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Country Reports

Sudan Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to Sudan (population 40 million) should be aware of the country's tenuous political situation as well as significant security and health-related concerns.

REGIONS TO AVOID

Many Western governments advise their citizens against travel to the five Darfur states (Central Darfur, South Darfur, North Darfur, East Darfur, and West Darfur), at war with Khartoum since 2003. Armed clashes and ethnic conflict are prevalent in the region. The region also has high rates of violent crime, including kidnappings, in which humanitarian aid workers and foreign nationals more generally, are often targeted.

Governments also generally advise against travel to regions along the border with South Sudan (e.g. South Kordofan, White Nile, and Blue Nile), part of North Kordofan, the Jebel Ouanat region, and Sennar state's Dinder National Park due to frequent armed clashes as well as travel restrictions implemented by the Sudanese government.

Nonessential travel to the rest of the country is also generally discouraged.

In the capital Khartoum, it is advisable to avoid suburbs that are home to IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, such as Mayo and Soba.

Due to the risk of maritime piracy, governments generally advise against all boating activity along the Sudanese coast.

SECURITY

Security conditions are extremely poor in certain regions due to ethnic conflicts as well as the presence of armed rebel groups.

Darfur, located in the west of the country, is particularly affected by these issues. Fighting between rebel groups and government forces (supported by Janjaweed militias) has been ongoing since 2003. Khartoum has been accused by Amnesty International of having used chemical weapons in Jebel Marrah (East Darfur). Despite various peace agreements, the number of rebel groups present in the region continues to grow, fueling violence and creating one of the most alarming humanitarian crises in the world. Ethnic clashes are also increasingly frequent; UNAMID - the United Nations-African Union joint force - regularly reports incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence in the five Darfur states. In January 2017, armed men attacked the locality of Nertiti (Jabal Marra region) resulting in the death of eight people.

The security situation is similar in the south of the country, along the border with South Sudan, where clashes between SPLM-N rebels (Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North) - the group that sparked the Sudanese civil war and the subsequent independence of South Sudan - and the government are regularly reported in the regions of Kordofan and Blue Nile. In February 2017, following months of relative calm, fighting erupted between government forces and MPLS-North rebels in the southern state of Kordofan. The humanitarian crisis in these regions is astronomic (some 555,000 IDPs and 270,000 refugees in Ethiopia and South Sudan), and is exacerbated by the authorities' blockage of all humanitarian assistance to zones controlled by SPLM-N rebels.

Organized crime groups and trafficking networks operate in the east of the country, exploiting the porous borders with Eritrea and Ethiopia. The government has made an effort to combat this, but has been hindered by its limited resources.

TERRORISM

The nationwide threat from terrorism is high, including in Khartoum. Due to ongoing Western military interventions, particularly in the Sahel region and the Middle East (against the Islamic State [IS]), terrorists could target areas frequented by foreign nationals, such as restaurants, hotels, embassies, etc.

According to the US government, IS, Al-Qa'ida, and Boko Haram have all recruited members from within Sudan.

CRIME

Crime rates vary considerably from one region to another. Khartoum is relatively safe due to a large security presence, however, petty crime is still an issue, including purse snatching and thefts carried out by criminals on motorbikes. Foreign nationals, often targeted due to their presumed affluence, should be particularly vigilant in crowded areas (such as markets), should avoid movements on foot after dark, and should avoid wearing or carrying valuable objects (jewelry, watch, etc.).

The security situation is more severe elsewhere in the country, where rates of violent crime (carjacking, highway banditry, muggings, armed robberies) are high, particularly in the Darfur states and in border regions. Again, foreign nationals are often specifically targeted and may be monitored for several days prior to an assault.

In the event of an assault, it is advisable not to offer resistance as criminals are often armed and may not hesitate to use violence. For all long-term stays in the country, security guards should be hired to protect one's residence.

KIDNAPPINGS

Foreign nationals are occasionally victims of for-profit kidnappings. Since 2009, several such cases have been reported, most often involving humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers, in Darfur and along the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic. As such, nonessential travel to these regions is advised against. If travel is essential, a high level of vigilance should be adopted.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Protests are regularly held in Khartoum. While most take place without incident (thanks to a major security presence), clashes and other acts of violence are sometimes reported. All demonstrations should thus be avoided. Since April 2016, numerous demonstrations organized by students in the capital have resulted in violent clashes.

Tensions are high between President Omar Al-Bashir, in power since 1989, and the political opposition. Al-Bashir was reelected by a wide margin in the spring of 2015, albeit in an election boycotted by the opposition. Anti-government protests, organized by opposition groups, often result in clashes with security forces.

Furthermore, the government regularly carries out attacks against the coalition of rebel groups in Darfur, united under the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, as well as against the SPLM-N.

On November 6, President Omar Al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in Al-Jazirah state and dissolved the state's legislative assembly in response to an ongoing political crisis. According to security officials, all demonstrations and protests have been banned. It is unclear how long the state of emergency will last.  

A state of emergency, which also grants the government the power to carry out arrests more easily, remains in effect in several states. Arbitrary detentions by police, including of foreign nationals, have occurred in various regions, including Khartoum.

Tensions with South Sudan, an independent  country since 2011, have the potential to result in conflict, particularly in border regions. In January 2016, Al-Bashir ordered the reopening of the border between the two countries, but he has also regularly threatened to reverse the order, in a perceived effort to increase his bargaining power in ongoing negotiations between Khartoum and Juba over a variety of unresolved issues stemming from South Sudan's independence. One of the most important issues involves the presence of various rebel groups in the two countries. Sudan has accused its southern neighbor of supporting anti-Khartoum insurgent groups.

In August 2016, armed groups and political opposition groups signed an agreement, under the auspices of the African Union, as a prelude to higher-level talks intended to bring an end to hostilities in three Sudanese regions (Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile). This preliminary agreement has allowed humanitarian organizations more access to the war zones.

On July 2, 2017, Al-Bashir extended an existing ceasefire by four months, which had previously been unilaterally declared in June 2016 between the military and rebel movements in Darfur, particularly in the Blue Nile and Kordofan states. The truce aims to encourage the process of national reconciliation and was extended just days after the United States lifted 20-year-old sanctions tied to progress on resolving ongoing conflicts.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISK

The country enjoyed major economic growth, with GDP growing by nearly 10 percent annually, until 2010. This growth was driven primarily due to large oil resources, which account for more than 90 percent of government revenue. However, since 2010 the country has experienced a major economic crisis. This includes high inflation and a draining of foreign currency reserves, caused in large part by the succession of South Sudan, where many of the oil reserves were located. A fall in world oil prices was also documented. The county is attempting to diversify its economy, but this has yet to bear fruit. In 2016, various demonstrations, some of which turned violent, erupted in the capital to denounce price rises hitting food staples, the end of fuel subsidies, and mounting inflation.

TRANSPORTATION

Travel restrictions are in effect for much of the country. Foreign nationals must apply for a « travel book » for all trips outside of Khartoum state. This can been requested at Sudanese embassies worldwide when applying for a visa, or at the Ministry of Tourism. The travel book is generally available within 48 hours. It must be kept on hand at all times and will be asked for at checkpoints.

When undertaking any journey by car, individuals should be aware that roads are often unpaved and in poor condition. During the rainy season (July to September) many roads become impassable. Road accidents are common, in part due to the general disregard for the rules of the road. Driving at night should be avoided. Any travel outside the capital should be undertaken within a convoy of at least two cars, with an armed escort depending on the region, and with the necessary equipment to deal with automotive issues (spare tire, jumper cables, extra gas), as gas stations in rural zones are few and far between. A stock of food and water as well as a dependable means of communication are also imperative.

It is important to vary daily itineraries and schedules and to let a trusted individual know of all trips ahead of time.

Public transit in all forms should be avoided due to the poor condition of vehicles and the sometimes dangerous driving habits of conductors. A system of private long-distance buses connect the country's cities.

All domestic flights are operated by Sudanese airlines, all of which appear on the European Union's "black list" of airlines banned from operating in EU airspace. Sudanese airlines should be avoided altogether as accidents are possible. An international Sudan Airways flight crashed on June 10, 2008, while attempting to land at Khartoum's airport (30 dead out of 214 people onboard). A flight operated by the Sudanese Tarco Airlines also crashed while attempting to land, this time in Zalingei, on November 11, 2010 (six dead).

A rail system exists, notably linking Khartoum and Port Sudan, but security and comfort are poor.

HEALTH

Health conditions are poor in Khartoum and worse elsewhere in the country. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance, covering emergency evacuation, prior to departure.

Health facilities, which are concentrated in the capital, offer limited care. An emergency evacuation (e.g. to Kenya) will be necessary in the case of a serious health issue.

A number of mosquito-borne diseases are endemic throughout the country, particularly in central and southern regions, including yellow fever, dengue fever, Rift Valley Fever, and malaria. Disease rates are generally highest immediately after the rainy season (July to September). The strains of malaria present in the country are resistant to chloroquine. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required upon arrival in the country; these certificates are valid for ten years. Visitors to the country should take measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites, such as sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing clothing that covers as much skin as possible (particularly in the evening and at night), and using an insect repellent.

Numerous food- and water-borne diseases are also present, including cholera, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever.  It is extremely important to wash hands regularly and to only consume bottled or decontaminated water; tap water is not potable anywhere in the country. A cholera epidemic is currently affecting the country, notably Khartoum, with nearly 25,000 cases reported.

To avoid contracting a parasitic disease (notably bilharziasis, present in the Nile River and its tributaries), it is advisable to avoid bathing or washing clothing in bodies of fresh water, as well as walking barefoot outdoors.

Visitors should also take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting HIV-AIDS, a disease that affects a large part of the adult population.

Sudan is located within the « meningitis belt » and outbreaks of the disease are common, including in the capital region, particularly during the dry season (December to June). Measles is also present; visitors should ensure their measles vaccine is up to date prior to travel.

Rabies is present nationwide.

NATURAL RISKS

Intense sand storms (haboobs) can strike the country from March to August and can result in disruptions to transportation as well as respiratory problems.

Rainfall is possible in some central and southern regions during the summer (July to September). While rainfall is usually relatively light, it can result in flash flooding. During the summer 2016, more than 122,000 people have been affected by major flooding, with 13,000 homes destroyed. Flooding has also hindered access to drinking water, food, and health facilities, particularly in isolated and poverty-stricken areas, where various outbreaks of disease have been reported. Furthermore, many roads become impassable following episodes of rain.

In late July 2014, Khartoum was also hit by major flooding, resulting in major travel disruptions.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Fuel shortages, power outages, and disruptions to the water supply are common in the capital.

Furthermore, the majority of the country's infrastructure is in poor condition due to a lack of maintenance. Telecommunication infrastructure is particularly poor.

MARITIME PIRACY

There is a risk of piracy due to the proximity of Sudanese waters to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. All boating activities are thus ill-advised along the Sudanese coast. If maritime travel is necessary, major security measures should be adopted.  

LEGAL

Upon arrival in the country, all foreign nationals must register with  local authorities within three days, either at the Interior Ministry or at a police station. This must be done both in the capital as well as at any other place of residence outside the capital.

The population is 97 percent Muslim and sharia law is in effect nationwide. Visitors should respect Islamic customs and dress modestly (loose clothing covering arms and legs). The possession (including in baggage) and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. Homosexuality is also illegal.

Furthermore, it is illegal to import two-way radios and individuals wishing to take photographs within the country must first be granted authorization by the Department of External Communication. 

Finally, it should be noted that due to American sanctions, many credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) cannot be used in Sudan and cards linked with American banks cannot be used at ATMs (cash dispensers). It is thus necessary to travel with enough cash to cover all costs throughout the duration of the trip.

Climate

Sudan’s climate varies by region. The north and northwest (Libyan Desert) is arid and rain is rare; sandstorms are common from April to September. The central region receives some rainfall in July and August; the south experiences a rainy season lasting from May until October. Summers are very hot, even scorching, throughout the country; winters are cooler in the north.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +249 Police: 999 Fire Dept.: 999 Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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