Aviation hard hit in Khartoum Sudan by lack of foreign currency


(Posted 11th November 2013)

When late last year Kenya’s Jetlink halted operations over South Sudan’s refusal to approve the internationally agreed remittance of ticket sales from Juba to Nairobi, the extent of the financial cost of the ongoing hostilities between the South and Khartoum Sudan became very apparent, not that other Ugandan and Kenyan companies had already felt the pinch when their invoices went unpaid.

The cost of military operations by the regime in Khartoum has become financially unsustainable and yet continue unabated in Darfur as well as the three territories also seeking to join South Sudan, namely Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Drained of much needed cash has the regime in recent months reduced subsidies for fuel and other essential items, leading to wide spread protests and the habitual harsh reaction from the regime, killing scores of people and raising anti government sentiments across society.

While some Arab countries, and reportedly Iran too, continue to pour money into the all but failed state, this does not reach those most in need of it, the business community which has since the independence of South Sudan, taking over 80 percent of the oil resources with them, suffered from contractions and had to shed a large number of jobs.

Airlines in the North Sudan had, like carriers operating into South Sudan, made countless representations to the regime but to no avail, and KLM’s withdrawal from the Khartoum route earlier this year was setting the tone for more of the same to come. Now Germany’s Lufthansa has announced that they will halt flights into Khartoum, as a result of the country’s weak economy and constant troubles to get their money out as the Central Bank in Khartoum has literally ran out of hard currency.

It is thought that some of the remaining airlines may also withdraw with Turkish notably the last of the non Gulf or African airlines, though the Gulf carriers will probably stay, ‘encouraged’ by their own governments. They are likely to take advantage of a market bare of much remaining quality competition and any of their losses are likely to be underwritten by their own governments as a ‘political investment’ which incomprehensibly still support a murderous regime whose leadership is wanted by the ICC over allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes they committed in the past and continue to commit.

Flights from Khartoum to Juba are now only operated by South Supreme, a recent upstart based in Juba, as the one remaining carrier from north Sudan, Marsland Aviation, ceased operations last week due to lack of spare parts and hard currency to maintain their aircraft fleet. Tickets in Khartoum are sold in Sudanese Pound currency but must be converted into US Dollars to be repatriated by the airlines but as the country is now literally broke, there seems no way out of it while the regime’s military adventurism continues.

Watch this space for breaking and regular news from Eastern Africa’s aviation scene.