Mohamed Beshir Hamid

1978-79: Economic and Foreign Policy Dilemmas


Volume 11

Annual Survey and Documents
Sudan Chapter
Mohamed Beshir Hamid


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Sudan: Economic and Foreign Policy Dilemmas


The Sudan was preoccupied with three major concerns in 1978: promotion of ‘national reconciliation,’ threats to the region’s security arising from developments in the Horn of Africa, and a desperate economic situation. After a promising start, the negotiations to create a new sense of political unity between the ruling Sudanese Socialist Union (SSU) and the outlawed opposition parties ran into serious difficulties in mid-year. The future of President Ja’afar Numeiry’s policy of national reconciliation thus remained uncertain in early 1979. Nor was there any improvement in the Sudan’s security position. The growing Soviet/Cuban involvement in Ethiopia was a cause of major concern for the regime, more particularly because of the problems raised by the unresolved conflict over Eritrea, with the number of Eritrean and other Ethiopian refugees in Sudan rising to several hundred thousand.


The country’s economy reached a new law in 1978, with inflation rampant and foreign reserves dwindling to the point where even essential imports like fuel could no longer be paid for. Industrial troubles proved inevitable as the regime embarked on a policy of severe austerity. While development projects have increased substantially, the country found itself short of capital for current revenue spending.


President Numeiry continued to give high priority to his activist foreign policy, both in the Middle East and in Africa. His close support for Egyptian policies had serious domestic repercussions and affected the country’s inter-Arab relations. While tensions were eased with Libya, relations remained bad with Ethiopia. The President continued to forge closer links with the West, and put himself at the head of the militant group of anti-Soviet leaders in Africa.


The elections in February 1978 turned out badly for the ruling party and produced a major upset for the Abel Alier Administration in the Southern region.


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