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What is the strategic value of Sudan? What are its resources?


Sudan is an important regional political player and it also has strategic ports and vast natural resources, such as gold and oil, which could make it a target for internal and external parties.

Since the middle of last month, Sudan has been experiencing a conflict, apparently a dispute over influence between the army commander, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo (Hamedti), but it hides within it many interests that go beyond the borders of this vast country.

Sudan is an important regional political player and it also has strategic ports and vast natural resources, such as gold and oil, which could make it a target for internal and external parties.

The struggle of the poles

Washington has always had limited influence in Sudan, but that began to change after the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir and the start of a democratic transition in the country, which gave the United States a greater role there.

In addition to Washington, neighboring Egypt enjoys close relations with the Sudanese army, while both the army and the Rapid Support Forces have established close relations with regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In the current conflict, Cairo is trying to stand in the middle, to avoid being placed in the category of supporting one side over the other.

But a growing force in recent years across the African region is Russia and the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which is linked to gold smuggling in Sudan.

Earlier this year, Russia finalized an agreement with Sudan’s military leaders to build a naval base on the country’s Red Sea coast, where it will keep up to four ships, including nuclear-powered ones, and up to 300 soldiers. .

The deal dates back to 2021 and was awaiting ratification by Sudan’s next civilian government, an outcome that now seems unlikely due to the conflict.

“The Russians have tried to strengthen relations with both military camps over the past three years,” said Josef Siegel, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

He added, “Despite the good relationship with Al-Burhan, the Russians tried to get closer to Hamidti because of his control over most of the gold mines.”

The military controls most of the country’s economy, but the RSF runs key gold-mining areas, adding a financial component to a complex political crisis.

Strategic location

On the other hand, the Institute for Middle East Studies in Washington limited the struggle for influence in Sudan between three countries. They are the United States, China and Russia.

The study said that the importance of Khartoum increased to Washington after the overthrow of the Al-Bashir regime in 2019, noting that the United States now views Sudan as a country that enjoys an important strategic location at the regional level, in addition to natural resources such as gold, oil and uranium.

For its part, Russia saw in Sudan a gateway to expansion in the brown continent. According to the Washington Institute’s study, Moscow mainly wants to dominate the water surface along the Red Sea, which connects the Mediterranean Sea with Asia, and is one of the world’s most crowded waterways with merchant ships.

The study also considered that Moscow is working to build a naval force in the region and link it to its naval facilities in Syria.

The study of the Middle East Institute indicated that Sudan is Russia’s third largest trading partner, and one of the largest Russian arms markets in Africa, with the volume of trade exchange between them amounting to about $500 million.

Russian influence in Africa and the Gulf is complementary to the ambitions of China, which imports about 5.5% of its oil needs from Sudan, according to the same study. Before the secession of the south, the country was the sixth largest oil exporter to Beijing.

In addition, more than 130 Chinese companies operate in Sudan, employing 1,500 Chinese employees. Beijing promised Sudan’s second largest trading partner in 2021, with exports exceeding $1.8 billion.

As for Israel, which did not remain neutral in the struggle for influence over Sudan, it recently entered the line with a proposal to host peace talks between the army commander, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, “Hemedti.”

The proposal came after a long journey in the normalization negotiations between Israel and Sudan, until the capital of the “Three No’s” was convinced to change its position. There are reports that Israel is now afraid that the conflict in Sudan will affect the course of normalization between the two sides.

natural resources

The conflict threatens investment and agricultural production in Sudan, which owns vast arable lands that enable it to play a vital role in supporting local and Arab food security.

While millions of Sudanese suffer from food insecurity, in 11 states, according to the World Food Programme, Sudan has an agricultural wealth estimated at about 170 million acres, suitable for cultivation, representing nearly half of the agricultural land in the Arab world.

Sudan tops the list of African countries in arable area, accounting for a third of its area, as it aspired to be an incubator for agricultural investment in the region and in the production of basic commodities such as grains, oilseeds and dairy meat, which would enable it to be self-sufficient and advance economically, but the military clashes weakened those ambitions.

Sudan is a main source of meat for many African and Arab countries, as it owns more than 100 million heads of livestock, but despite these riches, Sudan will need to import 3 and a half million tons of wheat this year, after its wheat production decreased by 30%, after a transformation farmers to other crops, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Sudan tops the list of countries that own unexploited agricultural lands with an area of ​​about 80 million acres, as Sudan leads the countries that do not efficiently exploit its natural resources.

In addition to all of the above, gum arabic is an essential ingredient in most modern products, especially medicines, soft drinks, candy, and even cosmetics. It is a basic requirement for international companies and owners of major brands such as “Coca-Cola” and “Pepsi” and others.

70% of the world’s supplies of Arabic dye depend on acacia trees in the Sahel region, and 100% of the highest quality gum comes from Sudan, South Sudan and Chad, which prompted the United States to exclude this substance from the sanctions it imposed on Sudan since the nineties of the last century.

Countries and multinational companies are facing major threats since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan between the army and the Rapid Support Forces on April 15, due to cutting off supplies of gum arabic, amid expectations that its stocks will run out in a period not exceeding 6 months.

repercussions for surrounding countries

Sudan, the third largest country in Africa, shares the waters of the Nile River with Egypt and Ethiopia, which depend on the water for agriculture and energy.

Sudan also borders five other countries, namely Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan, which separated in 2011 and acquired 75% of Khartoum’s oil resources. Almost all of these countries are mired in internal conflicts.

From here, Alan Boswell of the International Crisis Group said: “What happens in Sudan will not stay in Sudan.”

He added, “Chad and South Sudan appear to be immediately at risk of potential repercussions. But the longer the fighting continues, the greater the possibility of significant external interference.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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