I have been reading about US Sanctions against Sudan and it has made me realize how much my dad loves me.
My father became a US citizen in 2000. He took the test, went to court and received a small American flag which we planted on top of our television. He is now the super power of our household and we get to tease him mercilessly.
My father got to take part in both the “national loss of hope” (my name for the 2000 election) and the “resurrection of the American dream” (my name for the 2008 election). Although he furnished our inauguration viewing with cynical over-critical commentary about how Obama had already sold out with his cabinet appointments and how Aretha Franklin had really lost her voice, I am sure I spotted a little spring in his step when he left the room to make some tea (his stomach still retains strong Northern English loyalties). But my dad is an American now… as strange as that might seem…
So as I was reading the 2009 congress report on US sanctions, I realized that it applies to my dad. He is a “US person”.
As a student in Sudan, I don’t have access to legitimate money. My scholarship gets delivered to a bank account in Britain, which does not allow transfers to Sudan. Now that I have sufficiently tricked them into believing that I am undertaking my research in Lebanon (going into far too much detail as I do whenever I have to lie, but what interesting imaginary research I do in Beirut!), I don’t have to worry anymore. I have found a way to pay my rent… but when I first arrived, I wasn’t so wily.
I had been in Cairo, feeling very proud that I had managed to obtain a one month Sudanese visa in 48 hours and managed to infiltrate the AUC’s exclusive library (probably more difficult than the former) when a friend told me that I would not be able to use my bank while in Sudan.
What? I shrieked in horror. How come no-one told me about that before?
Dunno. My friend replied. Perhaps they forgot.
Well, I quickly ransacked the nearest ATM for my daily limit, begged the bank teller in the Hilton hotel in Cairo to do something, anything!! and then went away entertaining dreams that I would find a secret magical ATM machine hidden somewhere in the hinterland of the Sudanese wilderness … perhaps in the middle of the desert in the shadow of acacia tree with an eagle perched on a branch with a serpent in its beak…that’s the sign.
But alas, it was not to be.
So whom did I call? Whom do I always call when (to use my French flatmate’s favourite English expression) the shit hits the fan?
I called my dad… the super power of the household and he engaged in necessary banking behaviour to help his youngest child clean her soiled fan.
(Just in case you are reading this, OFAC, next time I will ask my mum to engage in the wheeling and dealing.)
People get around these things… of course they do. When there’s cash, there’s flow. The important thing to ask is who gets around them and who doesn’t? And do people actually profit, apart from the clever Lebanese, who always seem to benefit when shit takes its grand leap into the sky?
Sanctions are supposed to lead to policy change. They are not just about causing economic damage, but strategic economic damage that will either cause people to change their views on a certain issue or change their loyalty. Some authors contend that sanctions against a dictator might have the opposite effect; that sanctions can further entrench the power of the regime (Kaempfer et al, 2004). It doesn’t help when the sanctions come from an unfriendly country.
Taha and I are thinking about writing an article on how IT graduates have to go abroad in order to acquire the necessary IT certificates (Microsoft, Cisco, etc). They must do this because American companies cannot provide this education within the country.
We are interested in whether access to education and social mobility within the IT industry has become more restricted due to sanctions and whether certain groups are more disadvantaged than others in accumulating human capital. Does the economic, ethnic or political background of students help determine which groups benefit or suffer from economic sanctions?
But we are also interested in whether study abroad provides a reflexive experience for the lucky students; whether being forced to live in another country might in some way give them a political education… or at least a political curiosity.
So we are trying to be open-minded about sanctions. My gut reaction is that they are ineffective against autocracies and that they further concentrate wealth in the hands of the elites while making it hard for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get off the ground…On the whole I think Sudan needs more economic development, not less.. I am not really sympathetic to the Sudanese boycott folk. But maybe there are subtle undercurrents that we must find…we shall see…
Kaempfer, William H., Anton D. Lowenberg, and William Mertens (2004) International Economic Sanctions Against A Dictator Economics & Politics. Volume 16, No. 1.