Khartoum new sharpest sword: Working with both parties to South Sudan conflict

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


  1. J A C Ramba says:

    This is a futile attempt at trying to influence Khartoum’s position in relation to the on-going South Sudan’s Dinka versus Nuer tribal warfare. Somewhere in the article you kind of stumbled over the truth, that Khartoum’s interest lies in a weak South Sudan and it will never do a thing to end the war in favour of any of the warring tribes.
    Not to single out Khartoum for its ill-defined position on the tribal power struggle in South Sudan, we need to look beyond the traditional enmity we have for the Arab rulers of Sudan. Sudan is not alone in its position which is informed by its reliance on South Sudan’s oil fields.
    Bigger countries like china are standing behind Khartoum and probably even dictating on it how it should behave towards this crises. For what do you say about China when it equally welcomes both the SPLM In – Juba and the SPLM –In Opposition on its soil? Is China’s position any different to that of the ’Jallaba’?
    As for Uganda, we should be under no any illusion that this tiny African state has any independent decisions of its own when it comes to its current position in the Dinka Vs Nuer power struggle in South Sudan. It is no longer a secret that the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF) entered South Sudan with the blessing of Ms Susan Rice, the Obama administration’s secretary for national security.
    Again given Uganda’s third world economy, it is to be expected that its invasion of South Sudan was and is still being bankrolled by the US administration. It is the same US administration that is pushing for a negotiated settlement and a transitional justices which would likely see people like President Salva Kiir, General Paul Malong Awan and many others face the law.
    So which side of the tribal divide do you see the Chinese or the USA governments supporting in this war? Both are on record for condemning the two warring tribes, yet at the same time they promise to work with both of them to realise
    peace. And you cannot rule out the possibility of an ‘under the table’ deals between both members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the two warring parties – if not directly, could still be through third parties.
    Even within South Sudan itself, the solution to the current crisis is not forthcoming. Not in Addis Ababa –Bihar Dar nor in Arusha, Tanzania. Of course not even in Juba where it all started. But we all know that the problem was and is still between the Dinka and the Nuer. If the two warring tribes can come to their senses and opt for a negotiated settlement between them, this current war will definitely come to a halt.
    This is not to say that an end to the current Dinka vs Nuer tribal war will necessarily translate into a problem free South Sudan. With the Dinka hegemony, wide spread corruption, tribalism, nepotism and cronyism all rife in the nascent country, it will take a miracle to see a stable South Sudan.

    • Dear J A C Ramba:

      In addition to your comments, Dinka’ wars are never been about the freedom and independent South Sudan but they are all about the leadership. If they cannot lead the Southerners, they would destroy the unity of Southerners. If you could look back Dinka’s leaders’ history from 1947 up to today, you will notice Dinka struggle was not and is not about freeing South Sudanese from slavery, but it is about getting the top leadership. For example, after Deng Nhial failed to get Liberal Party’s top leadership, he turned against Southerners, Abil Alier worked against Joseph Lagu and eventually destroyed Joseph Lagu government, John Garang hijacked the Anyanya2 movement leadership in 1984 and changed the history of the movement from 1975 to May 1983 which was the year that he (Garang) joined the movement.

      In order to keep their doctorial top leadership and continue bullying the Southerners, Salva Kiir brought into South Sudan several mercenaries to protect his corrupt government. Salva Kiir is the world goofiest, idiotic, and power greedy wild animal.

  2. False Millionaire says:

    Khartoum needs south sudan’s oil transit fees money.That’s why it goes to bed with Juba.But it has intention to keep Abeyi n other disputed boarder could jeopardize the flow of cash if it fights Juba head on.At this point it’s obliged to fight a hidden war.That’s why it goes to bed with the rebels apparently with the hope that the rebels would bring Juba to it’s knees,the weakest point before striking the last blow one good time for all on Juba.But Juba,aware of the dirty game,apparently,has chosen the position of a father who,knowing his daughter going to bed with an enemy,he ignores it in the hope he could salvage the dowery in a distant future.Fighting Khartoum now is a soucide Juba must refuse at all cost.Leaving it that way could mean a strategic choice of buying time to be able to strike good blows on the rebels without uniting them with Khartoum in an all out fight.As for the rebels,Khartoum must help them to defeat Juba n to turn against Khartoum when Juba should have been defeated.In such context,every one has his place in the dance.But only if the war equation remains stable n protracted.If not,Khartoum would likely give more visible support to the rebels against Juba if Juba ever appeared to defeat the rebels.

  3. Kondokoro says:

    CRUSH CRUSH the rebelion and since 90 % is done why dancing to the tune of a defeated Riak which means destruction in nuer or Dinka language lets finish him and see whats next defeat him to save 10 % Nuer under him

  4. Garang Atem says:

    False Millionaire, for the first time seeing a rational comment on my article, for those before,it was all emotional out pour, thanks though;

    Ramba, not all Dinkas are in the dirty and moneyed……..the govt is for all, it is mess for all South Sudanese, the issue peopel don’t know is that being the majority and being the one that lead the war, all this will make them sound high both in good and bad………..But from context perspective, your view of US/China/Uganda influences are on point…..thank

  5. To:A.J.A Ramba:

    Sometime,I like your comments very much! But this one of now, is not good comment at all! The crisis in the country,it has nothing to do with two tribes Nuer and Dinka. it is the nation issues! Thank you!

    • Dear Chief Abiko Akurangang,

      You are absolutely right, this is a national issues. Although the war is intense between Dinka and Nuer, the problem we have in South Sudan is a national issue no doubt. If Equatorians do not respond to their tortures, it does not means that they are not part of the problems. For example, the Dinka general was shot dead near University of Juba in Juba by Equatorians police. On the other hand, several Equatorians have been killed in Juba event before the war broke in December 2013 and the fade of Equatorians citizens is still going on in Juba as we speak today. The Dinka disarmed Equatorians police and militants in Juba and surrounding areas. Since the war broke out in Juba in December 2013, Equatorians are being asked by Dinka to be at home by 7PM. Furthermore, Equatorians men were shot dead by Dinka militants in the restaurants in Maridi for discussing federalism while dinning in the restaurant.

      In 2012, 25 people from Balanda tribe were sentenced to death by the Dinka’s judge for revenge killing against Dinka who burned their houses to ground and looted their shops and cattle. In 2012, 30 people from Murle were killed in Hospital in Bor town by Bor-Dinka. Truly, this is a national problem. The different between Equatorians and Nuer in this condition is that Equatorians do not respond to their tortured by the government, but Nuer responded to the negative behavior of Kiir against them. Equatorians are willing to endure and able to live under torture and oppressive government like people of Tibet, but Nuer cannot. Equally, the Equatorians and Nuer-soul sell out who are working for kiir’s government today are just figurehead because they are not part of decision making.

  6. J A C Ramba says:

    Chief Abiko. I must vehemently disagree with you when you say that the ongoing civil war in South Sudan has nothing to do with the two tribes of Dinka and Nuer. That one you can never sell it even to one month old baby. I am already a delegate to the Peace Talks in Addis Ababa and I have not only attended major sessions of the negotiations, but I even had the honour to talk and discuss in the thematic committees and different panels. And let me inform you again that the ongoing civil (tribal) war in South Sudan has everything to do with the two tribes of the Dinka and the Nuer. Of course like in other political unrest in a country regardless who are the key players in it, it is bound to affect the whole country and this is only national bit in this war.

    Maybe be if I give you the list of the top three representatives from each of the warring parties , you can see that they are either Dinka or Nuer. The government top three are President Kiir (Dinka), Dr Barnaba (Nuer+ Dinka) and Nhial Deng Nhial (Dinka) and on the rebel side you have: Dr Riek Machar (Nuer), Gen. Taban Deng (Nuer), and Dr Dhieu Mathok (Dinka). This is not a national issue when it comes to handling it as other stakeholders have been prevented from attending the on going rounds. Where are the other South Sudanese from the other tribes (61 tribes) with this top leaderships.

    Even when President Kiir’s tribal troops were hunting down the Nuer civilians in Juba on the 15-16 December 2013 it never targeted the non Nuers in Juba. Or the retaliation by Gen Peter Gadet Yak in Jonglei squarely targeted the Dinka and not other non Dinkas. Is this not a tribal war between the Dinka and the Nuer ?

    Let us face it, for it cannot be a national only when it suits you and not otherwise.

  7. Dear Dr.Justin Ambago:

    It is not necessary for the whole tribes in the South to represent the interests of the country! One leader will be enough! The President Salva Kirr,and Riak Machar,they are not representing their families alone at their homes.They are representing the South Sudanese interests on their behalf! I am glad to hear from you that from your own mouth from your words that you were one of the negotiation in the ongoing peace agreement.Talk your mind.Give your opinions to bring war to end to people at home!

    The example,you have given on both sides,it is true.But they should be change by the leaders.They should select a new people for the peace! Instead of keeping the same people! Thank you!


  8. KUOL says:

    dear all I like your comments when people talk about it is a way we can deal with our problems. I belief one day we all southerners will understand that we are all one not two.why we can think how Khartoum used us since 1984 until we got independent in 2011. it was long time that we come to the final and essential point which we were hope as bright future for our kids it make some one felt a shame when I saw our kids,wives, mothers,fathers and brothers running in the border going back to the same enemy who kill 1000 due to what we did.
    please let preach peace not war.

    may God bless you all and south Sudan

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