Analysis - Sudan a failed state? Depends where you live

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, June 19 (Reuters) - With eight-lane highways adorned by huge television screens advertising Sudanese companies, Khartoum does not appear to fit the image of capital of the world's most failed state.

But an index published by U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine on Monday placed Sudan at the top of just such a list, ahead of even Iraq and Somalia.

Arriving in Khartoum's pristine, refurbished airport terminal, visitors are greeted by a huge glass Toyota showroom with the newest model vehicles.

Testament to Sudan's new oil wealth, pumping more than 500,000 barrels per day, high-speed wireless is available, mobile networks compete for new customers. And cafes serving French pastries have sprung up throughout Khartoum, one of the safest capitals in Africa.

But analysts attribute that to the strength of the security apparatus in Khartoum, the base of the government, and the city's wealth to its concentration of international business.

Outside Khartoum is a different story. There, the Foreign Policy index begins to make more sense.

Foreign Policy's researchers used indicators such as public services, human rights, security apparatus, displaced populations, territorial control and relations with the international community to measure a state's success or failure.

It found Sudan was the most failed state in the areas of numbers of refugees and displaced people, group grievances against the state, the delegitimisation of the state, and human rights abuses.

"The primary cause of (Sudan's) instability, violence in the country's western region of Darfur, is as well known as it is tragic," Foreign Policy said.

It added that Darfur violence had affected Chad and Central African Republic, which have suffered as the conflict spilled over the border. Chad is No. 4 on the list and CAR No. 10.

"The spillover effects from Sudan have a great deal to do with the countries' tumble in the rankings, demonstrating that the dangers of failing states often bleed across borders," the magazine said.


Outside the rapidly developing city centre, Khartoum's sprawling slum suburbs, home to millions who have fled regional conflicts throughout Africa's largest country, do not have electricity, running water, or proper healthcare.

In the peripheral regions, the situation is worse.

"By any standards other than the economy of Khartoum (and) the immediate region, Sudan is a profoundly failed state," said U.S. academic and activist Eric Reeves.

A bitter north-south war, which has blown on and off since independence half a century ago killing 2 million people, ended with a 2005 peace deal that formed an autonomous southern government and a right to vote on secession.

But Sudan's oil-rich central Abyei region is in dispute.

A Darfur peace deal has done little to quell violence in Sudan's west, where international experts estimate 200,000 have been killed. An eastern peace deal has seen little progress.

And in the north, violence has erupted as authorities try to move people from land they want to flood to build a dam.

The conflicts have forced some 7 million people from their homes.

After threats of sanctions and international isolation, Sudan accepted a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force for its western Darfur region of 20,000-25,000 troops and police.

Around 11,000 U.N. forces already patrol the south.

This will leave half Sudan's around 32 million population under international protection.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali al-Sadig said the facts on the ground proved Sudan was not a failed state. Sudan has signed three regional peace deals in two years.

"We don't take such things seriously," Sadiq said of the index, "mainly because the facts do not indicate that Sudan is the way they depict it."


But analysts all agreed democratisation was necessary for Sudan and those enjoying the fruits of foreign investment should not expect it to last forever.

"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," said Lawrence Rossin, a former U.S. ambassador.

"Sudan could become a failed state due to the actions of its own government," he added.

Rossin said pressure was needed to encourage a fundamental change in governance. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir took over in 1989 in a bloodless coup and has ruled since.

Political parties and regional rebel groups have factionalised leaving little effective or united opposition.

"Until such sustained international pressure is exerted, half the people of Sudan will need protection =96 from their own government," said Rossin.

Sudan expert John Ashworth said: "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."

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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