Sudanese peace by stealth

Gamal Nkrumah
Monday 2 Nov 2015

Today it transpires that the South Sudanese August 2015 "peace deal" was a monstrous gaffe, a cruel, tyrannical indiscretion.

Betwixt and between is how certain South Sudanese experts describe the country's juxtaposition in an intermediate, indecisive position in the heart of the Nile Basin.

The United Nations revelation that a human catastrophe is in the making could not have come at a worse time for the people of the region. The battle over South Sudan's political future is raucous.

This is moment to think more creatively.

South Sudan is beset by antiquated imperial boundaries. South Sudan was a figment of the imagination of British colonial authorities and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is viewed by some as the very kudos of the country.

It is easy to dismiss the sorry state of South Sudan as a horror movie we have seen before. Oil is the mainstay of the South Sudanese economy but the Nile Basin nation has other resources, including gold, diamonds, silver, iron ore, zinc, copper, tungsten, and coffee.

Peace can percolate, like coffee, from South Sudan to areas sympathetic to the South Sudanese cause such as the Nuba Mountains and the oil-rich enclave of Abyei.

Endurance is the South Sudanese people's real weapon in the fight against social injustice. However, if the civil war does not end soon, the people of South Sudan might find themselves in permanent decline.

The cash-strapped Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) cannot highhandedly rescue South Sudan. It sorely needs Western support, both economically and militarily.

United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice is acutely conscious of the economic opportunities South Sudan offers American investors. Other countries are keenly interested in South Sudan. China is a major trading partner of South Sudan and South Africa is besotted with the economic potential of South Sudan.

Kiir is currently on an official visit to South Africa, and he has extended his stay in the continent's economic powerhouse. Accompanied on the trip by foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, and minister in the office of the president, Awan Guol Riak, Kiir is focusing on commercial and economic opportunities.

Kiir, leader of the African continent's giant cauldron, so to speak, is dipping his toe into Africa's economic Herculean colossal.

Be that as it may, there is a grave flaw in this doctrine. Peace must reign in South Sudan before the country can tap its full economic potential.

Transparency International ranked Sudan 177 out of 179 countries surveyed in its annual corruption survey for 2014. The humanitarian catastrophe prompted more than 300 local South Sudanese and international human rights and humanitarian organisations to release a report last week on the deplorable situation in South Sudan.

Why did South Sudan President Salva Kiir divide the country into 28 states this week? There were only ten states when the country gained independence. Is this decision taking South Sudan to a familiar dead end? It certainly does not reflect a mistaken reading of Washington's interests in Africa and the Middle East. Rather, it reflects deep ethnic divisions.

The situation in the oil-rich Unity State is particularly horrific with the war claiming the lives of at least 1,000 civilians, 1,300 women and girls raped and 1,600 women abducted. Kiir rejects claims of a cover up. He has powerful allies including the world renowned intellectual Francis Deng, a staunch Kiir supporter, and ethnic Dinka, like Kiir.

The Kiir government closely collaborates with the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, and its charismatic Secretary General Yasir Arman, a northern ethnic Jailiyin is married to a daughter of the Njok Dinka Paramount Chief Sultan Deng Majok.

Arman is the presidential candidate of the SPLA-N (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North). "We are determined to fight the Sudanese dictatorship of Al-Bashir and his Islamist ilk. We have made significant inroads into South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces. We are certain of victory," Arman extrapolated.

Arman reiterated that the key to the liberation of Sudan from the Islamist dictatorship lies in the liberation of the Nuba Mountains. He invoked the spirit of Yousif Kuwa, the late legendary SPLA Nuba Mountain leader. Kuwa, before his untimely death, had inspired thousands of people of the Nuba Mountains to join the SPLA, and today they form the bulk of the SPLA-N cadres. "The Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan are key to the political salvation of Sudan.

The Nuba mountains are the conduit between North and South Sudan. Arms are the conduit between North and South Sudan. If Sudan ever reunites, the Nuba Mountains will be key. That is why they are very important strategically for us in the SPLA-N," Arman expounded.

SPLA-N chairman Malik Agar concurred. Like Arman he was a close political associate of the late and much venerated SPLA leader John Garang, who strongly believed in the territorial integrity and unity of Sudan. Agar was deposed as governor of Blue Nile Province on orders of Sudanese President Al-Bashir, and is a vociferous critic of Al-Bashir. His solution is to inculcate attention to the war in South Kordofan (The Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile.

According to Wikileaks, the CIA began paying the salaries of the forces of Reik Machar. He has long been a puppet of the Khartoum regime. Ironically Kiir, too, receives much funding from Washington.

Yet, however much Kiir tacks to the West, many see him as a close collaborator of the Al-Bashir regime.

The Sudanese president is playing a sardonic, cynical game. Nevertheless, his Machiavellian machinations, playing one political rival against another in South Sudan, is a double-edged sword.

The security and military budgets combined represent more than 50 percent of the Sudanese national budget. Some believe that his antics may finally be paying off.

The ancient Antonov warplanes may be decrepit and outdated, but these Russian made planes are used today to bombard villages in the war-torn Nuba Mountains. Earlier this year in February the Nuba Mountains were subjected to horrific aerial bombardment on the pretext that SPLA-N fighters secure military bases in South Kordofan.

Kiir and Reik Machar, the former vice president of South Sudan are two sides of the same coin, and Al-Bashir plays one against the other.

South Sudan is constantly subjected to interference from Khartoum, which is exacerbated by the fact that military leaders who are identified as fierce fighters and promoted for doing a great job are then expected to delegate to other lesser commanders.

By means of aerial bombardment, the Sudanese government forces intend to intensify the indigenous population of the Nuba Mountains. The genocidal counter-insurgency campaign is
"The best strategy is to galvanize the population against Al-Bashir's forces" Arman extrapolates.

Peace in South Sudan is a fair metric of the country's contemporary birth pangs, so what on earth is "Plan B"? It is an exclusively South Sudanese issue, and it stipulates sanctions against South Sudanese warlords fomenting trouble.

Peace talks were historically the Sudanese political establishment's main focus. What is clear is that it is restricted to South Sudan.

"Plan B" stipulates an arms embargo and sanctions on individuals' assets and travel on South Sudanese protagonists who refuse to implement peace plans. It has nothing to do with northern Sudanese politicians. That is the domain of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

US President Barack Obama discussed "Plan B" when he visited Kenya and Ethiopia in August. Sudan, and South Sudan, topped the agenda. Nevertheless, most Sudanese politicians in both Khartoum and Juba are skeptical of "Plan B" and tensions between the two Sudanese capital cities have exacerbated matters. South Sudanese politicians are wary of Khartoum's interference in the country's internal affairs, even though Kiir also curries favour with Khartoum.

Al-Bashir is widely suspected of tacitly supporting Machar.

Other bigwigs come into play. The so-called “Quiet Consigliore”, Gayle Smith, a longtime special assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the US National Security Council.

In February 2015, President Obama announced his nomination of Smith to be the new administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Sudan, of course, is the largest recipient of US development assistance and aid after Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic change," former US chief envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman, and chief mediator between North and South Sudan prior to the referendum that led to the independence of South Sudan was quoted as saying in an interview in December 2011 in the influential Saudi Arabian-owned, London-based Arabic language Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Lyman, a former US ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa is considered an authority on African affairs, but so is Susan Rice and US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers.

Seeking USAID is a marathon, not a sprint for impoverished African nation.

But, not all Americans are necessarily "bad guys". American actor, anti-war activist, and humanitarian George Clooney and his British-Lebanese wife, lawyer and activist Amal Alamuddin have been staunch supporters of the cause of the downtrodden in Darfur and South Kordofan, and the Nuba Mountains.

“Real leverage for peace and human rights will come when the people who benefit from war will pay a price for the damage they cause,” Clooney stated categorically.

Perhaps he had the world’s top two war profiteers, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, in mind. Yet little is done to end the profligate military expenditure in Sudan and South Sudan.

Meanwhile, the wealth of Sudan is starting to dry up ever since the oil-rich South Sudan seceded. Ethiopia has some 10,000 soldiers/peacekeepers on the Sudan/South Sudan border. Ethiopia spends some 75 percent of its foreign currency earnings on fuel imports, and South Sudan as an oil exporter is crucial for energy hungry Ethiopia. Uganda and Kenya, too, are dragged into the Sudanese quagmire.

Ignoring the South Sudanese conundrum does neither Washington nor its allies in Africa any favours.

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