Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2011

Sudan Debt Dynamics: Status Quo, Southern Secession, Debt Division, and Oil—A Financial Framework for the Future

Benjamin Leo

December 2010

Center for Global Development


The people of Southern Sudan are scheduled to vote in a referendum on whether to remain unified with the central government in Khartoum or break away to form a new, fully independent country. While the Khartoum government remains committed to a unified Sudan, all indications suggest that the Southern Sudanese will vote for secession by an overwhelming majority. Khartoum‘s willingness to accept the potential losses remains unclear. Many suspect that its ultimate actions will depend, at least in part, upon the resolution of key outstanding issues, such as oil and debt. This paper contributes to ongoing discussions about the role of Sudan‘s $35 billion in external debt obligations – both for a unified Sudan and a possible Southern secession. First, it examines Sudan‘s existing debt dynamics and the potential eligibility for traditional debt relief and multilateral debt relief initiatives. Second, it outlines potential options for dividing Sudan‘s external debt obligations in the event of a Southern secession. Third, it estimates external indebtedness ratios under each debt division scenario and the potential relevance of traditional debt relief treatments. Lastly, the paper provides an indicative roadmap for clearing Sudan‘s loan arrears of $30 billion and potentially securing comprehensive debt relief in the future.