Counterfeiting in the Sudan

It’s an NPR audio story: “Peace Also Brings New Currency to Southern Sudan.”

Sudanese currency is printed on plain paper with very inconsistent color and image quality, and has no security features—not even serial numbers. How does that work?

While [he] concedes the bills are poorly printed, he’s not worried about counterfeiting. This is because anyone who does it will be put in front of a firing squad and shot.

That’s one way to solve the problem.

Posted on June 6, 2005 at 7:46 AM19 Comments


Anonymous June 6, 2005 8:32 AM

…and even if it doesn’t, at least it provides a good deal of business for the Firing Squad Industry!

Israel Torres June 6, 2005 9:04 AM

“Mortality isn’t everything, as suicide bombers show.”

There is a misconception in the term “suicide bomber” since these individuals are not committing suicide at all. In fact suicide is an abomination.

The reason these bombers are so effective is because mortality certainly is everything. Otherwise no one would care that these bombs are going off.

Israel Torres

Anonymous June 6, 2005 9:30 AM


suicide n. “the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind”

From Latin sui, “of oneself”, and English -cide, “killing”.

Whatever your opinions of the abominableness of those who blow themselves up in shopping centres as compared with those who jump off bridges, in fact they’re both suicides.

Rampo June 6, 2005 9:36 AM


I understand your distaste.

The point is that even the death penalty is not a sufficient dissuader for a suffiently metaphyisically-oriented individual. For that reason, one is wise to rely on other measures as well.

Arik June 6, 2005 9:55 AM


Well, you are in a ditch and you can hear bullets whizzing above it, and your NCO shouts for everyone to get out and fight. Are you committing suicide by following his orders?

Nothing is clear-cut. Those brainwashed kids who blow themselves up truly believe that they are soldiers in a war, and that their death is ‘meaningful’, whatever that means.

— Arik

Israel Torres June 6, 2005 10:08 AM


in fact they’re both suicides.”

They most certainly are not! No one cares if someone jumps off a bridge onto a pile of rocks, better that they remove themselves from this world than they remove others from this world right?

“Suicide Bombers” are mislabeled since they are not committing suicide, they are committing murder. They just happen to be a volunteer that becomes part of the mass-murder. Again, if someone went running with a bomb strapped to their body into sand dune no one would care…

Understand the difference, and you will make a difference.

Israel Torres

Edward Taussig June 6, 2005 10:19 AM

And is an obvious way for the ruling elite to mint as much for themselves as they want.
Who says they’re dumb?

Roger June 6, 2005 10:27 AM

Hmm. These days it is reasonably well known that severity of penalty has much less effect on criminal deterrence than perceived risk of getting caught. I don’t see that the threat of a firing squad would be an effective deterrent if the chance of detection was essentially zero, as it seems to be here.

On the other hand, I would suspect that a stronger disincetive would a presumed severe shortage of printing presses (laser printers, photocopiers, etc.) in this ravaged land. Another factor might be that everyone is so grindingly poor, someone waving a fistful of crisp new 200 pound notes (worth, apparently, about US 8c) would invite a search of their premises.

Another problem is that to be effective as a currency the notes must gain public confidence, and judging by the NPR interview, these notes do not have it.

Anonymous June 6, 2005 10:37 AM

A bigger problem, in my opinion, is the difficulty of proving innocence. If I were from an opposistion political party, I’d be very concerned that I have no way to prove the Sudanese dollars in my back pocket were legitamite.

Precision Blogger June 6, 2005 11:15 AM

“A bigger problem, in my opinion, is the difficulty of proving innocence. …”
I agree with Anonymous above, and that was my first thought. How could I prove the money I was passing was legitimate?
– Precision Blogger

Tom Chiverton June 6, 2005 2:53 PM

Last time I checked, suicide was still a crime, and as such, you do ‘commit’ suicide when you blew yourself up. You might be also commiting mass murder, of course.

Glad to live in America ? Home of the free, land of the brave ? You’d have to be so brave to live there – tried bearing arms recently ?

Eric K. June 6, 2005 3:22 PM


The term “Suicide Bomber” was created to distinguish a murderer who kills himself to accomplish the murder of others from the bomber who has to find a way to detonate the bomb without killing himself in the process.

We distinguish them because of the perception of increased threat: Someone who is so determined to commit this crime is often perceived to be harder to find, harder to stop, and impossible to reason with.

The bomb itself is scary. The suicide bomber is scary squared.

“these individuals are not committing suicide at all.”

They certainly are. They are committing both suicide and murder simultaneously. the severety of one doesn’t absolve them of the other.

“In fact suicide is an abomination.”

Uh, the placement of this sentence near your previous sentence has the effect of implying that the suicide bombing is not an abomination. I’d very much like to think that’s not what you had in mind.

In order to defend your position effectively, you may first wish to ensure you’re being understood accurately.

Israel Torres June 6, 2005 3:42 PM

@Eric K. & All
“In order to defend your position effectively, you may first wish to ensure you’re being understood accurately.”

I (and I am sure the bulk of the readers) would appreciate to take such discussions offline as all may not appreciate off topic analysis of the “devotion of a terrorist”. If you wish to further discuss this please email me. We can start a discussion list for interested parties privately without disturbing the rest of the group.

This is one subject that is very interesting and deserves further discussion with open-minded individuals but due to its subject matter may seem very unreasonable to discuss publicly.

Thank you,
Israel Torres

Anonymous June 6, 2005 4:30 PM

“Glad to live in America ? Home of the free, land of the brave ? You’d have to be so brave to live there – tried bearing arms recently ?”

A little rhetoric, anyone? 🙂

I’d be willing to bet that in a list of the top causes of death for Americans last year, “not bearing a firearm due to litigation” would be far, far from the top.

This would be far more accurate:

“Glad to live in America ? Home of the free, land of the brave ? You’d have to be so brave to live there – tried eating a Big Mac lately?”

Ari Heikkinen June 7, 2005 4:08 PM

The problem is if the bills have no security features it’s about impossible to check if a bill is legal or not. I guess they’ll simply consider someone as a conterfeiter if that person appears with lots of cash and can’t prove where it came from.

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