and Egypt. His support for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, his hospitality to Osama bin Laden and other Arab-Afghan mujahedeen in 1991, and mass human-rights violations by Sudanese armed forces and their jihadi paramilitaries turned Khartoum from a trusted American partner into a pariah state resented by Cairo, Riyadh and other Gulf Arab governments.

The 1990s marked the high point of revolutionary fervor. Turabi created his own "Islamist Internationale" — the Popular Arab Islamic Conference — and helped his Chadian proxy Idriss Deby capture N'Djamena, as well as supporting the fall of Ethiopian archenemy Mengistu Haile Mariam in Addis Ababa. While fighting jihad at home versus John Garang's SPLM/A and embarking on bold Islamic social-engineering projects, the Al-Ingaz regime also helped put the economy back on its feet after the meltdown of the 1980s. Turabi was able to declare self-sufficiency in wheat in 1992. This was a key political victory, given how damaging the famines of the previous decades had been to the Sudanese nation and its leaders; Al-Ingaz's international isolation made it taste particularly sweet.3 Bolstered by the success of its Programme for Economic Salvation and military gains in the South, Al-Ingaz allegedly tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 in Addis, possibly to trigger an Islamist takeover in Cairo. This shocking provocation to the Egyptian and Ethiopian governments was a serious miscalculation, as it led to all-out American support for regime change in Khartoum.4

The Clinton administration designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terror in August 1993 and imposed unilateral economic sanctions in November 1997. Washington built an alliance to encircle Al-Ingaz — Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda — with the SPLM/A as its Sudanese spearhead. Support for Sudan's regional foes soon escalated into military action. Bin Laden's departure to Afghanistan in 1996 could not prevent American cruise-missile strikes on Sudan's Al-Shifa medical complex in August 1998 after the devastating al-Qaeda attacks on Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.5 There was a real threat that Al-Ingaz would be overthrown, but the momentum was lost by the Ethiopian-Eritrean "war of brothers," which split the coalition. Pressure was further reduced by Egypt's wavering. Cairo feared that overthrowing the regime might lead to an SPLM/A government likely to support Ethiopian-Ugandan calls to renegotiate the 1959 Nile Treaty, Cairo's vital national-security interest.

The shifting fortunes of Al-Ingaz internationally coincided with a power struggle inside the regime that pitted Turabi against almost all of his lieutenants. The conflict was about power and personal rancor but acquired an ugly ethnic dimension. Jaalyi and Shaigi cadres from riverain Sudan opposed Turabi's attempt to empower Islamists from the historically marginalized "African" regions of Sudan, later contributing to war in Darfur.6 The anti-Turabi camp led by Bashir and Ali Osman Taha, Turabi's deputy, emerged victorious and longed to restore relations with the outside world. Bashir and Taha claimed that with Turabi's demise, Al-Ingaz was ceasing its attempts to export the revolution and would be sending envoys to Egypt and the Gulf Arab states. They also indicated a new willingness to negotiate with the SPLM/A to end the war in Central and Southern Sudan.

Khartoum's bid to end its isolation was all the more urgent after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Given Al-Ingaz involvement with al-Qaeda in the 1990s, Sudan was very focused indeed on improving its relations with the United States, particularly after George W. Bush's threat, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."7 The head of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salah Gosh, struck up a pragmatic partnership with the CIA, providing significant information on al-Qaeda operatives and restraining the most radical Sudanese militants inside the regime as the Global War on Terror (GWOT) spread. However, despite Langley's enthusiasm about the work of Salah Gosh, and despite the American co-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Khartoum and the SPLM/A in 2005, full normalization of ties between the United States and the Sudanese government remained impossible. The escalating atrocities in Darfur, heavily contested by American activists, meant that Washington felt unwilling to deliver on its promise to remove Sudan from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states and lift economic sanctions.8 Khartoum's America-led isolation remains to this day one of Al-Ingaz's greatest sources of frustration as well as a major obstacle to the effort to normalize Sudan's international relations that began after Turabi's removal. Fortunately for the Khartoum regime, Sudan's budding oil sector has attracted other suitors who have helped Al-Ingaz survive and thrive, at least until recently.


Just before the Bashir-Turabi split, Sudan became an oil exporter, injecting new life into a regime that had maneuvered itself into an ideological dead end. In May 1999, the president and the sheikh stood side by side at the valve wheel to inaugurate Sudan's first oil-export pipeline. Crude oil was shipped out from the Bashair Red Sea terminal, giving the regime its first taste of millions in petrodollars. Turabi's Islamic revolution might have isolated Sudan from the United States, but oil brought it closer to China, Malaysia, India and other Asian investors, who sank billions into the nascent petro-industry. A Chinese-built refinery was completed, putting an end to fuel shortages in the capital. The euphoria in Khartoum stood in stark contrast to the violent on-the-ground conditions in Upper Nile, South Kordofan and Unity states: in order to facilitate production, the regime pursued a strategy of ethnic cleansing in and around the oil fields during the long war with the SPLM/A.

Sudan became Africa's third-largest oil producer, at close to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) behind Nigeria and Angola. Insiders have suggested that the desire to increase oil rents (with stability as a precondition for higher production) was a key motivation for Al-Ingaz to accept the 2005 peace agreement.9 The semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) was granted half the proceeds of southern oil in the CPA, but, controversially, Khartoum remained in charge of the petrodollars in first instance. The national government has been accused of depriving GoSS of its legitimate share of oil money, due to major discrepancies in production statistics.10

Oil has been critical to the regime's attempt to reinvent itself as a competent, mildly Islamist government following the Bashir-Turabi split. Taha, in particular, has been influential in pushing a strong economic agenda, with petrodollars — around 50 percent of Khartoum's budget — used to expand patronage networks and transform the infrastructure base of Northern Sudan's heartlands. The World Bank found that Sudan's economy grew fivefold from 1999 to 2008, with oil enabling a massive expansion of physical and social infrastructure, including a doubling of Sudan's road network, increased electricity generation, and a sharp rise in primary-school enrollment.11 Crude oil accounts for 90 percent of the value of Sudan's total exports, close to 65 percent of which went to China in 2009.12 However, plummeting international oil prices in 2008 shocked the oil-addicted regime, triggering a foreign-exchange crisis. These worries are compounded by the specter of the imminent loss of the South, which currently has 80 percent of Sudan's oil and the best prospects of future discoveries.

An independent South Sudan places a burning question at Al-Ingaz's feet: how to live without its cherished petrodollars. Some hardliners argue that Northern Sudan would be better off without the South; not only could Sharia finally be "properly" implemented, but the North's economic potential would be unleashed after decades of costly civil wars. Yet the regime's long-term strategists are worried and have already begun implementing deep cuts in expenditures, while looking for outside support.

Fortunately for the regime, the loss of the petrodollars will not be absolute. The inaugural President of the Republic of South Sudan and SPLM/A Chairman Salva Kiir has said that, as part of the post-referendum agreements, oil will still be shared with the North. This is a matter of astute politics as well as physical realities: while the South has the majority of the oil, the pipelines, export terminals, and sea access lie in the North. If an independent South Sudan wants to capitalize on its black gold, it still needs Khartoum to get oil to world markets. The idea of an alternative pipeline to the Kenyan ports of Lamu or Mombasa is unlikely to materialize in the next five years.13 Thus, oil could well work for peace, instead of triggering war.14 Both sides depend on each other to continue to profit from oil.15 While the 50-50 split of southern oil will most certainly not continue, transit fees paid to the North or a tapering formula that increasingly gives Juba a larger stake in return for its use of northern infrastructure is realistic and being discussed.16

Whatever revenue sharing is worked out, the loss of most of the oil is leading the North to think about boosting its own output. Without new discoveries, Khartoum will hardly have enough to meet its own consumption, let alone continue exports. Northern officials believe one big find will draw in investors.17 Exploration is underway in Darfur, but it faces the ire of local rebels, who will do what they can to prevent the hated Al-Ingaz regime profiting from possible Darfurian oil.18 Improving the productivity of existing oilfields is another option. Production in Northern Sudan was set to reach 110,000 bpd at the end of 2010 after new wells came on-stream.19 But many of the North's remaining oilfields, operated by a Chinese-led consortium, are maturing fast. The state-owned Sudan Petroleum Corporation has indicated that peak production has fallen from 288,000 bpd on average in 2004 to 175,000 bpd in 2009.20 Khartoum is pushing for greater production through enhanced recovery techniques, but its Chinese, Malaysian and Indian partners have been unwilling to invest the required hundreds of millions of dollars in such a politically unstable context. Many assets precariously stretch across an un-demarcated border between North and South, with some oil fields lying around disputed Abyei. Only a clear and stable operating environment will encourage the required investments.21

Outside of petroleum, Northern Sudan has ambitious plans to diversify its economy. Gold could be one possible source to offset the losses of oil revenues. Artisan miners have flocked to the Nile River and Red Sea state thanks to soaring international prices; the regime seems to have been taken aback by a true gold rush and is trying to regulate exploration to control the profits.22 Sudan ramped up production to 10.1 tons in 2010, more than double from the previous year, and officials want to raise annual production to 40 tons by 2012.23 But the $85 million in gold exports Sudan fetched in 2009 hardly compensates for the future loss of oil exports, which were $6.9 billion that year.24

Arguably the most promising area in which growth can be realized is agriculture. There is nearly unanimous agreement among technocrats and foreign analysts that Sudan has plenty of fertile land, great water resources and productivity levels that can be dramatically increased through new technologies, efficient irrigation and other micro-interventions. Sudan has long been considered a potential regional breadbasket. While past attempts to realize this have failed dramatically,25 a green revolution is possible, though it will require sustained attention and the prioritization of sustainability, social inclusion and economic rationality over politics. And that might be where the problem lies once more for Sudan.

Al-Ingaz's long-term thinkers — Vice-President Taha, former Minister of Finance Abdelrahim Hamdi and economic czar Awad al-Jaz — have been arguing for a strategic approach to using the petrodollars, and have thrown their weight behind Sudan's agricultural revival and an ambitious Dam Programme.26 Agricultural growth relies on the reinvented "big push" idea of President Nimeiri in the 1970s-1980s. Nimeiri wanted to feed the Arab world with Sudanese cash crops.27 Capital-intensive agricultural development is prioritized, with a key role for external investment in driving the changes. Khartoum's Dam Programme is strongly connected to this. It aims to power the expected agricultural and industrial expansion by producing thousands of megawatts of electricity and to provide billions of cubic meters of Nile water for irrigation. Taha and his cohorts hope that this will generate jobs, foreign exchange, strong international partnerships and political support, entrenching them in power for 20 more years. Since the Bashir-Turabi split, the regime has downplayed ideology in favor of an agenda of delivering economically.28 The examples to emulate here are the United Malays National Organization party-led transformation of Malaysia and the remarkable success of the "soft" Islamists of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the rising Anatolian middle classes that accompany its political success.

Unfortunately, the problem remains that political calculations and rent seeking are trumping more fundamental attempts at realizing Sudan's potential. An impoverished country like Sudan can ill afford a multibillion-dollar investment in dams, particularly when experts agree that it makes little sense to build $3 billion dams in some of the hottest places on earth, where sedimentation is bound to reduce storage capacity quickly.29 Dams in Ethiopia are cheaper, cause less displacement, are environmentally more sustainable and could foster regional integration.30 Al-Ingaz doesn't just lack the trust to strike a grand bargain with Ethiopia — hydropower for oil, black gold for blue gold — its Dam Programme is fundamentally political, reviving its tribal heartlands and implementing prestige projects. While tens of thousands of people are displaced, powerful Sudanese military and agro-industrial interests capture the rents, in partnership with the Chinese and Gulf Arab investors and contractors who build and finance the dams and are eyeing large tracts of land to feed their own populations.31 Meanwhile, little financial or technical support is forthcoming for the smallholders who still make up the bulk of Sudan's labor force. None of the key ingredients of Asia's green revolutions32 are facilitated by Khartoum today, despite Bashir's grandiose words: " in a position to make a big contribution to achieving food security in Africa."33 The country imports more food today than when the Salvation Revolution came to power in 1989.

Moreover, even if Sudan does become Africa's breadbasket, the results of the planned transformation will only become visible in a decade's time. A competitive agricultural export sector cannot compensate for dwindling oil revenues and associated political-economic instability, least of all in the short term. This is the reality behind the strong fluctuations of the currency, the drastic budget cuts — even the patronage networks of the Republican Palace did not escape the austerity measures — and the rise in inflation.34 Despite real growth, Northern Sudan is on the edge economically for the next couple of years and desperately looking for foreign exchange, investment and commerce that can keep it — and the politicians that rule it — afloat. Enter the United States of America and its key dilemma: re-engaging with Khartoum economically and politically and seemingly giving the regime another lease on life, or going for broke by keeping it isolated.


The loss of the majority of Sudan's oil to the South and the darkening clouds over the North's economy have elevated the importance of lifting U.S. sanctions for the Al-Ingaz regime. Access to American markets and investment as well as support for international debt relief have been pegged as critical goals in the regime's future. Normalizing ties with the United States first and foremost means dropping the imposition of economic sanctions and the longstanding listing of Sudan in the American registry of state sponsors of terrorism. Sanctions have always been a major point of contention for Al-Ingaz, but their effectiveness in actually producing behavioral change in the regime has only recently been shown to be potent.

Sanctions on Sudan have strong moral appeal in Washington, given Khartoum's deplorable human-rights record. This was particularly true after President George W. Bush took office in 2000, as special-interest groups and advocacy organizations became increasingly influential in shaping U.S. policy on Sudan. But from the late 1990s till the early 2000s, sanctions did not act as an effective strategic tool to promote U.S. foreign-policy objectives in Sudan.35 Economic, political and military cooperation between the United States and Sudan had already fallen drastically in the years before the restrictions were imposed. There was little leverage for sanctions to influence Khartoum's decision making. And, in the years to follow, thanks to investment from Chinese, Malaysian and Indian companies in the oil sector, Sudan's economy has grown at nearly 8 percent a year from 2004 to 2008 despite the continual imposition of sanctions and widespread divestment campaigns orchestrated by American advocacy groups.36 Sanctions certainly depressed Sudan's economic growth — and poverty reduction through non-oil growth — from achieving even higher levels over the past decade, especially because of restrictions on financial transactions in U.S. dollars, but there have been plenty of partners willing to invest in Sudan's oil sector. Rather, other domestic and international changes had a more significant impact on revitalizing contact between the United States and Sudan than sanctions did on their own. Khartoum's willingness to sign the CPA and work with Langley on counterterrorism intelligence, were respectively propelled by political changes in Sudan and shifts in wider U.S. foreign policy on more aggressively confronting international terrorism. The political space for constructive engagement between the United States and Sudan remains ripe now that South Sudan has become independent.

It came as a surprise to many observers in the United States that President Bashir did not move to obstruct the referendum for southern secession in January. The Al-Ingaz regime made a positive step forward in U.S. requirements to normalize ties, in line with its almost continuous rhetorical emphasis on an "open hand to the West" approach. Senator John Kerry delivered the Obama administration's message to the regime during two trips to Khartoum in late 2010, threatening new sanctions if the regime obstructed the referendum but also promising the normalization of ties if the transition went smoothly. First, the United States offered to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism if all provisions of the CPA, including the South's self-determination referendum, were carried out and if Khartoum was not found to be supporting terrorist groups. Second, economic sanctions would be lifted when the Darfur conflict was finally resolved.

The two-part deal matched Washington's comprehensive strategy on Sudan, which had been delivered a year earlier. After the referendum, the Obama administration began the process to explore removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cooperation between the two sides remains shaky. Circles in the regime remain doubtful that Washington will follow through on its promises, while some members of Congress and the Obama administration suspect that Khartoum may seek to destabilize South Sudan and continue to wage war in Darfur and (since June 2011) in the strategic border region of South Kordofan. Longstanding sanctions and the promise of normalizing ties with the United States have begun to demonstrate political weight in Khartoum, but, again, other domestic changes in Sudan explain the regime's change in behavior.

The domestic changes brought on by southern secession have amplified the importance of U.S. sanctions. Sudanese officials have repeatedly expressed their concern to American diplomats that sanctions limit the oil sector's access to sophisticated technology and that they have become over-reliant on the Chinese.37 If sanctions are lifted, American oil companies can help to revitalize stagnating oil fields in the North, where their Chinese counterparts have, to date, come up short. At the same time, other sectors of the economy will benefit from access to the American market. For example, Sudan Railways — dependent on locomotives made by General Motors — and the airline sector have suffered severely from the lack of access to spare parts and engines made in America and have taken serious hits in the past 15 years. Al-Ingaz's agricultural revival would benefit from the return of international collaboration on its research stations and the import of high-quality American implements.38 A normalization of ties with the United States will also place Sudan in a better position to gain status as a "heavily indebted poor country" (HIPC), leading to an easing of the burden of over $35 billion in external debt that the economy will need to cope with when oil revenues fall after the South's secession. The time is ripe for Washington to engage Khartoum to settle the critical modalities of the separation of the South in a peaceful fashion, and even promote reform of the Al-Ingaz regime from within.


American re-engagement would be particularly timely, given the revolutionary changes rocking Sudan and the wider region. The departure of the South and the popular uprisings of the "Arab Spring" are leading to an unusual amount of soul-searching among the Khartoum elite and an openness to examine new horizons.39 Even if the regime manages to navigate the economic turbulence and regional winds of political change, it will be compelled to further explore profound internal reforms.

Any return to the radical confrontationist agenda of the 1990s is a dead end for President Bashir and Vice President Taha. There is little or no appetite among the population to relaunch the revolution, not even among regime insiders, as indicated by the overwhelmingly negative reactions to Bashir's extremist "Gedarif" speech.40 New attempts to export ideology can solve none of the economic or political problems of Sudan, with or without the South. Rather, the Agricultural Revival Programme, and, more generally, Al-Ingaz's post-oil economic agenda of delivering goods and services require outside investment and increased integration into the global economy and international community. Re-engagement by the United States with Al-Ingaz is likely to reinforce the case made by reformists in the regime who are keen on balancing the aggressive stance of die-hard fundamentalists and security hawks. Many young Islamists and business elites are eager to dump the historical and ideological baggage of the past and privately concede that they see the events in Tunisia and Egypt as writing on the wall for Al-Ingaz, too. Young party faithful are demanding that the old leadership hand the reins over after almost a quarter of a century in power and urge a more vigorous struggle against corruption. In their eyes, only dramatic change can fend off more violence in the North, in the form of a hard-line coup or renewed civil war.

As any informal inquiry on the streets of a Sudanese town reveals, students, businessmen and engineers alike are anything but anti-Western. To the contrary, they hope American investors can return to the country and inject a new dynamism into Sudan's economy and society. American re-engagement can help improve the situation of ordinary people, who are grievously harmed by the current sanctions regime.

The lifting of sanctions might seem to some to be appeasing a regime infamous for its human-rights violations, including the recent brutal counterinsurgency in the Nuba Mountains. Supporters of the SPLM/A and Nuba communities are being targeted through aerial bombardment and militia raids on villages across South Kordofan. Yet the resumption of violence in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State only serves to underline that a "sticks only" approach and American wavering on re-engagement merely reinforce the position of hardliners in the Sudanese security services. The hawks in the regime feel that whatever concessions they make — and accepting the departure of one third of the country is no small thing, in their eyes — Washington will not respond. This weakens moderate voices that propose political settlements for the problems in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and reform of the regime's style of governance more generally.

For the Sudanese people, American re-engagement would be a signal of hope, encouraging them to push Al-Ingaz for deeper economic and political reforms. American investment, technology and expertise can assist the Sudanese to increase recovery rates in the oil fields, further explore the North's mining potential and push up productivity in agriculture. Renewed and responsible Western investment and trade can breathe new life into regions and markets that lack dynamism and have been dominated by Chinese and other Asian investors. At the same time, Sudan's universities and brightest students would benefit massively from new partnerships with institutions in America and the EU, helping in the long run to restore both the academic excellence and technical skill of workers that Sudan was known for in Africa before the Al-Ingaz regime.

Arguing for a change in American and, by extension, Western policy with Khartoum is not a question of naïve or "rewarding" human-rights violations and ethnic cleansing. The test of U.S. foreign policy in Sudan should be whether it helps to bring about peace, democracy, regional security and economic development, goals that Washington claims to be pursuing. Continuing the status-quo does little for ordinary Sudanese citizens. It is also misreading the political dynamics currently reshaping Khartoum. Re-engagement does not have to come at the expense of supporting processes of reform in the North. To the contrary, in the current domestic and regional political climate, it could reinforce democratization in a way that few other policy instruments can, and it might speed up the process of unwinding the Salvation Revolution.



1 Douglas Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars (James Currey, 2003), 57.

2 Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Turabi's Revolution. Islam and Power in Sudan (Grey Seal Books, 1991), 145-148.

3 Interviews in Khartoum with senior Islamists, April-December 2010.

4 Interviews in Khartoum with senior Islamists, December 2010-March 2011.

5 Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower. Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11 (Penguin Books, 2006), 262-286.

6 The Jaalyin and Shaigiyya are two tribes from Northern Sudan with most of them based in the areas north of Khartoum around the river Nile. Omar Al-Bashir is a Jaalyi, whereas Ali Osman Taha is Shaigi. See Philip Roessler, "Internal Rivalry, Threat Substitution and Civil War: Darfur as a Theory-Building Case," University of Oxford (2010).

7 "President Declares Freedom at War with Fear," The White House,

8 Mahmood Mamdani, Saviors and Survivors (Verso, 2009), particularly first two chapters.

9 Interview with an adviser to the Sudanese Government, April 2010.

10 "Fueling Mistrust. The Need for Transparency in Sudan's Oil Industry," Global Witness (2009).

11 "The Road Towards Sustainable and Broad-Based Growth," World Bank (2009).

12 "Sudan, Country Report No. 09/218," International Monetary Fund (2009); "Sudan, Country Report No. 10/256," IMF (2010); "Country Analysis Briefs: Sudan," Energy Information Administration (2010), accessed on November 30, 2010,

13 Even the oil minister in the national government Lual Deng (SPLM/A) has publicly doubted its feasibility.

14 Harry Verhoeven, "Black Gold for Blue Gold? Sudan's Oil, Ethiopia's Water and Regional Integration" (Chatham House, 2011).

15 Luke A. Patey, "Crude Days Ahead? Oil in Sudan after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," African Affairs, Vol. 109, No. 437 (2010).

16 Interviews with members of the central government and SPLM/A delegations, December 2010; "Country Report, Sudan," Economist Intelligence Unit, November 2010, 14.

17 Interview with Northern oil officials, Khartoum, October 2010.

18 "Sudan plans to start pumping oil in Darfur, Petroleum Minister Deng says," Bloomberg, December 1, 2010.

19 "North Sudan oil production to reach 110," Sudan Tribune, November 21, 2010.

20 Geoff King, "Sudan has large potential to raise crude output using IOR: study," Platts, November 8, 2010.

21 Interview with Minister of Petroleum Lual Deng, Khartoum, February 2011.

22 Guillaume Lavallee, "Sudan gold miners vie for desert riches," AFP, August 23, 2010; Interviews with Sudanese government officials, Northern Sudanese activists and gold diggers, December 2010.

23 Maram Mazen, ‘Sudan Boosts Gold Output to Make Up for Lost Oil, Minister Says,' Bloomberg, July 20, 2011; Andrew Heavens, "Sudan hopes to double gold output to offset risk," Reuters, September 6, 2010.

24 Foreign Trade Statistical Digest, Vol. 46, No. 4, Central Bank of Sudan (2009).

25 Harry Verhoeven, "Climate Change, Conflict and Development in Sudan: How Neo-Malthusian global narratives help win local power struggles," Development and Change, Vol. 42, No. 3.

26 Interviews with senior Islamists, including Abdelrahim Hamdi, Khartoum, August 2009 - March 2011.

27 Jay O'Brien, "Sowing the Seeds of Famine: The Political Economy of Food Deficits in Sudan," Review of African Political Economy, No.33 (1985): 23-32; Peter Oesterdiekhoff and Karl Wohlmuth, "The ‘Breadbasket' Is Empty. The Options of Sudanese Development Policy," Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1 (1983): 35-67.

28 Interviews in Khartoum, April 2010-February 2011.

29 Interviews in Khartoum, Addis and London, August 2009-December 2010.

30 Verhoeven, "Black Gold for Blue Gold? Sudan's Oil, Ethiopia's Water and Regional Integration."

31 Harry Verhoeven, "‘Dams are Development'. The Al-Ingaz Regime, China and the (Hydro) Political Game around the Sudanese Nile," in Asia's Foreign Relations with Sudan by Dan Large and Luke A. Patey (James Currey, 2011). This is part of a more general trend in Africa: Lorenzo Cotula, Sonja Vermeulen, Rebeca Leonard and James Keeley, "Land grab or development opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa," International Institute for Environment and Development (2009).

32 Above all allowing farmers to keep the fruits of their labour to move from subsistence-agriculture to high-quantity production: strategies include improving rural infrastructure; introducing high-yield varieties; redistributing land; and offering cheap credit to smallholders. See Jeffrey Sachs, End of Poverty (Penguin Books, 2005).

33 "Sudan will put its agricultural resources at Africa's Disposal," Sudan Tribune, July 2, 2009.

34 Interview with Ali Mahmood Abdel, October 18, 2010, "Sudan's Finance Minister Paints Grim Picture After South's Separates," Sudan Tribune,

35 Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Shrewd Sanctions: Statecraft and State Sponsors of Terrorism (Brookings Institution, 2003), 233-35.

36 Luke A. Patey, "Against the Asian Tide: The Sudan Divestment Campaign," Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 47, No. 4 (2009): 551-573.

37 Interviews with U.S. government officials, Washington D.C., July 2010.

38 Interviews with a wide range of technocrats, academics and businessmen, Khartoum, March 2011.

39 Harry Verhoeven, "Northern Sudan at a Deadly Crossroads," The Guardian, January 18, 2011,

40 "Bashir Endorses Lashing of YouTube Woman," Sudan Tribune, December 19, 2010,,37345.