June 29, 2022
By: Catherine Cartier Eva Kahan Isaac Zukin
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The Bottom Line Up Front

In October 2021, a Sudanese state-affiliated cartel staged a coup against the civilian-led transitional government. Now, they use their control of Sudan’s economy to evade justice.

Executive Summary #

A repressive cartel of state-affiliated actors uses its control of the economy to obstruct Sudan’s democratic ambitions, constituting a “deep state” within Sudan and working across state structures to enrich its members and insulate them from accountability. 

On October 25, 2021, the deep state brought its power to bear by staging a military coup against the civilian-led transitional government (CLTG). Since the coup, deep state actors have formed a government that has rapidly consolidated power and economic resources, despite condemnation from the international community. The coup government has rolled back democratic progress achieved by the CLTG since Sudan’s 2019 revolution against President Omar al-Bashir. The Friends of Sudan, a group of countries supporting Sudan’s civilian-led democratic transition, has denounced the coup. US representatives have advocated economic pressure in open forums. Still, empowered by its access to vast financial resources, the deep state continues to silence journalists, arrest activists, and kill civilians with impunity.

Complex corporate structures built to sustain the Sudanese deep state under al-Bashir continue to shield it from international justice and accountability. Sudan’s deep state owns some of the largest companies in the country, giving it access to extra-budgetary financial flows and powerful economic positions to appoint key political leaders. Its control of banks, import-export companies, and processing plants allows its vertically-integrated monopolies to undercut domestic civilian enterprises. There is very little incentive for the deep state to meaningfully negotiate with civilian actors while it holds military and economic power. 

The deep state meets opposition with violent repression: ninety-nine civilians have reportedly been killed by security services since the coup, and dozens of others have been arbitrarily detained. If the Friends of Sudan “remain committed to supporting the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a free, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Sudan,” then they must take action against Sudanese State-Controlled Enterprises (SCEs).

Recommendations #

  1. The Friends of Sudan should sanction the deep state’s key financial nodes; 
  2. Private enterprises and aid providers should disengage from business with state-controlled enterprises; and
  3. The international community should support civilian organizations pursuing justice and accountability in Sudan.

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