When Smith College’s Dr Eric Reeves demands an end to the Sudanese oil project, his poorly-informed campaign attempting to interfere with economic investment in Sudan brings him into direct conflict with the other countries within the Horn of Africa region. Reeves has, for example, in the past challenged the following comment made by one of the petroleum companies involved in Sudan that “[i]ncreasingly, Sudan is becoming a relative source of regional stability”. (1) With an unbounded arrogance unsupported by reality, not only does Dr Reeves apparently believe that he knows what is in the best interests of the Sudanese people, but that he also knows more about Sudan, and its involvement regionally, than the governments and peoples of the Horn of Africa.
Dr Reeves’ claims about events within Sudan have already been devastated His allegations that the Sudanese government has displaced all the population around the oil fields, “orchestrating a ferocious scorched- earth policy in the area of the oil fields and pipelines” (2), including, for example, claims in July 1999, that “[h]uge swaths of land around the oil fields and pipelines are presently cleared of all human life and sustenance” (3) were comprehensively disproved by satellite images taken of the areas in question and scientifically analyses by Geoffrey John Oxlee, one of Britain’s leading experts in the field, and a former head of the United Kingdom Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre Mr Oxlee stated: “there is no evidence of appreciable human migration from any of the seven sites examined.” (4) To the contrary, he further stated that analysis revealed that “once the sites were developed, then people did come into the area, and in fact it looked as if people developed around the oil sites rather than going away from it.” (5)
Dr Reeves’ claims about Sudan within its region are similarly easily disproved. Possibly as a result of prejudice or simple naivety, Dr Reeves chooses to ignore the simple fact that Sudan by any measure has become a source of regional stability economically and politically. All Dr Reeves need have done was follow some of the international news agency reports on Sudan in recent months. Given that Dr Reeves claims to have approached Sudan “with the eyes of a professional researcher”, claiming “[l]ong hours and days of assiduous reading, archival retrieval, and real-time communications with Sudan experts in and out of government” (6) his inability to find relevant material is puzzling. He has either not been professional enough to find searingly relevant Sudan articles published by first-class international news agencies such as Reuters and Agence France Presse, or he has seen them and has not had the intellectual courage to address material contradicting his thesis. Dr Reeves’ credibility as a commentator has already been extensively questioned in “The Return of the ‘Ugly American’: Eric Reeves and Sudan”. (7) His partisan myopia with regard to Sudan, and its position regionally, is once more clear for all to see.
Dr Reeves seems to have missed the Agence France Presse report in February 2000 headlined “Sudan Heading for Improved Ties with Neighbours”. (8) Sudan has, over the past three years, emerged as an economic and political leader of its region. This has culminated in its hosting of the Eighth Heads of State summit of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body in November 2000. Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir was elected Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of IGAD at the November meeting. IGAD comprises seven eastern and central African countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia. In addition, on 12 February 2001 President al-Bashir was also elected Chairman of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (COMESSA or CEN-SAD). COMESSA is a body which brings together sixteen north African states. Its members are Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Chad, Eritrea, Tunisia, Libya, Somalia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. The Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, Salim Ahmed Salim, also attended the COMESSA summit. (9)
Sudan additionally plays a central role in another regional African grouping, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. It has additionally been at the forefront of establishing a free-trade area under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). COMESA transport and communication ministers met, for example, in Khartoum in October 2000 to address crucial issues such as the implementation of regional air, road and railway transport. (10)
Sudan’s relations with Egypt are at their best since the 1980s. (11) The two countries have established a very constructive regional relationship. Until Sudanese independence in 1956, Egypt and Sudan had essentially been one country. Egypt still looks on Sudan as its hinterland, and has long been concerned about the unity of its neighbour. (12) The Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Moussa, has stated:
“There’s now an openness in Sudan’s government. It is prepared to listen and negotiate and reach a vision for a new Sudan that accepts all opposition factions.” (13)
The warmth of Egyptian-Sudanese relations were summed up by the Egyptian foreign minister on the occasion of President Bashir’s state visit to Egypt in 1999: Moussa stated that “Egypt sees al-Bashir as the head of the Sudanese state and as a representative of his country”. Egypt and Sudan were bound up, he said, by “eternal, special, historical, and future relations”. (14) The Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister, Mustafa al-Feqi, has also stated that Egypt and Sudan have reached agreement on economic, trade, industrial, agricultural, cultural and consular cooperation. Egypt has dropped the requirement of an entry visa for Sudanese travelling to Egypt. (15) It has vigorously thrown itself into finding a peaceful solution to the Sudanese conflict, outlining a peace plan designed to secure a comprehensive political settlement of the Sudanese conflict. This peace initiative called for a permanent cease- fire, and a national peace conference. Sudan immediately accepted the Egyptian-Libyan proposals. (16) Feqi also stated with regard to the Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative:
“We are launching this mediatory initiative on consent by the legitimate government and the northern and southern opposition…I believe that if they sit down together at the negotiating table, the two sides will certainly reach agreement.” (17)
Sudan and Egypt have also formed a joint business council, made up of 40 members (20 from each side) to encourage private investment and trade exchanges between the two countries. (18)
Sudanese-Ethiopian relations are also very warm. In May 2001, Sudan and Ethiopia signed economic and political cooperation agreements including the envisaged establishment of a free trade area between the two countries. (19) It was also announced in November 2000 that Sudan will be exporting oil to Ethiopia, and that an oil pipeline linking the two countries was being considered. (20) In December 1999, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to open to traffic the road linking Azezo, Metema and Gedarif. Some 118 of the 175 kilometre road linking the Ethiopian- Sudanese border to Gedarif has already been completed, as has 50 of the 187 kilometre road from Azezo to Metema. (21) March 2000 Sudan and Ethiopia stated that their countries’ ties were “now much stronger” than they were in early 1990s. The two governments announced that they had signed agreements on cooperation in political, security, trade, roads, communications, agriculture and other spheres. (22) Work also began in May 2000 on the Doka-Gallabat road link between Sudan and Ethiopia. (23) Additionally, plans have now been made to link Sudan and Ethiopia by rail. (24) The railway will link Port Sudan on Sudan’s Red Sea coast with Ethiopia’s southern-most town of Moyale. (25)
Sudan’s relationship with Eritrea has also normalised. In January 2000, Eritrea and Sudan resumed diplomatic relations with each other. (26) In October 2000, the Presidents of Sudan and Eritrea pledged bilateral cooperation in political, security, economic and cultural fields. (27) And, in May 2001 Sudan and Uganda announced the restoration of diplomatic relations after a six year break. (28)
It is a matter of record that Sudan has worked hard to address conflicts within the region. The Sudanese government mediated during the Eritrean- Ethiopian conflict, and the new President of Somalia has publicly thanked Sudan for the role it has played in rebuilding Somalia and supporting peace and stability within that country. (29)
It is clear that Sudan has established a leadership role for itself within its region. For Sudan to be at the heart of regional groupings such as COMESSA, COMESA and IGAD clearly underlines the role it is playing in securing political and economic stability within northern and eastern Africa. Political moderation and common sense have triumphed over failed American attempts at regional destabilisation. Several years of building up closer political, diplomatic and economic relationships with its neighbours have resulted in Sudan’s presidency of IGAD and COMESSA and its close involvement within COMESA. It is also evident that the Organisation of African Unity, as well as most of the international community, have noted the changes within Sudan, and Sudan’s new relationships regionally. This leadership role has been a success for Sudanese and regional diplomacy.
The picture of Sudan as a destabilising influence that distant commentators such as Eric Reeves seek to present is in stark contrast to the reality. Sudan has become a source of regional stability. The very economic boom that has accompanied oil production in Sudan also serves to economically stabilise the region. Yet this is the very stability that Dr Reeves has sought to undermine. The obscenity of a well-fed, middle-class white academic arrogantly stating that poor black and brown Africans should not be able to develop their economy, either nationally or regionally, and that they should continue to live in poverty and famine, is all too obvious.
1. Eric Reeves, ‘Who is involved…?’, 14 February 2001, Web Posted on [email protected] at 17:27:55 + 0400.
2. ‘Investors Fuel Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan’, ‘The Catholic New Times’, Toronto, 31 October 1999.
3. Eric Reeves, ‘Silence on Sudan’, ‘The Chicago Tribune’, 29 July 1999.
4. ‘Talisman Energy Says Study Disproves Sudan Allegations’, Dow Jones Newswire, 18 April 2001.
5. ‘Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases Aerial Images’, The Financial Post, (Canada), 19 April 2001.
6. Statement by Dr Eric Reeves before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Washington-DC, 15 February 2000 available at http://www.uscirf.gov/hearings/15feb00/professor_reeves.htm
7. ‘The Return of the “Ugly American”: Eric Reeves and Sudan’, European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, November 2000.
8. ‘Sudan Heading for Improved Ties with Neighbours’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 21 February 2000.
9. ‘African Officials in Khartoum for Sahel-Sahara Meet’, News Article by Deutsche Press Agentur on 10 February 2001 at 18:21:00 EST.
10. ‘Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Ministers Head for Sudan’, Times of Zambia, 18 October 2000.
11. ‘Sudan Heading for Improved Ties with Neighbours’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 21 February 2000. See also See, for example, ‘Kuwait-Sudan End Decade of Enmity With Summit’, News Article by Reuters on 14 February 2000 at 14:23:35; and Sudan’s Beshir to Make First Visit to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia Since Gulf War’, News Article by Agence France Press on 13 February 2000.
12. See, for example, statements by Osama El-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak: ‘El-Baz: Sudan is the Strategic Depth of Egypt’, News Article by ArabicNews.com on 14 September 1999; ‘Egypt Reiterates Backing for Sudan’s Territorial Integrity’, News Article by Xinhua on 22 December 1999 at 20:22:38.
13. ‘Focus – Egypt’s Moussa in Sudan to Discuss Peace’, News Article by Reuters on 4 January 2000 at 14:02:46.
14. ‘Egypt Hails Sudanese President’s Visit’, News Article by Xinhua on 22 December 1999 at 20:24:41.
15. ‘Sudano-Egyptian Cooperation, Sudanese Reconciliation’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 20 May 2000.
16. See, ‘Report: Sudan Accepts Egyptian-Libyan Peace Plan’, News Article by Associated Press on 24 August 1999 at 10:10:00; ‘Sudan “Willing” to Enter Peace Talks, Newspaper Says’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 21 August 1999 at 11:32:43; ‘War-Torn Sudan Takes Step Towards National Dialogue’, News Article by Reuters on 21 August 1999 at 11:35:11.
17. ‘Sudano-Egyptian Cooperation, Sudanese Reconciliation’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 20 May 2000.
18. ‘Sudanese, Egyptian Businesses Form Joint Council’, News Article by Panafrican News Agency on 24 November 2000.
19. ‘Ethiopia and Sudan Sign Cooperation Agreement’, News Article by Associated Press on 3 May 2001 2001 at 12:10:39 EST.
20. ‘Sudan Set to Begin Oil Export to Ethiopia’, News Article by PANA on 4 November 2000.
21. ‘Ethiopia, Sudan Agree to Open Roads’, Addis Tribune, Addis Ababa, 31 December 1999.
22. ‘Sudan, Ethiopia Say They Have Normalised Relations’, News Article by Agence France Press on 5 March 2000 at 15:14:30.
23. ‘Work Starts on Sudan-Ethiopia Road Link’, News Article by PANA on 21 May 2000.
24. ‘Ethiopia, Sudan to be Linked by Rail’, News Article by XINHUA on 8 January 2001.
25. ‘Railway Linking Port Sudan, Moyale in Pipeline’, News Article by PANA on 9 January 2001.
26. See, ‘Sudan, Eritrea Resume Diplomatic Relations’, News Article by Panafrican News Agency on 4 January 2000.
27. ‘Sudan, Eritrea Pledge Bilateral Cooperation’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 5 October 2000 at 00:45:16 EST.
28. ‘Uganda and Sudan to Restore Diplomatic Relations’, News Article by Agence France Presse on 12 May 2001 at 09:39:52 EST.
29. ‘Somalia President Praises Sudan’s Role in Supporting Peace’, Sudan TV, Omdurman, in Arabic on 4 December 2000 at 17:00 GMT.
The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council sent this media contribution to Media Monitors Network (MMN)