From 1989 until today an Islamic movement known as the National Islamic Front (NIF) has ruled Sudan. There is no doubt that since the days of the Sennar Sultanate, there has been no genuinely national government in the history of Sudan that has been able to rule the country for a quarter of a century. This fact is itself one of the most controversial aspects of the issue.
An objective reading of contemporary history is difficult in all cases, but especially so in regards to Sudan, where the parties are divided into supporting or opposing the rule of the NIF’s successors, the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation of 1989–1993, and the National Congress Party (NCP), which is in government today. Opponents of the NCP do not waste time in mocking or ridiculing each other, focusing their ire on the ruling party. However, in reality, it must be judged by its actions, as the slogan of the November 17 revolution led by Gen. Ibrahim Abboud says. Today, Sudan’s rulers hold themselves to this fair standard. The NCP is fully aware that it is not perfect, as no humans except for prophets are infallible and without sin; but its opponents see nothing but its mistakes.
No observers of Sudan can say it was arrogant to name the movement a “salvation,” because it deserved that name at the time. The Sudanese political system of 1989 was totally dysfunctional. There was no security and the country was on the wane. Agricultural production, along with the rest of the economy, was at a standstill due to sit-ins, strikes, and the failure to meet people’s demands. Industrial production halted due to lasting power outages in factories and there was a lack of goods in the markets. It became normal for people to stand in line for bread, fuel, and other consumer goods.
However, all of the above does not tell us much about the achievements and failures of the Sudanese government, which has now lasted over a quarter-century. Because the economy is the mainstay of life, this is where one should begin. It is because the economy was not faring well that the Salvation Council government began to apply economic liberalization policies, which the government did not dare undertake without international help. However, Sudan committed to the policy of economic liberalization under international and regional sanctions. This economic liberalization began by allowing the Sudanese currency to float in order to curb the rampant speculation that had deprived the public treasury of much-needed revenues. Then it took on the liberalization of trade, and after that a policy of privatization, which began in the transport and communications sectors, and then spread to throughout the rest of the economy. This policy has now achieved great success in the fields of road transport and communications.
Industrial production rose thanks to efforts to address the problems of energy and electricity shortages, and tax cuts, the returns of which contributed to the growth of GDP by a significant proportion. Industrial production expanded, particularly in the iron, steel, cement, pharmaceutical, and sugar industries, and aggregate industries like the automotive, electronics, and aviation industries.
The energy sector has seen a significant expansion in oil exploration and an increase in production to 500,000 barrels per day before the country was partitioned. Additionally, the production of electricity increased, through the establishment of the Merowe Dam, the raising of the Ad-Damazin Dam, the expansion in production of electricity from the Sennar Dam, the extension of power lines to all parts of the country, and the completion of the infrastructure necessary for oil production in ports and oil pipelines. In terms of roads and bridges, the last 25 years have seen as many bridges built as in the 90 years prior to 1989.
The telecommunications sector has also achieved great success, reaching a geographical coverage of 89.2 percent. Sudan has become the first in Africa and the second in the Middle East within the field of communications. Four telephone companies have reached 30 million subscribers. The fiber-optic network has expanded to more than 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers). Moreover, Sudan is now the third-largest Internet-using country in Africa.
The most significant achievement is in the field human development, represented in public and higher education. The rate of children over the age of six in education increased from less than 50 percent to 67.7 percent in 2005, then to 76.4 percent in 2008, and then almost to 90 percent after the separation from the South. The illiteracy rate has fallen as public education has expanded.
In addition, women’s access to basic education has improved. The preschool education sector grew while higher education saw a real revolution, with over 107 higher education institutions, 52 of them governmental colleges and institutes, and 57 private educational institutions. The number of students enrolled in higher education increased to 500,000, while the number of graduates reached 100,000 a year. The health sector, which had been neglected, also achieved a great deal, with the number of hospitals rising from 209 to 438, the number of doctors and staff rising from 2,481 to 11,722, and pharmacists and hospital staff rising from 161 to 1,111. The number of doctors per 100,000 people increased from of 10 to 36. However, the most important of the successes in healthcare was the expansion of health insurance coverage—previously nonexistent—to cover millions of people, as well as successful childhood immunization campaigns.
In the area of political development, this period witnessed the building of a federal system that has seen both successes and failures. The state’s efforts to build peace and reconciliation, as well as fight against longstanding conflicts worsened by foreign powers, all intensified. The state still seeks to achieve national consensus through several initiatives and the through applying the constitutional principles—which the vast majority of citizens have come to terms with—that will help achieve political stability and economic development, opening up prospects for attracting domestic and foreign investment.
The counterpoint to this article can be read here.