A wolf in sheep’s clothing…
These events occurred after an operation by the Norwegian Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST) reportedly exposed a link between a man arrested on Tuesday 09 October 2012 and a diplomatic official at Sudan’s embassy in Oslo. The arrested man, whose identity has not yet been revealed, is 38 years old, arrived from Sudan in 2004, possesses permanent residence in Norway and works full-time. According to the PST he portrayed himself as a refugee in order to gain trust and obtain personal information from the local Sudanese community that he subsequently passed to Sudanese authorities via the embassy.
Norway expels Sudanese diplomat
Immediately after PST arrested the suspected spy at his home in Trondheim, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the departure of an unnamed diplomat from the Embassy of the Republic of Sudan (see picture left), believed to be the ‘contact’ who received the information. According to Norway’s Foreign Ministry, the Sudanese diplomat was allegedly engaged in ‘…activities incompatible with his status as a diplomat under the protection of the Vienna Convention and is therefore asked to leave the country‘. Although not made officially persona non grata, the Norwegian government reportedly made it clear that the diplomat was expected to leave. Based on open source reporting, it appears that the suspected spy and the diplomat were the subject of a surveillance operation that uncovered their connection which may have been confirmed by the man arrested when questioned by police.
Sudan expels Norwegian diplomat
The following day, Wednesday 10 October 2012, Sudan expelled a Norwegian diplomat from Khartoum whose identity also remains unknown at this time. In explaining the decision, Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated the spying charges against its diplomat in Oslo was unfounded and expressed the hope that the incident would not harm relations between the two countries.
Nordic Intel Analysis
It is first necessary to simplify the complex situation in Sudan in order to provide context to this event. There has been enduring conflict between the government of Omar al-Bashir, supported predominately by Arab Muslims (where Arab can also be self-applied to African Sudanese who use it in the cultural context, ie. Arabized) against African Muslims over Darfur, where access to resources and conflict between and also within the nomadic and pastoral tribes further complicates the situation. Khartoum was also in conflict with the African Christians (and Animists) in southern Sudan, most of whom now live in South Sudan which became independent last year, noting Sudan and South Sudan have come close to war on a number of occasions since. As a result of decades-long conflict in Sudan, many people from Darfur and southern Sudan have fled the country, including to Norway which is home to approximately 1300 Sudanese.
Assuming the accuracy of PST’s investigation; this event should come as no surprise since authoritarian regimes often monitor their citizens abroad, particularly those who actively oppose the government they fled. Although the specific Information Requirements of Sudan against the Sudanese population of Norway remains unknown, it is likely that Khartoum would seek the identities and activities of those opposed to al-Bashir in order to better monitor their activities, conduct intimidation or take retribution against their families remaining in Sudan.
The decision not to use persona non grata was probably taken to contain the damage in relations between the two countries. Also, Sudan’s retaliation should not be over-emphasised as it is common practice to expel a country’s diplomat if that country took a similar measure against your own.
Nevertheless, this is a diplomatic setback for Khartoum, particularly as Norway remains one of the few EU countries that maintains relatively normal relations with Sudan and recently played an important role in negotiating peace and oil agreements between Sudan and South Sudan, a vital source of revenue to both countries. This also comes not long after Germany’s embassy in Khartoum was stormed by a large mob on 14 September 2012, its flag ripped down and the building set on fire, resulting in protest by Germany at the inadequate security provided by the Sudanese authorities. The rest of the EU mostly shuns al-Bashir, who remains the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.