Slowly the current demonstration in Sudan are finding their way to international media and with it the geostrategic position of the country is being highlighted.
The Foreign Policy magazine published recently a long piece containing a list of ten conflicts around the world to watch. The list includes South Sudan, where some 400, 000 are believed to have been killed following the civil war that has been raging for the past five years.
It was after Sudan stepped in and following a rapprochement and understanding with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni a peace agreement was patched up with both Sudan and Uganda as the guarantors given their influence on the main combatants.
Though the fragile peace is holding so far, but it has serious challenges down the road starting with forming the government, settle the security arrangements especially in Juba, prepare for the 2022 elections. And in all these tricky issues Khartoum is expected to play a significant role. Moreover, if this deal falters it is not clear what the alternative will be bearing in mind that western countries remain skeptical and are withholding vital funding for the peace process.
To cover for the funding gap, Sudan stepped in making use of its expertise in the oil industry and its downstream facilities to restore some of idle oil fields back to production.
That is not the only reason why some foreign countries look seriously at what is going on in Sudan and what is the end game will be following weeks of anti- government demonstrations. For issues of illegal migration, human trafficking and counter terrorism Sudan is playing an increasingly important role given its geostrategic location and intelligence abilities.
Khartoum has been chosen to host the Regional Operational Center (ROC), where officials from a number of European countries are working with their Sudanese counterparts on training, sharing of information on how to handle human trafficking and fight illegal migration.
The growing international interest on the Red Sea adds another dimension to the country’s strategic value. Regional players from Africa and the Gulf countries in addition to far away China are strengthening their presence in this important waterway and Sudan has ambitious plans that are yet to materialize on utilizing its Red Sea shores to be a transportation hub for land-locked countries like direct neighbors South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and Central African Republic and beyond.
The strategic importance of Sudan is not a new discovery. It was one of the main reasons why Britain opted to put its hand with Egypt to reconquer Sudan. Days after defeating the Mahdist state, Kitchener led 25, 000 soldiers to push south in 1899 to block the movement of the French officer Marchand and secure the sources of the Nile from falling or to be threatened by another country.
However, the strategic location of the country have not been utilized as the case with its abundant natural resources, but a reasonable degree of stability has been achieved that opened the door to cooperation in counter terrorism and fighting human trafficking.
This type of cooperation was so significant that when it was withheld briefly from the Americans back in 2015 it helped triggered a process to ease economic sanctions and start a process to remove Sudan from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism, a move that is seen as important to help Sudan re-engage with world financial institutions and get some aid.
Foreign countries from nearby neighbors in the region or the far away western ones were involved in Sudanese politics for quite a long time. The peak of this involvement was the signing of the CPA back in 2005 that led eventually to the separation of South Sudan, a separation that was not carried out in a steady and smooth way given the number of hanging issues that are yet to be resolved.
With the loss of the main producing oil fields and their income of hard currency to the newly born state the perfect storm of political and economic problems was brewing that resulted in the current unrest that requires a political handling in the first place.
However, the longer this unrest and demonstrations continue without an indigenous political solution the foreign powers find more incentive to intervene. And such intervention does not necessarily have to go in line with the country’s interests.
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