KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Air fares in Sudan skyrocketed this week after aviation authorities ordered airlines to price tickets in line with a new exchange rate mechanism that sharply devalued the local currency.
Under the exchange regime introduced in October in a bid to tackle an acute shortage of foreign currency, the Sudanese pound was devalued to 47.5 per U.S. dollar from 29 pounds per U.S. dollar previously.
That has led to a surge in the cost of many goods and services, but air ticket prices had been set according to the customs exchange rate — 18 pounds per dollar — until Wednesday when the country’s Civil Aviation Authority announced the hike in a memo sent to airlines.
The order caused prices to jump about 66 percent, according to travel agencies’ estimates. Prices in dollars were not affected, but only foreigners and Sudanese residents of other countries may buy tickets in dollars.
“This decision has led to a drastic 60 percent drop in travel in the last two days. This situation puts the aviation industry in Sudan and travel agencies at risk of unbearable losses,” said Mahjoub Almack, head of the Sudanese Association of Travel and Tourism Agents.
Despite October’s devaluation, the pound remains under pressure and the gap between the official and black market rates has continued to widen. A dollar cost 57 pounds on the black market on Saturday.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Helen Popper
Going by his bank statements, Isam Ali isn’t short of money — but in Sudan’s cash-strapped capital that’s exactly what he is.
Several times a week, the 45-year-old accountant lines up at one of the few ATMs in Khartoum still dispensing banknotes, waiting hours to withdraw the daily maximum of 2,000 Sudanese pounds ($42). That sum’s being spread increasingly thinly to feed his family, as inflation in the North African nation hits its highest in two decades, quashing hopes 2017’s lifting of U.S. sanctions could spur an economic revival.
The reality: three devaluations for the Sudanese pound this year, the central bank rushing to print more money and a government that can only promise further austerity as President Umar al-Bashir periodically hires and fires his ministers.
“Things are going from bad to worse and the government is changing the cabinet only to buy time,” said Ali. A father of two, he’s feeling the trickle-down from a dearth of foreign investment in Sudan and a chronic lack of liquidity in its banking system.
In a torrid decade for Sudan’s $117.5 billion economy, which included the south seceding in 2011 with three-quarters of the united country’s oil reserves, the past year may have been its worst.
Despite lifting most sanctions, the U.S. still lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that officials blame for the lack of significant new investment. Inflation is almost 70 percent, and the pound trades at 47.5 per dollar, plunging from 18 in January. The International Monetary Fund says the economy may contract 2.3 percent this year.
“People lost confidence in the banking system,” says Hamid Eltagani, a Sudanese economics professor at the American University in Cairo. “The economy is becoming more of a rudimentary system of barter-exchange and the government has no instrument to entice cash into the banks.”
While the U.S. sanctions — imposed in 1997 on terrorism allegations — hit Sudanese government agencies that provided essential services, the nation’s elites often found ways to circumvent them, setting up companies that benefited from preferential access to hard currency and contracts.
Al-Bashir has repeatedly blamed Sudan’s economic troubles on alleged plots by the U.S. and other Western countries. He’s said “fat cats” including unidentified bankers, black-market traders and smugglers also bear responsibility.
Prime Minister Mutaz Musa in October announced a 15-month plan to trim inflation, cut spending and tackle corruption while defending those on lower incomes. The government said on Saturday it was raising flour subsidies to protect the price of bread. A January decision to lower subsidies on that commodity and electricity sparked protests and dozens of arrests.
For Abdullah Ismail, 55, his day job isn’t enough to make ends meet. The Sudan Railways Corp. workshop employee spends half his 4,000 pounds monthly salary on rent, then has to eke out food, transportation, electricity and school fees with the rest.
He borrowed 10,000 pounds from a local bank to buy a small taxi and make extra money. But the fresh earnings were eaten up by rising expenses; he hasn’t been able to make repayments for six months. “I failed and I’m in danger of being imprisoned” for the outstanding debt, Ismail said.
Losing oil plunged Sudan into crisis, but the country’s involvement in a new deal to end South Sudan’s five-year civil war could bring compensation.
As landlocked South Sudan boosts its crude output, that may mean extra revenue for Sudan, which collects fees for transporting oil by pipeline to a port on the Red Sea. Sudan pumped about 86,000 barrels per day of its own oil last year, according to BP Plc.
Gold has been touted as a replacement to oil, and exports of about 10.7 metric tons brought in $422 million in the first half of 2018, the Minerals Ministry says. But the government complains most exports don’t go through official channels and has promised steps against smuggling.
“The political machine has run out of lubricants,” said Eltagani, the academic. He described an “aging regime” with a “bankrupt ideology and a lack of clear policies to fix the ailing economy.”
In the meantime, Sudanese like Zahra Ahmed — a 21-year-old arts student at the University of Khartoum — are looking for any work available to cover their expenses and tuition.
“My family can’t manage to provide that for me as well as my two sisters,” she said.
Mr Endley, a retired South African army colonel and for adviser of Mr Machar, was accused of providing him with military support.
“I will release him tomorrow [Thursday] and deport him back to South Africa,” Mr Kiir said.
Dr Riek Machar — who returned to Juba for the first time in more than two years to take part in the ceremony — reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of the September 12 peace agreement.
“We come here today to confirm to you that we are for peace. We want peace and unity,” he told the crowd at Freedom Square.
“The peace agreement will bring you federal system of governance,” he added.
Notable among the special guests at the ceremony were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopia’s newly sworn in President Sahle-Work Zewde, Somali’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war in 2013 after President Kiir accused Machar — then the vice president— of plotting a coup against him.
The five-year civil war has killed an estimated 380,000 people and nearly two-and-a-half million others displaced.
A Mo Ibrahim Foundation report recently ranked South Sudan as the second worst governed state in Africa after Somalia.
Several peace accords have been signed but faltered immediately. They include the last one in 2016 that forced Mr Machar to flee into exile.
Sudan is heading towards an emergency reform plan in order to revive its ailing economy.
Prime Minister Moataz Moussa announced to parliament of the 15-month emergency economic-reform plan on Wednesday. It also includes further austerity measures.
The measures include slashing all tax exemptions except for materials needed for production, withdrawing some vehicles provided to officials, among others.
“The aim of the program is to restore the implementation of the budget of 2018 to assist the performance in 2019 to achieve its objectives of economic stability by reducing the average rate of inflation, stabilizing the exchange rate and achieving a real GDP growth rate of 4%,” said Moussa
The prime minister also highlighted plans to establish a commodity exchange for gold and currencies.
The country’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking a huge share of oil, once a major export.
It has also been enduring miserable economic conditions in recent months despite hopes last year that the lifting of US sanctions in place since 1997 would boost the country’s fortunes.
The government has been trying to slash expenditures as it continues to grapple with an acute foreign exchange shortage and inflation above 65 per cent for several months.
The central bank has twice devalued the Sudan pound this year. The pound currently trades at 41 to the dollar on the black market, while the official rate is 28 to the dollar.
In September president Omar al Bashir cut the number of ministries. He also announced his second major government reshuffle in the space of four months, a move aimed at fixing a crisis-hit economy.
Bashir also pledged to tackle corruption and reform the national economy, promising more subsidies for the poorest, increased productivity and revenues, and finance for agricultural schemes.
The United Nations said yesterday that heavy rains and flash floods have affected about 195,000 people in 15 of Sudan’s 18 states, the Anadolu Agency reported.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Kassala was worst hit as high rainfall and flash floods affected 47,500 people. While 24,000 people in West Kordofan were also affected by the waters.
Some 33,00 students saw their lessons disrupted in 95 schools.
Some 43 people have been killed by torrential rains in the states of Khartoum, the Nile River, Kassala, West Kordofan and El-Gezira since the rainy season began.
This week’s sentencing of one of the most powerful intelligence officers in Sudan has not only sent shockwaves through the ranks of the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) and civil servants, but is also set to open the floodgates for more corrupt officers and officials to be brought to justice.
The seven-year custodial sentence and fine of seven million Sudanese pounds (£300,000) imposed on Abdul Ghaffar Al-Sheriff appears to be a clear signal that abuse of a public office for personal gain will no longer be tolerated. For many people, though, the punishment was not enough.
Accounts of Al-Sheriff’s initial arrest are numerous but one source close to the intelligence services told me that he was lured to a meeting with the then newly-reappointed head of the NISS, Salah Abdullah, better known as “Gosh”, to discuss the work of his department and exchange pleasantries. The fifteen-minute meeting ended but as he walked out the door he was apprehended by agents who were waiting for him on Abdullah’s instructions. Al-Sheriff’s plea for an opportunity to visit his family before being locked up was ignored. He was marched away and held incommunicado for most of the time prior to sentencing. It is now expected that he will be transferred to Sudan’s federal prison in Koba.
When the intelligence services raided Al-Sheriff’s home, he was found to have US$120,000 in cash and documentation for more than 100 tracts of land and real estate. He was charged with treason, bribery, ransom and corruption, money laundering, support for terrorism and other issues relating to national security. His role was to oversee the business sector of the security services.
Al-Sheriff’s trial began in July at the Court of Intelligence and Security Service (CISS), but many of the charges were thrown out because it could only rule over whether he had abused or worked outside his sphere of authority. Furthermore, unlike civilian criminal courts, the court is unable to sentence anyone to more than ten years in prison. He has just 15 days to appeal against the sentence.
Notwithstanding the charges that were dismissed, events appear to reinforce Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s declared aim to stamp out corruption by civil servants who he said were “robbing the nation of its wealth.” In April, he vowed to parliament to apply the Illegal Wealth Act to uncover suspicious money laundering and put an end to gold smuggling so that the economy can recover fully. “We have reviewed the banking system and taken punitive measures against banks and companies involved in financial corruption,” he explained. “We will continue to review, inspect and evaluate private and public banks, especially the Central Bank of Sudan, in which we will undertake structural reforms.”
However, there was no mention of the security forces and few believed that the battlefront would begin within a service that has played a pivotal role in maintaining Sudan’s relative stability and protecting Al-Bashir’s 29-year rule. Al-Sheriff’s arrest represents the continuation of a huge purge within the NISS to oust corrupt practices. Sources say that at least 130 officers are currently being detained and investigated by their erstwhile colleagues. The identity and whereabouts of many others have not been released for various reasons, including “national security”.
Much of the credit for the reform of the intelligence services is being given to Abdullah, who was reinstated as Director of NISS earlier this year. Immediate steps were taken to remove those associated with Al-Sheriff from office, not because they were thought to be corrupt, but because it was feared that they may not be fully supportive of Gosh’s return to power. More than seven high-ranking officers were removed or retired, including the Deputy Director of NISS, who was regarded as an ally of Al-Sheriff.
As Sudan struggles to rebuild its economy, the suspicion of corruption remains in the minds of the public who believe that the wealth of the nation has been squandered over the years. Whatever the truth is, there now appears to be an expectation that criminals at the highest level of government will be rooted out.
“Of course, over the years, people have been saying, rightly or wrongly, that different people are corrupt,” one intelligence official who requested anonymity told me “but perhaps for the first-time we are seeing powerful men being brought to justice. These convictions are bound to change the way the system operates within the government.”
Clearly, with many investigations pending, more security officers will be indicted and sent to jail. It’s a move that could restore some public confidence in the Sudanese authorities, although it could also fuel a greater sense of frustration if the punishments are perceived as not severe enough.
NUBA MOUNTAINS, SUDAN — Caught between a repressive government to the north and a civil war to the south, residents of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan face difficult choices as they ponder their future. What they can count on, Catholic leaders say, is that the church will continue to accompany them on whatever political path they choose.
“We live in the mountains because we fled from the Arabs who came here to make us their slaves. If the SPLA-North wasn’t militarily strong, the Arabs would have entered here and raped all the women and girls, killed all the men, taken all the property, and enslaved anyone who survived,” said Fr. Daniel Tutu Kuku, the parish priest in Heiban. He referred to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, a rebel group that controls much of the Nuba Mountains, a small enclave inside Sudan along its border with South Sudan.
“We won’t be slaves. If Khartoum won’t give us our freedom, we will continue fighting. By peaceful means when possible, because the gun can’t win. It only destroys,” he said. “But it is the means by which we protect ourselves. We prefer peaceful means, but when they force us to use the gun, we use it.”
Despite decades of conflict, the future of the Nuba Mountains remains unclear. While the Nuba fought alongside other southerners against the North during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), their fate was set aside by the 2005 peace treaty that placed what became South Sudan on the road to independence. Instead, war dragged on for the Nuba, with the government in the capital, Khartoum, sending Russian planes to regularly bomb agricultural land, chasing farmers into caves in the hillsides and leaving the population short on food. While Khartoum stopped the bombing in 2016 during a diplomatic offensive to convince the West to end sanctions, its military standoff with the liberated enclave has continued.
U.N. agencies refuse to enter the Nuba Mountains, unwilling to antagonize the Sudanese government. A handful of international aid groups, insisting on anonymity, provide some humanitarian assistance, but all have problems with access. For years the Catholic Church flew cargo planes of food and medical supplies into the region, but halted those after Khartoum started targeting the flights.
Talks to allow greater humanitarian access have gone nowhere, with Khartoum insisting that all aid be channeled through the North, and the SPLA-North demanding a humanitarian corridor from the border with neighboring South Sudan.
Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic lay missionary from the United States, said any aid that comes from the North would automatically be suspect.
“When you’ve lived here during the attacks, you’re not going to trust anything from Khartoum. You assume it’s poisoned. You’re going to assume that any vaccines they send are to sterilize the people. It’s not something that’s negotiable,” said Catena, who directs the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel. “That’s the position of the SPLA leadership, and most people agree. I wouldn’t trust them, either. They’ve tried to kill us with bombs, so what’s to stop them from killing us in other ways?”
Comboni Sr. Angelina Nyakuru, a Ugandan who serves as head nurse in the hospital, said the people of the Nuba will never surrender. “They are fighting for their liberation. They’ve had it with the North and want to be free,” she said. “They already have their own national anthem. And people in Gidel came to us sisters for cloth to make their own flag. We didn’t have all the colors they needed, but we gave them what we had.”
No one here proposes unifying with South Sudan, which has been plagued by civil war since 2013. With both merger and independence off the table, Catena said some sort of semi-autonomous status might work.
“We had high hopes for places like Kurdistan, but it’s kind of collapsing. So I don’t know how it would work. The Nuba is landlocked and poor. On the other hand, the people don’t need much. They’ll farm, and there’s gold here and there. They’ll find their way. But at the moment, I don’t see any viable political solution,” he said.
Catena said he urges his neighbors to think beyond war to achieve their ends.
“Fighting and killing Arabs isn’t going to solve their problems,” Catena said. “They should prepare themselves to be better than them. Get their revenge that way. Become so excellent in medical care that the Arabs will come here for medical care. Is an Arab guy going to think that he’s better than you when he sees you standing over him with a knife about to operate?”
What’s clear to church leaders is that they must prepare people for whatever political future emerges. One key element is education. Besides health care, a primary emphasis of Catholic work in the region has been opening and operating schools throughout the Nuba Mountains, as well as a teacher training institute in Kauda.
The schools have been largely financed by a Nairobi-based foundation run by Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the retired bishop of El Obeid. For years he has run church operations inside the Nuba Mountains on behalf of the Sudan-based diocese, whose current bishop is not allowed by Khartoum to enter the rebel enclave.
Yet runaway inflation — the Nuba use the troubled South Sudan pound as their currency — coupled with financial shortfalls in Nairobi have pushed several school directors in the Nuba Mountains to attempt to raise school fees this year, a move opposed by most parents. The church has now trained sufficient local teachers that there’s almost no need to import costly foreign teachers from Kenya and Uganda, as has been the practice for years, but the schools still face difficult financial challenges.
“The church puts effort into education because the church looks ahead. It looks to the future,” said Fr. Zacharia Osman, the parish priest in Lugi. “Without education, nothing good will happen. It’s how we’re creating our leaders for the future. The Arabs in the North educate themselves but don’t care about the education of people here. So we need to do it ourselves.”
This is part 1 of a two part series on the role of Bibles & Peace in the Sudans. The Sudans Prayer Guide is usually sent out on a weekly basis as an email to encourage prayer partners to continually lift the Sudans to God’s Throne of Grace.
Partnering on Bibles for the Sudans
One of the key projects that the SSNet [Sudans Support Network] is involved with, is to bless the people of the Sudans through the printing and distribution of Bibles. We partner with Bibles for Africa to have Bibles for these purposes. During the past few months, 100,000 Bibles was printed in South Africa and delivered at various places like Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, as well as several places in South Sudan.
The Bible binder are almost in production, ready to bind, the Word of GodA new Bible Binder was bought for Bibles for Africa to increase capacity of the printing of Bibles. This include Bibles for Sudan, South Sudan and Refugee camps.
Two key representatives from SSNet and Bibles for Africa is set to travel to the Middle East next month to consult with Sudanese from various churches and ministries on how to print and distribute Bibles for Sudan and to the Sudanese.
Praise & prayer
Praise God for the amazing way He provided to get His Living Word, the Bible, printed and distributed through strategic partners. Praise God for the extent to which Bibles can now be printed and distributed. Praise God for all of the ongoing partnering relationships that is necessary for the printing and distribution of the Bibles.
Praise God for His provision, not only for the 100,000 Bibles that were printed and distributed, but also HUGE provision for the Bible Binder. God’s provision for and in all of this is just awe-inspiring!
Praise God for the envisioned trip to the Middle East next month. Pray for full provision and protection for the gathering, for everybody coming together. Pray for CLEAR DIRECTION from God as to WHAT and HOW to print Bibles in Sudan and for other strategic matters.
Should you wish to donate or encourage others to donate to the Bibles for Sudans printing and distribution projects of the SSNet and partners, here is the link.
The Sudanese government Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) has approved a UN initiative to deliver humanitarian aid to people living in rebel-controlled areas in the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states).
Humanitarian Aid Commissioner-General Ahmed Mohamed Adam said in a press conference in Khartoum on Thursday that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Sudan will coordinate the provision of aid with the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) if the latter agrees.
Although the numbers of the people-in-need living in the rebel-held areas are unknown, the WFP has sufficient food items and shelters for them, Adam said.
He explained that of the 17 localities in the two states, only three are controlled by the armed movement.
WFP Country Director in Sudan, Matthew Hollingworth, who participated in the press conference, urged the SPLM-N to approve the UN initiative, based on a US proposal in 2017.
Peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N collapsed at the end of 2015, and again in August 2016 as both parties adhered to their stances concerning the itinerary of humanitarian aid to the rebel-controlled areas.
The SPLM-N claimed that the government aimed to use the aid delivery to enter its troops into the rebel-hold areas, and enter its troops. The movement therefore demanded multiple paths for relief assistance.
Khartoum categorically rejected the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Two Areas via South Sudan or Ethiopia, as proposed by the SPLM-N. The Sudanese government said it wanted to oversee the aid distribution as it feared the rebels would benefit from it.
The Sudanese Relief and Reconstruction Agency, an organisation allied to the SPLM-N, said in an open letter on Wednesday that the people living in the rebel-controlled areas are still in need of aid. They did not receive humanitarian aid until now.
The organisation further states that “No negotiations have taken place [so far] between the two warring parties about the way the aid will be provided to the Two Areas”.
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s central bank will start printing 100 pound bank notes for the first time to ease a liquidity crisis exacerbated by rampant inflation, state news agency SUNA said on Sunday.
Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south of the sprawling northeast African country seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output and depriving Khartoum of a crucial source of foreign currency.
In recent months local currency liquidity at commercial banks has dried up, with long queues outside of banks and daily withdrawal limits falling to as low as 500 Sudanese pounds ($17.06) in some places.
The previous largest banknote in Sudan was 50 pounds.
“Printing the 100-pound banknote is a step in the right direction, because the high inflation rate has dropped the value of the 50-pound banknote,” Abdullah al-Ramadi, a Sudanese economist, said.
The decision “will help solve the liquidity shortage that harmed the Sudanese economy and the central bank has to increase the money supply to overcome the liquidity crisis,” al-Ramadi added.
Restrictions on how much cash is available to commercial banks are among measures aimed at curbing rampant inflation and addressing an economic crisis that could derail President Omar al-Bashir’s plan to extend his nearly three decades in power.
Early in September, 11 months after the United States lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions, Bashir dissolved his government, citing Sudan’s “state of distress and frustration”, and slashed a third of ministries to cut costs.
At over 60 percent, Sudan’s inflation rate is among the world’s highest, while its currency buys fewer than half as many dollars on the black market — which has effectively replaced the formal banking system — as it did a year ago.
Sudan’s central bank has devalued its pegged currency from 6.7 to about 29 pounds per dollar in the last year, but the black market rate is still lower, at about 45 pounds on Sunday.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Keith Weir and Elaine Hardcastle