Germany hosts the Sudan Partnership Conference

A historic opportunity to move Sudan's transition along

The Sudan Partnership Conference on 25 June is seeking funding commitments to rebuild Sudan’s desolate economy. As Annette Weber argues, the crucial point will be aligning financial assistance with a successful transition process

A little more than a year has passed since the coup that toppled President Omar al-Bashir. On 25 June, the Sudan Partnership Conference – convened by Germany in concert with Sudan, the European Union and the United Nations – will coordinate action to overcome the country’s economic difficulties. The timing is favourable for Sudan’s supporters and international donors to contribute to the democratic transition. They should grasp the historic opportunity.

Despite massive economic problems, political fragmentation and a deteriorating standard of living in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok still enjoys the confidence of the population. The Islamist military kleptocracy it replaced had ruled the country for three decades.

Under President Bashir the regime invested primarily in the military, but neglected energy, health and the long overdue modernisation of agriculture. Revenues from currency transactions, gold smuggling and investment deals flowed straight into the bank accounts of members of the party/military complex.

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Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo)
Potential recovery of misappropriated funds won't stop the gap: the Sudanese government will still lack much of the resources required to satisfy its population's needs and invest in sectors capable of creating urgently needed employment. "This is exacerbating the risk of waning support for democratisation and failure of the political reset. A military coup or Libyan-style destabilisation are both plausible scenarios, and would have destabilising effects far beyond the country’s borders," writes Annette Weber

Bashir's rotten legacy

The new government now has to deal with that legacy, and has appointed a committee to investigate corruption, money-laundering and patronage networks between business, the military and the former ruling party. Monthly payments of tens of millions of dollars into President Bashir’s private bank account have been identified and the assets and investments of members of the old regime have been frozen.

But it remains unclear when – if at all – funds held abroad will be located, recovered and returned to the state. The strongest and most influential political figure, militia leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti) – who serves as Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council – is at least participating symbolically in the government’s new course by acquiescing to taxation of parts of his gold mining and other businesses.

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