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Sudan’s Military Companies Go Civilian: How the Recent Divestment Agreement Can Succeed

Author: Yezid Sayigh

Affiliation: Carnegie Middle East Centre

Organization/Publisher: Carnegie Middle East Centre 

Date/Place: April 23, 2021/Beirut, Lebanon

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 3300


Keywords: Sudan, Military Companies, Divestment Agreement, Civil-Military Relations


Yezid Sayigh analyses the issue of divestment of military-owned commercial companies to civilian control under the authority of the government. He sheds light on the 17th March military divestment agreement, its context and how it could succeed. Although divestment is generally a complex process and could be partial, Sayigh argues that its success depends on two factors: first, full financial disclosure by military companies; second, the state of the public business sector, its capacity and effectiveness. Sayigh demonstrates that the Sudanese political context is fragile and the relation between the military and the civilian government is frustrated. This has materialized in more than one situation, as well as the disputes over the formation of the Transitional Legislative Council. Additionally, the position of the Rapid Support Forces in the governing structure is another dilemmatic issue. Altogether, military divestment is constricted by this heated political context through which it could be easily jeopardized. Regarding full budget transparency, military companies’ status regarding dues payments such as taxes, customs, and social insurance payments are very critical points that require full disclosure. On the other hand, civilian capacity is the other barrier that refers to the ineffectiveness of civilian agencies to hold such responsibility due to its financial opacity and lack of accountability that is the result of authoritarian rule over the last decades. In light of this, it is suggested that defense-related companies will remain under military command, while its civilian business would be transferred to public limited companies which will be under the authority of two councils that should be established: “Council for Economic Development” to be led by the Minister of Industry, and the “Council for Funding and Investment” to be led by the Minister of Finance. To sum up, the 17th March military divestment agreement is a crucial step in the future of not only Sudan but other regional countries, especially Egypt. The external powers’ behavior is another factor that would affect the progress of divestment process, taking into consideration the Emirati and the Saudi financial support to the military, especially General Hemedti’s power and his financial maintenance. However, the US, the EU, and international financial institutions could push the agreement forward either by providing sources of credit and assistance to Sudan to encourage democratic transition, or by pressuring the UAE and Saudi Arabia to hinder their ‘spoiler role’ to facilitate a civilian-led transition in Sudan. 

By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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