Today’s Image of Sudan and Its Long-Term legacy
How is Sudan perceived by the American public? And what does this mean over the long term? These questions arose in two different fora I attended this week, and the answers were worrying. Humanitarians and commercial investors alike fear that the country has acquired a tarnished image that will last for many years beyond the current crisis.
Leaders of American NGOs, and a senior official in the current Administration, agreed that the picture of Sudan purveyed by the humanitarian agencies only captured part of the reality. Hunger and deprivation are real. But the sociability, generosity and spirit of mutual support among the Sudanese people are equally real, and are not reflected in descriptions of Sudan in the public realm.
Businessmen discussing the difficulties of investing in Sudan under the current sanctions regime””including the obstacles to doing business in the south despite its supposed exemption from U.S. sanctions””agreed that the country faces a second and perhaps even more barrier. This is the psychological sanction arising from the fact that a generation of young Americans automatically associates Sudan with horror. Even should the crisis end and sanctions be lifted, this image will persist for a long time, and will be a deterrent to American companies considering investing in the country.
I hope that the energy that has been devoted to exposing the sufferings of the Sudanese people will in due course be matched with the same vigor in presenting the equally true picture of Sudan as a land of great civilizations, of a country with great opportunities for investment, and of a talented and capable people.