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Rising China and Africa's development: oil
Rising China and Africa's development: oil

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5 Understanding the history of Sudan’s oil governance

The comings and goings of various oil companies, set against global geopolitical pressures and Sudan’s domestic politics is complex and not a little confusing. In the following activity, you will be looking at the evolution of events to gain a better appreciation of how these complex dynamics are interconnected.

Activity 3 Mapping domestic and international dynamics of Sudan’s oil governance

Below is a timeline of some of the key events over the years since Sudan gained independence in 1956, particularly as they relate to oil production. Arguably Sudan’s North-South divide, a situation that precipitated the secession of South Sudan, has its roots further back in the colonial period but for the sake of the oil story you will start with independence.

Timeline: China and Sudan oil [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

As you read through the timeline try to categorise factors according to whether they are ‘internal’ and relate to Sudan’s domestic politics, or are ‘external’ and are more rooted in international factors. Record your analysis in the save-able table below. When you have finished, use your findings to assess whether you think internal and external factors are equally important or whether one set of factors has been more determining of events. Is it easy to separate out ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors? One example of each is given to help you get started.

Internal External
Failed coup in 1971 British leave Sudan in 1956
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You may have come up with the following.

Internal External
Failed coup in 1971 British leave Sudan in 1956
Late 1980s: turnover of Presidency China begins diplomatic relations with Sudan: arms deals signed 1988
Mid-1990s: oil production steps up Chevron resumes activities
2004: clampdown in Darfur PSAs signed 1988
2006: Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed, supposedly ending the Sudanese civil war, but fighting continues US government labels Sudan as sponsor of terrorism
2011: South Sudan secedes Mid-1990s: China signs oil deals
2013: civil war in South Sudan Negotiations by Sudan with other external players
2018: peace treat signed US government and UN sanctions Sudan
CNPC outbids other oil companies
GNPOC formed by consortium of IOCs and NOCs
Dam deals signed with China
1999: oil exported in 1999 from Sudanese refinery
2004-5: UN passes resolutions on Darfur
2007: China tries to pressure Sudan and appoints special representative to help China negotiate over Darfur
China sends peace keepers to South Sudan
2017: sanctions end

In this attempt at the activity there are more factors in the ‘external’ column than the ‘internal’ one. This does not mean that internal factors are less important because different factors are, in reality, weighted differently. For example, the secession of South Sudan was listed as one internal factor but is clearly of historic importance. Also, it is hard to straightforwardly categorise certain particular events as ‘internal’ or ‘external’ since they are a blend of both. For instance, signing of a deal between the Sudanese government and an international oil company is a mixture of internal and external factors and relates to inward investment and trade which straddles the border. But the exercise shows that important internal and external factors were both in play in the complex unfolding of Sudan’s oil politics.