By: Jacob D. Chol, JUBA, MAY/23/2014, SSN;
South Sudan Humanitarian Conference held in Oslo-Norway on 19th May 2014 was a great success drawing from the donors’ coffers up to the tune of 600 million USD. The Conference attended by about 50 countries, maintained the West as the generous donor to the South Sudan looming famine.
To shed little light on this Western Society generosity, USA pledged 290 million USD, EU 140 euros, UK 100 million USD and Norway, the host 63 million USD, making the West pledges to account for 80% of 600 million USD pledged. Other countries from West, East, Asia, Pacific and Middle East pledged their shares as well. Sudan was the only country from sub-Saharan Africa that responded to the Conference by pledging 10,000 tons of sorghum to be freely accessed to South Sudan.
Though the humanitarian pledges response to South Sudan political crisis fell short by half, the conference demonstrated the global responsibility of rescuing poor South Sudanese from the man-made catastrophe.
Since political crisis started in December 2013, some politicians and citizens of South Sudan have been accusing the West and particularly the United States and even the United Nations to be behind the political fiasco that engulfed the country and which the government termed as a coup de’tat though the government account has been highly discredited.
Politicians such as Mr. Michael Makuei Lueth, who is popularly known for his rhetorics “FOR THAT MATTER, ULTIMATELY, NEVERTHELESS, THERE & THEN, and THIS IS UN-BECOMING!” accused the West and United Nations without having proper analysis and information.
He argued that the United States, the only post-cold war-endearing power was fueling the political violence in South Sudan due to economic interests, in peculiar oil concession since the latter was given to Chinese and Malaysians operating companies.
This argument thought responded well and challenged by Amb. Susan Page many times has compelled national and regional political pundits to put it into perspective that the US government, though driven by zero-sum game, has not shown interest in South Sudanese oil given its huge oil discoveries in the United States.
Michael Makuei, while addressing a news conference in Serena Hotel in Nairobi, lashed out at IGAD as supporting rebels and said that West has to be blamed for conflict in South Sudan (South Sudan Nation, May 16th 2014).
The tense and fumes breathing of the government spokesperson was not only exhibited in Nairobi but has also been seen in various for in Juba where he gave press conferences and interviews to journalists.
While addressing journalists in his office, Lueth maintained that South Sudan was already democratic and respected press freedom and referred to the United States as “even the so called America” does not respect press freedom as it is done in South Sudan.
Such utterances did not stop at the West but were also directed to the United Nations, particularly the SRSG and Head of UNMISS, Hilde F. Johnson whom Lueth referred to as “that woman” who supported rebels.
The humiliations of Hilde F. Johnson as a rebel supporter with her organization the UNMISS was further exasperated through the mobilizations and demonstrations of citizens against the former in Juba, Aweil, Wau, Rumbek and Kuajok, drawing Hilde and putting “her very special picture” in placards holding a gun and aiming to shoot.The innocent mobilized citizens chanted Hilde must go! Hilde must go! Hilde should leave! Hilde is a rebel!!!
However, all accusations and bad utterances to the West, particularly the US, western Europe and Hilde F. Johnson did not anger them to leave their global responsibility of seeing South Sudan stable.
They showcased this commitment by contributing generously in the international humanitarian conference to help the South Sudanese whom they have been supporting for a very long time. Hilde F. Johnson despite her humiliations and insults took courage, sent Toby Lanzer, the UNOCHA Chief of South Sudan and lobbied her country Norway to host the donor conference and to massively pledge as well.
Norway is a very tiny country with a population of 5 million people but by pledging 63 million USD, Oslo has demonstrated continued special friendship to South Sudan. This special friendship goes back to the dark days where Norwegian People Aid (NPA), Norwegian Labour Party (NLP) and Hilde F. Johnson supported the SPLM/SPLA till the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and consequently the independence of South Sudan.
Even today, NPA, NLP, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and other NGOs from Norway are still helping People of South Sudan in tandem of state making, nation building and state consolidation.
I could imagine the sense of smile on Hilde F. Johnson face as her country pledged generously to avert the looming famine in nascent state in order to realize overall stability in South Sudan.
On the other hand, the United States contributions to South Sudan are enormous and speak volumes and thus cannot be written in this opinionated piece. Everyone including the starters believes that the independence of South Sudan was a sheer effort of the American people.
This commenced long time ago with the US congress enactment of Sudan Self Determination Act in 1993, Sudan Peace Act in 2012 and massive support to Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the independence.
Realizing that an independent South Sudan will be attained one day, the United States Government allowed over 3,000 South Sudanese former Red Armies to America to be later known as “lost boys and girls” according to Peter Pan. Such a gesture was an indirect preparation of human resources development for the independent South Sudan.
Moreover, the tri-partisan coalition of the Black Caucus, the Sudan Caucus and the Jewish Zionist movements campaigned against Khartoum atrocities. Crucially viewed as the peak of American’s support of South Sudanese, numerous congressmen such as Frank Wolf, Michael Capuano and the late Donald Payne advocated for South Sudan’s freedom.
In 1989, Rep. Wolf travelled into the war-ravaged terrain of Southern Sudan to become the first U.S. representative to meet with the head of the Southern Sudanese rebels, the late John Garang (Hamilton, 2011).
Payne (RIP), a black congressman, followed a few years later, and on his return to Washington pushed for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a resolution endorsing the right of the Southern Sudanese to exercise self-determination (ibid). Although these three played leading roles, there were others who also supported the South Sudanese underground.
“Behind all this was [and] still is, a small group of people who have been working behind the scenes for almost 20 years to make this independence a success”, a senior member of the U.S. government remarked during the proclamation of South Sudan’s independence (Hamilton, 2011).
Apart from advocacy, U.S directly supported SPLM/SPLA through trainings and logistics for the success of the liberation war. Equally and worth recognition, the U.S. used East Africa regional influence for the support of South Sudan. A report released by the Congressional Research Service in 2011 lists actions going back to the Clinton era, including the provision of more than $20 million surplus U.S. military equipment to frontline states of Uganda, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, which the report says “helped reverse military gains made by the [Sudanese] government” against the southern rebels (Hamilton, 2011).
Besides, President Barack Obama personal commitment to South Sudan deepens this support. A few months before the vote for referendum of South Sudan, Obama’s administration conditioned Sudan’s lifting of sanctions and removal in a watch list of states that harbored and sponsored terrorists, to allowing the referendum of South Sudan to take place as scheduled.
He maintained pressure on Sudan and rallied US allies and African countries to press more on president Al-Bashir of Sudan to conduct referendum on time. This is exhibited in letters he wrote to the nine presidents of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa cajoling them to convince Sudan to conduct the plebiscite on time.
With independence of South Sudan, U.S government continued its support to the nascent state in the voyage of statecraft and nation building. The U.S. has so far donated over 900 million dollars to South Sudan since independence as part of reconstruction, capacity building, development and governance programmes.
So if Michael Makuei Lueth thinks that the West is to be blamed for South Sudan conflict then he is not serious and such accusations are not only banal and but also tautology. Hence, the generous donations at Oslo Humanitarian Conference has reconfirmed the West led by US and other allies are not to be blamed for any conflict in South Sudan but to be appreciated and viewed as genuine partners in South Sudan stability.
Instead, the people to be blamed for South Sudan conflicts and long wrangles are the elites who are daily struggling for political power and accumulation of public resources.
Jacob D. Chol is the founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and International Analysis (CDIA), a think-tank based in Juba. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org