BY: Garang Atem Ayiik, SOUTH SUDAN, NOV/06/2014, SSN;
Sections of the media reported that former Vice President of South Sudan, Dr Riek went to Khartoum to solicit support for his rebel movement and chief rebel negotiator, Taban Deng was in Heglig directing last week offences against government’s positions in Bentiu.
This week, his President Salva Kiir returned from Khartoum after a two-day working visit to Khartoum. The two presidents of the Sudan are reported to have agreed to resolve the outstanding security issues; stop support and harbor of rebels from both countries, besides they agreed to form a joint committee to seek to cancel Sudan’s foreign debts; and agreed on administration of Abyei.
Between the lines however, there are issues that required detailed attention. As President Kiir planned to visit Sudan, two things happened, an onslaught by Riek’s rebels on government’s positions in Bentiu and an air bombardment in Bar-ghazel area by Sudan; and second increased allegations of diplomatic muscle of rebels in Khartoum by Dr. Riek and Taban Deng to garner support for their movement.
Why would Khartoum show signs of working with the government of the Republic of South Sudan and at the same time with the rebels? Where does Sudan’s love weigh big? This article tries to consider Sudan decision paths, and highlight South Sudan’s key risks.
In the ongoing war between the government and the rebels, Sudan has a choice to choose a real partner modeled along the current Uganda’s role in South Sudan conflict. Sudan has a choice to fully support the government or support rebel but it chooses to be in between.
Middle ground taken by Sudan can be interpreted in two folds; one, to keep the two weak – South Sudan fragmented along tribal lines that will never have capacity to face Sudan head-on: on border issues; Abyei and other outstanding issues; and second, balance her oil interest between the two South Sudan power protagonists, government and rebels.
With Sudan economy relying mainly on oil revenues from South Sudan, Sudan can’t afford not to hedge her economic interest. Her two-path support approach ensures she is partially in good books with the government and rebels. So in reality, no true support but economic conditionality.
My view is that if Sudan truly supports the government of the Republic of South Sudan, it should support and work with the government of South Sudan to liberate Great Upper Nile from the rebels.
This will have two achievements; one, secure Unity State and Tharjath oilfields for production resumption, this will increase both governments’ revenues; and second, this will mark the withering of Machar’s rebellion.
If Sudan truly supports the rebels, it can work with the rebels and cut the economic throat of Republic of South Sudan by disconnecting Paloch oil production. This will put South Sudan economy into coma and truly display Sudan’s enemy status to South Sudan.
From signals coming from Sudan and South Sudan bodies’ languages, I get a feeling that South Sudan is not sure of Sudan’s degree of relationship going by recent accusations. However, as Sudan is a necessary evil, South Sudan has no choice but to turn a blind eye on Sudan’s possible slaps through rebel support.
Sudan has a history and strength of using divide-and-rule power intrigues. South Sudanese can learn from he liberation era challenges. A divided South Sudanese was a cheap source for manipulation and misuse.
With wars of South Sudan self destruction, the outstanding issues will be things of the past, Abyei status will never be resolved, possibly South Sudanese can trade-off her rightful economic things and oil dependency will increase.
The aim of this article was to try to illustrate that Sudan’s interest is not South Sudan’s interest. It is author’s belief that if Sudan supports any party to the conflict, this is designed along her benefits contrary to South Sudanese benefits.
Everything to South Sudanese whether on rebels or government side, is all cosmetic.
As the say experience is the best lesson, SPLM has benefited from its liberation experiences. A divided SPLM along tribal lines, divides the nation along tribal lines as correctly diagnosed by SPLM in Arusha, during SPLM party meeting in Tanzania.
With all ills we have done to ourselves, South Sudanese need peace though not necessarily to hold hands with Khartoum over outstanding issues but for the good of her citizens.
As they say in economics, ‘there is no such thing as free lunch,’ and as such, there is no such thing as free support, it is all cost on South Sudanese and their economy.
Garang Atem Ayiik is an independent South Sudan economic policy commentator who lives in South Sudan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org