In my most recent posting for Help Nuba, I noted that the grave prediction by the World Bank concerning the state of the South Sudanese economic situation without oil revenues likely has had an effect on efforts to prioritize ending fighting between Sudan and South Sudan over addressing the dire circumstances in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The SPLA-North and South Sudan
In fact, the effort to end the fighting between the two nations has significantly worsened the military situation for the SPLA-North in South Kordofan because the absence of a threat from South Sudan would allow Sudan to focus its military attention on the SPLA-North. Thus, the UNSC and African Union resolution aimed at ending the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan is almost certain to worsen the situation of the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
In the meantime, however, Sudan must avoid making life so difficult for the South Sudanese that they choose to resume a full scale war. South Sudan, finding itself in a desperate financial situation, may decide to join fully with the SPLA-N against the Khartoum regime, restarting the war. It is even possible that if things get bad enough for the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that their friends in South Sudan may choose to enter the conflict in support of them.
An additional issue, one for which I have seen no commentary yet, is that South Sudan must be concerned at some level about losing the SPLA-North as a buffer on its northern front. While there have been cross border attacks, Sudan cannot fully commit to efforts against South Sudan because it must defend against opposing forces within its territory. It must focus inwardly as well as outwardly. South Sudan then has a significant incentive not to let the SPLA-North be defeated.
Fighting for Survival vs. Fighting for Money
So while having the upper hand, Sudan should be somewhat concerned. Yes, it has substantially more financial resources to commit to war, but it will also have to spend those resources at a much higher rate to prosecute a war, even a defensive one. The difference in the motivation of the soldiers is paramount. The Sudanese soldiers would be fighting for money to support their families. Sudan is going to have to pay its soldiers substantially to motivate them. When winning a conflict and obtaining spoils, soldiers have historically performed well. When finding themselves defending and regularly losing ground, gaining no spoils, soldiers tend toward lack-luster performance or even desertion. The South Sudanese, SPLA, JEM and others would be fighting for their survival. People fighting for money, such as most of the Sudanese forces, will run if things get bad.
The Oil Pipeline
Meanwhile, because ultimately such a conflict could not end without taking control of the oil pipeline, once this level of war starts, the South Sudanese and allies would have no option but to fight all the way to Khartoum. Unless the United States were to intervene to prevent Sudan from using its air advantage, this war would see an enormous casualty figure among people in the south with widespread famine being a real possibility.
Some have suggested bombing Sudanese air strips in order to prevent the bombing of civilians in the Nuba Mountains. Without its air superiority, Sudan can’t win against the rebels or South Sudan, so taking out Sudan’s air bases not only would prevent bombing in Nuba, it would result in the collapse of the regime. Sudan should fear the possibility of angering the United States to the point that it acts against Sudan’s air superiority, even if it does nothing else.
While noting that South Sudan has few good options right now but to try to achieve and agreement with Sudan and to get the oil flowing again so as to avert economic collapse next year, Sudan cannot act as if it has no worries.
Those opposed to genocide in the Nuba Mountains and who care about the ultimate fate of the people in South Sudan, are faced with the need to do three things:
1. Get food into Nuba.
- The deadline for this is before anything else could really be done, so it is by far the top priority.
- People will begin starving in large numbers soon.
2. Work on promoting unity among the South Sudanese, Nuba, Blue Nile and Darfurian communities in the diaspora as well as in the region.
- If this doesn’t happen, the SPLA-N has little chance in the long run to win against Sudan and
- South Sudan will become increasingly hostage to the whim of the rulers in Sudan with a decreasing ability to combat it.
3. Promote the reasonable idea that the US cannot allow indiscriminate bombing of civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
- Any military action by the US would only become an option if Sudan uses its air forces to kill large numbers of civilians and
- If South Sudan decides to officially join the fight because the consequences of US intervention in Nuba are dire for both Sudan and South Sudan.
- The US cannot act against Sudan without consideration of retaliation by Sudan against South Sudan and
- The World Bank report shows precisely that simply shutting off the oil indefinitely could do tremendous damage to South Sudan.