In Sudan, Islamists1 have been in power for over twenty-five years, and have left a lasting mark on the trajectory of the Sudanese state. Before them, only
The pursuit of colonial development based on agricultural export located in the central regions of the country by governments from the traditional parties has been widely noted (Roden, 1974; Bernal, 1997), as have the difficulties of the socialist regime to overcome this pattern of development (Niblock, 1987). In the late 1970s a real economic crisis faced the country, and these attempts were often judged hastily. Most importantly, the resumption of war in the South in 1983 and the dreadful famine that hit western regions in 1984 and 1985 have focused the attention of analysts; few studies have explored development policies by focusing on the actors who implemented them and how they are rooted in the specific local, regional, and international contexts (oil shocks, the massive levels of emigration of qualified Sudanese citizens to the Gulf States,
Even today, the literature on development in Sudan continues to pursue this line of analysis by exploring the problematics of the urbanisation of the capital and the modernisation of agriculture and livestock; the latter constituting the main livelihood for rural populations (Casciarri et al., 2015).4 Special attention is also paid to the form of education that Islamists have sought to encourage (Tenret, 2016). In general, development fostered by the Islamist regime’s policy choices has not been addressed in terms of its inherently conflictual nature, as were the nationalisations of the Nimeiry regime. The exploitation of oil and minerals, livestock and grain production for export to specific regions, and the construction of large infrastructural projects, such as the dams on the Nile, are not choices that are questioned by the actors concerned, or discussed in the literature;5 rather, it is the profoundly unequal character of the regional distribution of these projects and of their principal beneficiaries that raises questions and objections. These inequalities have fomented all the opposition armed movements, whether in the South, Darfur, the East, or the regions of the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. It is this aspect, too, that the literature addressing these conflicts favours; these studies detail this unequal distribution and the clientelism of the regime in developmental project selection and the allocation of public contracts. Recent studies complement these approaches by attempting to decipher what these development projects reveal about the practices of Islamist rulers and the way that the Islamist government works (Verhoeven, 2013; Beckedorf, 2012; Patey, 2014). The research on which my study is based follows the same path, shedding new light on the Islamists in
The present study specifically aims to explore the experiment in development conducted by the Islamists during their first republic6 by investigating the social practices they have actively encouraged since coming to power: those of evergetism7 and social philanthropy. In 1989, the value of the religious repertoire of redistributive generosity was systematically highlighted in the official discourse of the new regime. This was used both as a symbol of religiosity and as a tool of redistribution and development, along with its simultaneous institutionalisation, in particular through the obligatory payment of zakat.
By analysing how Islamists encourage redistribution practices, we can interpret their conception of development. In addition, deciphering how this appeal for generosity is variously received and translated by the governed, depending on the social roots and the sociopolitical context in which they move, should enables us to see, at least partially, how individuals and groups, each on their own scale, conceive development. How do they play a part in the production of development that varies according to groups and regions and the results of which sometimes prove paradoxical and often conflicting? How do these charitable practices combine with the development of the new entrepreneurial ethos promoted by Islamists? The answers to these questions should help us to envisage more complex configurations than expected and, in particular, show how the Islamist experience has gradually brought about a form of development that, in principle, is relatively consensual, but whose effects are widely conflicting because of the persistence of inequalities in the country’s development.
To prove my point, I analyse the activities of the major markets of the Sudanese capital and the trajectories and practices of some of their actors mainly
2 Evergetism: A Specific Tool in Islamist Development
In the very first months of their rule, the Islamists faced a severe food crisis in Darfur and Kordofan. The response to the crisis differed greatly from one region to another—in Kordofan, the governor declared a state of emergency that allowed him to obtain substantial international aid, while in Darfur, on the contrary, no state of emergency was declared and no outside help was received. This decision on the part of the governor of Darfur, a fervent Islamist, was fairly typical of the particular view that Islamists hold with regard to the role of the state and society: problems in medical care and food safety should be left to society through local ngos (Miller, 1993). Darfuri people, especially its economic actors, were encouraged to create and finance such ngos,9 while the regional authority focuses primarily on security issues.10 We must also remember that the Islamists, and especially their leader Hassan al-Turabi, view international humanitarian organisations and their political, cultural and religious roles as vectors of the acculturation of Muslim populations (Bellion-Jourdan, 2006). This highly politicised vision of aid impels Islamists to fight actively against
By ascribing this role to aid organisations, Islamists were logically driven to create their own charitable organisations charged with spreading their vision of society. In 1980, even before they came to power, they set up the organisation known as Da’wa Islamiya (Islamic Call), whose initial objective was the spreading of Islam in Africa through education. The establishment of Da’wa Islamiya was supported by Mohammed al-Faisal, a director of the financial institution Dar al-Mal al-Islami and a main shareholder of the Faisal Islamic Bank created a year earlier. He was a personal friend of Turabi. The organisation also obtained the support of the Jami’at ad-da’wa al-islamiya based in Tripoli and the Muslim World League based in Jeddah. It was in 1981 that Da’wa Islamiya developed its own humanitarian arm, the Islamic African Relief Agency (iara).11 At that time, these associations allowed Islamists not only to gain influence among the assisted populations but also to siphon off political support beyond their traditional sphere of influence thanks to the very positive response that they met with from all actors on the northern Sudanese political scene, which was dominated by religious parties. The context was at that time marked by the resumption of war in the South and by famine in the West, which drew many international humanitarian organisations into the country. However, the proximity of these associations to the Islamic movement came to be problematic, especially for secular parties, as it was very difficult to ignore their role in the development of Islamist ideology.12
Once they were in power, the Islamists maintained these organisations and encouraged the establishment of new ones, in particular granting them many
When the Islamists came to power in 1989, they followed the Socialists twenty years before them by setting out to sustainably transform the country and its society. For the former, however, the implementation of ‘good’ development was not subject to a set pattern but needed to come from the ‘good’ actions of Islamised citizens. It was not a matter of setting up a new institutional structure or public policies designed explicitly to correct the inequities resulting from the accumulation of capital in a Sudan economically structured in favour of the central regions, but of turning each Sudanese citizen into a ‘good’ Muslim.14 The Islamist project is aimed primarily at fostering a new spirit in individuals;15 it focuses on devotion conceived both as an individual and as a social practice (Roy 1992). Therefore, the legitimacy of development implemented is linked to the legitimacy of the actors who promote it and to the legitimacy of their tools. This legitimacy should be primarily based on religion. As is clear from Turabi’s aforementioned statement to the Kuwaiti newspaper, what counts is not so much the fate of potential beneficiaries as the Islamic project to which the donor contributes.16 Thus, Islamists do not seek to transform the mode of production of material life conditions as such, but rather consider that the inherent inequalities in society will be ‘naturally’ corrected by the Islamisation of societies and individual practices. If they are nonetheless convinced that the entire machinery of the economy must be conquered, this is primarily to secure their position in power, which will allow them to implement their project and find positions of influence for men, whose religious
Redistribution practices are a typical example of operations promoted by the Islamist project, due to their individual and social character: by acting piously, the donor earns his or her salvation while signifying his belonging to the Islamic city that he or she is building. Charity thus becomes a tool for developing Islamic society, as illustrated by the institutionalisation of several old practices of evergetism such as paying the religious tax (zakat),19 which became mandatory in 1990, and whose base was also widened.
Logically, it is the generosity of those actors favoured by the regime that is primarily sought. Islamist militants donate up to 30 percent of their income to the movement.20 Economic actors who were close to the Islamists and have directly benefited from the largesse of the new government were also eagerly asked to act on behalf of the common good,21 as in the case of the Darfuri businessman Adam Yagoub, who—in Khartoum in the 1990s—chaired the very exclusive club that brought together the 25 most powerful Sudanese entrepreneurs.22 Adam was particularly generous to, and especially in Darfur, his native region, where he also started his business career, but he also funded the Sudanese state while executing—for instance—certain government contracts for the Army.23
The promotion of the Islamic repertoire of values in the new form of government did not prevent a certain prevarication, in a classic pattern whereby state resources were appropriated by those actors in the system who were in positions of power (board members and administrative and/or political authorities). Soon, in addition to being the tool of generosity—as ‘generous’ entrepreneurs sought to win favours from the government—zakat also became a means of enrichment for several members of the state hierarchy who directly benefited from its funds (Muna Abdalla, 2008). Through citizen participation, development has thus become a political arena in which support is sought and also tested.
Major businessmen have never been, and are still not, the only people to be asked to contribute. All economic actors are invited to fund the civil and military operations of the state, whether this involves social philanthropy or financial tribute.24 Thus in Khartoum, where the bulk of the country’s resources
The enactment of the Popular Defence Forces Act in 1989 was part of the same context, as it established a paramilitary force whose objective was cooperation with the armed forces and the regular security services, but also the promotion, among Sudanese citizens, of a ‘level of security consciousness’ (Mohamed Salih, 2005, 8). The public sphere, then, was not viewed as the responsibility of a particular sector of the populace (administrators and politicians) but rather as every person in the country, combined: they were all called upon to be aware of their role. Again, the request for popular participation to establish a paramilitary security force was not specific to the Islamist regime, since the pdf were created by the Sadiq al-Mahdi government in 1986 to counter the militia of the Islamic movement, but also, and above all, to fight the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the South. However, here too the change lay in the growing importance of the pdf in the 1990s compared to that of the regular armed forces (El-Battahani, 2016a). M.A. Mohamed Salih believes that by 1996 their number exceeded that of the armed forces and in 1999 it was three times higher (80,000 regular soldiers, 3,500 Islamist militants appointed as military officers, and 150,000 pdf) (Mohamed Salih, 2005, 9). The participation of the populace was encouraged by a religious rhetoric calling upon those drafted to wage jihad in the ‘godless areas’ of the South. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the material interests also involved in this process: the pdf provided the regime with protection against any attempted coup29 and the availability of inexpensive soldiers; for individuals who signed up, it meant an income, or at least a recognised position in society. Thus, both conviction and
This active participation of citizens in public affairs, which includes their charitable activities, reflects a gradual withdrawal of the state in favour of active elements working on the revolutionary project. In the episode of the famine in Darfur in 1991 and 1992, for example, one cannot say that the Darfuri state was insensitive to the tragedies afflicting its people or that it held itself aloof from development issues. Rather, it was omnipresent and omnipotent, through the mechanisms of ‘discharge’. The citizens of this Islamist state were now deemed responsible and ordered to create charities and to finance the city, including its buildings in the public space (mosques, roads, special public institutions, etc.) and its services (urban roads, hospital services and security services). These practices, then, do not point to a ‘failure’ of the state in Sudan or its ‘weakness’, but reflect instead a form of government that, to some extent, strengthens the state. The high level of porosity between the state and society promoted by such a form of government is not without consequences for the forms taken by development in Sudan: the state coffers were empty in the first decade of Islamist Sudan, and so the major development projects of the 1990s were based on these redistributive practices, made possible by the direct involvement of citizens who were now the architects of development, whether this was voluntary or obligatory. The manner in which individuals participated in this redistribution thus proved central to the way development was created, and clearly shaped it in all its aspects.
3 Charity and the Creation of Asymmetry and Differentiation
On the side of the ruled, how has this summons to generosity been heard and translated into practical terms? How can we evaluate the potential transformations furthered by this form of government?
One could certainly question the nature of the generosity of the ruled, assessing the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the Islamist project on the basis of the stated intentions of the actors concerned. It could then be explained in one of two alternative ways: by looking at their convictions, whether religious or ethical, or at their material interests. This type of reasoning would suggest that the social philanthropy of the traders seems to be motivated more by their non-material and ideational interests (religious faith or community culture) while their evergetic practices—that is to say, their donations in favour of public life, are based on material interests (gaining a higher social status). Yet the reality is much more complex if we step back from the intentions and justifications
Take the example of the Darfuri traders from the great Libya souk; traders who flourished in the early years of Islamist domination. There was a significant demand for their support from members of their community, both those who had remained in Darfur, and were terribly impoverished by the conflicts and droughts that had lasted decades, and those who had migrated to Khartoum and needed to be taken care of, especially on arrival. The welcome offered by these wealthy individuals already settled in Khartoum was critical for Darfuris who were arriving in the capital even more impoverished than they might have been, as the roads between Khartoum and Darfur are long and expensive, making round trips between their villages and the capital few and far between.
The Libya souk, with its high level of development and preponderance of Darfuri traders from the Zaghawa communities, turned into an ‘airlock’ of integration for migrants from this community, who have consistently found jobs there.31 These migrants have certainly been a burden for the traders, but they have also been a boon to them, providing a cheap and accountable workforce, in a political context where discretion and trust were the fundamental conditions for the exercise of activities that often took place outside the official channels of the economy.32 In addition, the migrants have managed to become representatives of the traders in distributing the market’s products. If we focus only on these motivations, however many and varied they may be, we will fail to take into account the actual way in which the generosity of traders is connected to the interests of power. It is precisely this connection—between an incentive to give and to act for the good of the community, the pursuit of personal goals, and the ability to respond to and to appropriate the injunctions of those in power—that generates the sometimes unconceptualised and contradictory effects of development.
The vacuum created by the expulsion of the traditional bourgeoisie did not benefit only those businessmen who were openly close to the regime. Other, less politicised entrepreneurs used their practical expertise to thrive in the space freed up by this process. In the capital, this greatly favoured the activities of the traders in the Libya souk, a popular market established in the late 1970s by Zaghawa Darfuri migrants and connected during its early years to the
This policy has been a success: in just a few years, the Libya souk has taken over from the historic markets of the city centre. Nevertheless, one has to wonder to what extent the traders in the Libya souk, who have found themselves favoured ‘by default’ by the new regime because of their non-politicisation, have actually been incorporated into these new hegemonic alliance built by the Islamists. It is crucial for our argumentation to answer this question, as it is the generosity of economic actors such as those of the Libya souk that has been sought by the Islamists to develop the country. So their actions constitute the core of the regime’s development model.
In Darfur, we have seen that the refusal on the part of the regional state to call on Western aid, and the decision to encourage local mutual aid mechanisms, plus the extreme intensity of the relationship between the state and society, have led the precarious populations to rely on their family, clan and village networks—which all usually overlap. This configuration has also exacerbated the competition between groups for access to the local state and its scarce resources. The generosity of this new petty bourgeoisie has thus mainly taken the form of a community-based social philanthropy; other calls on their generosity from the regime, such as participating in public welfare, have been unwelcome, as they came on top of social obligations already considered
The structure of trade in the Libya souk has also promoted the formation of these new communal bonds insofar as the souk is a wholesale market sending goods to the regions;36 and the strengthening of links between the populations that had remained in Darfur and those who had left fostered the community spirit of the commercial networks. In Khartoum, a long-time business partner can easily be asked to host the relative of a trader who has settled in Darfur. Of course, these processes vary with the origins of the traders, because, although non-Darfuri market traders also have distribution networks in Darfur, they do not belong to the region, and thus the relationships forged in the pursuit of their economic activities do not follow community channels. Their professional relationships in Darfur are not based on the strong bonds of family or ethnic group (Granovetter, 1985). The development of their businesses in Khartoum, and their success, are part of the construction of very different trajectories from those of Darfuri traders: their paths are more independent and more in tune with the new shape taken by the old commercial bourgeoisie during the Islamist regime.
The situation of the Libya souk traders from the central regions,37 like that of the migrants from these regions, is very different from those of the Darfuris. While, throughout the 1990s, there have been an increasing number of
So, in the end, even when what is made in the way of donations is similar, charitable practices vary from one trader to another, as do their effects. Some gifts help maintain community relations that urban life would have tended to weaken, and that the Islamists had announced they planned to fight against, while others are evidence of involvement in the development of the Islamist city.
This differentiation is also taking shape within regions, and between social groups. In Darfur, while the prosperity of some members of the Zaghawa communities has led to a high level of redistribution and encouraged the establishment of significant links of patronage, this is not the case for communities that have few business activities, whose members can count only on themselves. Without intermediaries, they look much more directly to the state, especially as, with the arrival of oil revenues in the early years of the new millennium, the state now has substantial resources at its disposal. These differentiated expectations created by the mechanisms of ‘discharge’ favour a high degree of asymmetry between social groups and thus make it possible to shed light on the decision taken by various Darfuri groups at the beginning of the war to join the state militias or, conversely, to opt for neutrality.
Other government initiatives, such as the creation from scratch of a civil administration (an-nizam al-ahli) in Khartoum based on ethnicity, handling only people from the western and southern regions, have also favoured this differentiation. This new administration is similar to that of the traditional administration of the regions (idarat al-ahlia), but its members are appointed by the regime. Like the popular committees, this new institution is responsible for encouraging participation in the rallies organised by the regime but also for national security, with individual contributions this time being sought via channels of ethnicity. If the government’s goal is to more effectively control the population of Khartoum, where new Darfuris and southerners are constantly arriving, this policy mainly helps to fix individuals now living in Khartoum in their ethnicity, even as urban life and the gentrification of the local
In Khartoum, the regime also created, in the case of some communities, councils (shura) that brought together the elites of the same ethnic group, relying on their patronage to gain the favour of their community and, through their evergetism, making it possible for them to complete various projects without engaging the state financially. For Turabi, whose thinking largely shaped the policies implemented by the Islamists in the early years of the regime, the councils are the central institutions of this new Islamic state. They comprise the democratic Islamic alternative to Western democracy (Moussalli 1994, especially 57–63).43Shura (consultation) is supposed to allow the unification (tawhid) of all individuals by ensuring the development of a permanent consensus among the people in the framework of God’s law (sharia). But creating these councils on an ethnic basis that includes many major traders promotes patronage, as it gives these traders a position of power, with the regime ensuring the personal allegiance of the members of the council by granting them favours.44 This process has given a communal flavour to the activities of this assembly, including the development projects it supervises.
Thus, the combination of different political factors and decisions (from the mechanisms of ‘discharge’ to the desire to control populations, from keeping Darfur in a state of underdevelopment to the increasing number of conflicts tearing the region apart), has resulted in the strengthening of ties between members of the same Darfuri ethnic, village and family communities in certain parts of the region, without this objective having been actively pursued by the authorities. This practice has, in concrete terms, brought closer together those trajectories that had tended to diverge in the 1980s, at the time of the
Faced with the challenges that accompany the exercise of power, with the concessions and negotiations necessarily involved in day-to-day life, the construction of a new hegemonic alliance and development related to charitable practices promoted by the Islamists take unconceptualised and differentiated shapes, depending on the groups and regions involved. The difference is sharper between Darfuri traders and those from other regions because of the promotion by the Islamists of a particular entrepreneurial ethos—that of the modern, liberal entrepreneur who, while falling in with injunctions to generosity, also favours asymmetric and unequal development.
4 The Entrepreneurial Ethos as a Factor of Exclusion
During the early years of the regime, to benefit from the opening made possible by the Islamists’ takeover and the ‘organised bankruptcy’ of the actors of the previous hegemonic alliance, new economic actors did not hesitate to move into the spheres of Islamist sociability. They did so particularly through the evergetic practices mentioned above, and, as we have seen in the Libya souk actors from the central regions have deployed more zeal in this task than their Darfuri colleagues have employed in supporting the populations of their bankrupt region. The gradual gentrification of these small-scale economic actors from the central regions reflects the gradual emergence of a new type of entrepreneur favoured by Islamists.
Before the petrodollars started coming in at the beginning of the new millennium, the launch of the ‘salvation programme’—consisting of a series of reforms under the leadership of the new Minister of Finance and the Economy, Abdelrahim Hamdi—one of the founders of the Faysal Islamic Bank and a former London banker—fundamentally changed the rules of economic activity. The plan, then designed for a period of ten years, from 1992 to 2002, provided for a series of economic liberalisation measures and the privatisation of many public corporations. Such a programme would not have been unpopular with the economists of the International Monetary Fund (imf), as the decision to reduce state spending and liberalise the economy was similar to the policies they themselves usually develop. The transition from a planned economy to
In the trade sector, these economic developments went hand in hand with the commercial boom in Dubai, which led to a major reorganisation of the supply chain, and also of business practices. Egyptian and Libyan imports, where traders excelled, lost their competitiveness, and ease of trade with Dubai meant that the ability to endure harsh working conditions, as well as the control of several commercial channels, were no longer the great assets, in terms of achieving business success, they had once been. However, other qualities became more useful, such as having a permanent visa for Saudi Arabia or at least having contacts there; resources that individuals from the central regions of Sudan possess more frequently, since many of them have emigration experience of the Gulf.45 The profile of the successful entrepreneur was thus transformed.
The modernisation of professional practices carried out by the Islamists also led to significant changes. Legislation now required those seeking to carry out import activities to create trading companies, and several urban projects aimed to modernise the tangible practices of traders (shop fronts, the use of new technologies, etc.). These reforms were also designed to better control the sector, by combatting the opacity of commercial networks and the illegal practices that these networks’ fluidity seems to facilitate. But this modernisation and the mastering of new codes of conduct and business practices require a basic minimum of education. Now, historically, education is an important marker of the difference between the old trading families of the central markets in the capital and entrepreneurs in the Libya souk who come from the regions and lower social strata. Wealth created by wholesale and import has made it possible to finance the education of the children of traders in the central markets. The fact that they settled earlier in the capital or in the major cities where educational institutions are more numerous than in Darfur (and also more numerous than in many central regions) also favoured this higher level of schooling. The new guidelines laid down by the Islamist regime therefore allowed the least politicised traders of the old bourgeoisie to go back into business, especially as many young entrepreneurs directly favoured by the Islamists in the early years of their regime had proven to be poor businessmen.
Within the Libya souk, non-Darfuri traders were (like traders from the El Arabi souk or Omdurman) better educated than their Darfuri counterparts, because although they were not from the capital they had generally been better educated in their native regions.46 The new global configuration of trade has accentuated both this advantage and the success enjoyed by these entrepreneurs. China’s rise in the 1990s as a source of cheap supplies required significant capital, and it is the biggest non-Darfuri traders who had this capital. Similarly, it is they who control the machinery needed to trade with China—such as the ability to travel in a new universe much stranger than the Arab Gulf countries, Egypt or Libya had been—and a knowledge of new technologies such as the internet. The Arabic language is no longer of any particular use, as English is becoming an indispensable asset and is conferred by a good education. The local context is also proving very unfavourable to Darfuri traders: the war in Darfur is increasing the constraints on their ability to distribute goods, and the regime’s distrust of them (it suspects them of supporting armed groups) is also a hindrance to their activities.
Thus, in the Libya souk, the profile of the entrepreneurs emerging in the late 1990s is similar to that of the old bourgeoisie of the central souks: educated, coming from the central regions, and also more individualistic. With them, community ties have loosened and aspirations are becoming more individualistic. Future plans primarily concern the individual and his nuclear family (wife, children)47 and are part of the national community. These traders, we have seen, regularly invest part of their profits in politics, or at least in the public sphere. They are also active in those organisations that manage the activities
Meanwhile, the oil economy gave the regime new ways of achieving its modernising ambitions by allowing it to invest in modern, technological infrastructure. It was, yet again, the central regions that benefited from many projects during the ‘oil decade’: between 2001 and 2009, several large dams were built in the north, as well as 2,800 kilometres of paved roads extending from the capital to the north, the east, and the region between the two Niles, as against barely 300 kilometres in Darfur, even though it comprised one-fifth of Sudan before the separation of the South. This new infrastructure favours the economic development of these regions—which are, as an added advantage, at peace—and thus fosters the rising standard of living of their populations. Logically, traders from these regions benefit from this economic upturn, while in Darfur the lack of infrastructure and, in particular, the war greatly hampers trade and led to the impoverishment of the part of the population that is now in refugee camps.
The processes of differentiation and, in particular, the new modes of community life for some and the increase in individualisation for others have prevented the formation of a common destiny among the traders in the Libya souk. The policies implemented have reactivated the differentiated past lives led by everyone before they arrived in the market; similarly, the maintenance or—contrariwise—the abandonment by traders of the links that existed between them and the members of their communities who had remained in the regions appear to be factors of separation rather than reconciliation. It is also these historically constructed trajectories that shape the future plans of each group and their relationship to the world, in particular to the national community. While traders from the central regions tend to lose their original regional identity, this identity remains clearly marked and manifestly organises the specific social lives of Darfuri traders.
The new economic policies of the regime could further alter the situation: it is now the regime’s task to remedy the loss of the oil economy, concomitant with the breakaway of the South in 2011, by encouraging investment in agriculture and mining. It is true that these new economic development policies largely reflect the framework of the old ones by fostering the modernisation of these sectors (through the promotion of industrialisation in the mining sector and the rationalisation of the commercial livestock sector), which encourages, yet again, a certain kind of entrepreneur. Similarly, the concentration of administrative procedures and business activities in Khartoum in the case of the mining sector (Chevrillon-Guibert 2016b), and in certain specific areas all located in the central regions in the case of the livestock sector,49 reinforces a very unequal development that favours the country’s capital and certain regions. However, the fact that these two sectors are largely dependent on activities in the regions, some of which are on the periphery, may alleviate this inequality, which has generated highly unbalanced regional development. The way in which activities, whether involving mineral extraction or agriculture, are conducted as well as the conflicts they generate locally promote the redeployment of regional strategies for investors who themselves usually remain in Khartoum.50 The asymmetry that the new policies perpetuate thus leads, in parallel, to a redefinition of relations with the regions, although the profoundly unequal structure of the Islamist development experiment is not explicitly challenged by the new development projects envisaged by the government.
The development experiment set up by the Islamists during their first decades in power does not fall into a predetermined, explicit pattern that their political opponents might have challenged before it was implemented. The specificity of their experiment does not lie, either, in the kind of neo-liberal development that they are advancing, as this neo-liberal thinking now seems widely shared by the entire political class. The tools of development count much more than its results. Thus, when it comes to development, Islamists first encourage practices they consider ‘islamically’ good because they are the ones which are legitimate in their eyes. The form taken by this development, and its concrete results once applied, which sometimes conflict with the political project of the Islamic movement, take second place; they count in the political agenda of power but are not part of the civilisation project in which the movement is engaged.
Charitable practices have naturally been part of the Islamic repertoire promoted by the Islamist project and, logically, it is economic actors who have mainly been asked to contribute. As no specific development blueprint has been provided for them, these actors display their charity in different ways, according to the local and human contexts in which they live, but also in accordance with the particular ways they conceive their roles in the circles to which they belong (family and ethnic, local and national communities). This participation in development, sometimes engaged in under duress, involves many changes, not only in the forms taken by development and in its scale (which is dependent on the donors’ capacities) but also in the spaces concerned (regions, capital, urban and rural zones) and in the groups that benefit. Such variations necessarily produce highly disparate and often conflicting results, since—ultimately—some recipients initially targeted by the government have been excluded and the regional inequalities inherited from previous experiences are maintained and even accentuated. The same process still subsists today, yet the legitimacy of development is not really discussed because it is based on practices deemed to be legitimate. The oil economy of the early twenty-first century however, has completely reshuffled the cards, profoundly reorganising the balance of power between the state and society: during this period, the regime has not only claimed religious legitimacy, that of the Islamic revolution, but above all a modernising legitimacy, that of the developmental state (Jones et al., 2013). In the latter model, the rulers justify their position of power by their ability to transform the economy and by the material benefits that result. This transformation favours conflicts around development because it places the results, and not the tools, at the heart of the debates on its legitimacy. The
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