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Tightening the Grip: Foreign Creditors and Sudan's Political Transition (2019–2022)

Harry Cross (Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University (PMU), Saudi Arabia)

Imperialism and the Political Economy of Global South’s Debt

ISBN: 978-1-80262-484-7, eISBN: 978-1-80262-483-0

Publication date: 20 March 2023


In 2019, a popular revolution toppled Sudan's long-term military president, Umar al-Bashir. The country then entered a three-year transition toward democratic rule during which power was shared between Sudan's military and civilian political organizations. In this period, international organizations and foreign governments were quick to proclaim their support for Sudan's democratic transition. However, policy reforms during Sudan's transition went beyond changes to formal political institutions, as the transitional government implemented major programs of economic restructuring. These restructurings were supported by Sudan's international partners, who normalized a discourse that Sudan was “overindebted,” and who held that political and economic reforms ought naturally to accompany each other. As a result, the transitional government implemented a shock program of liberalization and austerity that imposed material hardship on much of Sudanese society, including during a global recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This contributed to endangering the transition itself and the progressive promises of Sudan's 2019 revolution.

This chapter traces the history of how Sudan was excluded from Western financial and commercial markets through the imposition of sanctions in the 1990s. This caused Sudan to explore non-Western sources of external financing in East Asia and the Arabian Gulf. This history then shapes the contested ways in which Sudan's debts are counted by international institutions to create the misleading impression that the country is overindebted. Finally, the chapter examines how different elites coalesced to impose a program of shock fiscal austerity and economic liberalization during a crucial political moment, which helped to imperil the country's fragile political transition.



Cross, H. (2023), "Tightening the Grip: Foreign Creditors and Sudan's Political Transition (2019–2022)", Sylla, N.S. (Ed.) Imperialism and the Political Economy of Global South’s Debt (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 87-107.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Harry Cross. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited