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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

‘It’s Basically Over’: The Sudanese Dictatorship’s Dwindling Options

On September 27, one of the most repressive governments on earth was thrown a lifeline. After an eight-month standoff that ravaged the two countries' economies and brought them to the brink of war, North and South Sudan resolved a long-simmering dispute over how to divide their oil revenue, the primary source of tension after the South became independent in July 2011. The relationship between the two countries is still one of suspicion, proxy warfare, and seemingly-insoluble border disputes that provide a plausible casus belli if either needs an excuse to ratchet up pressure. Even so, the deal allows for the possibility that within the next six months, oil will again start flowing for the first time since February 2012, restoring a revenue source that each government desperately needs. …

To that end, the Sudanese government spends $4 million a day, and, according to Elmahdi, 88 percent of its budget, on defense and security. One of the regime's top priorities has been to maintain its control over a vast and compartmentalized security apparatus. For instance, as Magdi El Gazouli, an economist and fellow at the Rift Valley Institute explains, the government maintains a bank "dedicated to giving cheap loans to junior military officers and security officers." Still, the bank had to be bailed out by the Sudanese central bank three times even before the southern oil shutoff. And after the shutoff, it is clear that the government is struggling to balance its patronage network against the need to maintain a functioning state and society.

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