Category Archives: Blue Nile

Sudan reaches out to Arab League

Nabil al-Arabi, Arab League Secretary general was in Khartoum for talks with president Omer Hassan al-Bashir over the weekend. The Khartoum regime is seeking aid from the Arab League to combat potential sanctions applied by the US and United Nations failure to work with South Sudan. They haven’t said that explicitly, but it appears to be the truth. The Arab nations have consistently sided with Sudan against South Sudan and exert influence in the United Nations.

Sudan has reached security and peace agreements in the past few months with Chad, with the Central African Republic, and with the newly Ghaddafi-less Libya. It is certainly not a good thing that the newly freed people of Libya have as one of their first activities embraced Omar al-Bashir.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is being portrayed as one between the Arab world on the one side and South Sudan, Uganda, and Israel on the other. The Sudan Revolutionary Front, the group comprised of people from the Nuba Mountains and Darfur along with others who are persecuted by the Khartoum regime are treated as if they fight for others instead of the truth which is that they are fighting for their own peace, justice, and liberty. This is Sudan’s way of misdirecting the discussion and discouraging western support for the “rebel” groups.

In the meantime, with the focus of attention away from the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile and instead on preventing war between Sudan and South Sudan, the Khartoum regime will be able to continue its efforts to kill or expel the Blue Nile and Nuba peoples, Christians and Muslims, men, women, and children and with the approaching rainy season, the urgency grows rapidly.

Negotiations and Urgency

Thabo Mbeki of the African Union met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir to discuss arranging negotiations with Sudan. South Sudan’s response, “Sure, let’s meet.” Sudan’s response, “No, give us what we want to achieve in the negotiations as preconditions for negotiations and then we’ll negotiate.” You can read more about the meeting between Mbeki and Kiir here.

In other news, the United States has donated $30 million to the UN World Food Program to address food insecurity in South Sudan. The donation will be delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). While we have discussed the need to get food aid into the Nuba Mountains before the rainy season hits, there is also a major need to get aid to many regions within South Sudan. According to USAID’s press release:

Due to South Sudan’s poor road network, about 60 percent of the country will become inaccessible during the rainy season. This contribution helps WFP complete prepositioning of much-needed commodities across South Sudan, where roads will soon become impassable.

Meanwhile, Sudan and the UN have grossly differing estimates for the number of refugees from Sudan who are currently in neighboring countries. Sudan’s estimates are less than half of those of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Regardless, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese now reside in neighboring countries because of the inhuman conduct of the Khartoum regime in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, while hundreds of thousands more are internally displaced. Remember that the several hundred thousands Christian former citizens of Sudan have become “South Sudanese” in the eyes of the Khartoum government and are being pressured to leave. In addition, many thousands more in the border region of South Sudan have also been displaced because of Khartoum’s cross border bombing campaign and cross border raids.

Salva Kiir- South Sudan opposes Islamization and Arabization

The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, explained that South Sudan has been fighting against the expansion of Islamization, the combination of Islamic religious views and the enforcement of them using political and military force. Kiir stated in his Sudanese People’s Liberation Army Day speech that:

The government in Khartoum once said we are the obstacle and if they can defeat us they will expand Islamization and Arabization up to South Africa.

What is “Arabization?” In this context, Arabization is the enforcement of Arab Islamic societal and cultural norms while subjugating African ones as inferior and to be abolished. In Darfur, it was Arabization which was opposed by much of the African Muslim population that led to genocide of the African Muslim population there by Arabists. I say “Arabists” because in Darfur, these were racial Africans, not racial Arabs, who were enforcing Arabization under the penalty of death.

In the Nuba Mountains, the government is attempting both to promote Islamization  and Arabization against the African Muslims there while forcing the cultural African Muslims and all of the Christians to flee or die. The SPLM-North is defending them against the Sudanese government while ultimately seeking to create a government that would allow for religious freedom.

Though not speaking about the events in South Kordofan, but about South Sudan, the Sudan Tribune notes that:

Kiir explained that the SPLM manifesto calls for a secular state where “no religion is better than the other” and “no region and tribe should be better than the other” because “religion belongs to God” and the “land belongs to the general population.”

Below you will find videos of the Salva Kiir’s SPLA Day speech which was delivered in Arabic.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir speaking on SPLA Day 2012

Part I

Part 2

Sudan Accepts UNSC Resolution

Sudan has accepted “with reservations” the UNSC resolution seeking an end to hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan. The resolution also requires Sudan to negotiate with the SPLM-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. The Sudanese parliament rejected the use of the term “disputed” to refer to those territories and others which South Sudan also claims.

Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, seemed to take issue with Omar Bashir’s rhetoric of late, proposing that Bashir’s confrontational language makes South Sudan “appear” to be the victim. The Foreign Minister noted that:

The talk that they [SPLM leaders] are a group that only understands the stick was interpreted to be referring to the poem of [Abu El-Tayib] El-Mutanabi that says “you shall not buy a slave without a stick” and the term insect was likened to the use of the term cockroaches by the Hutu against the Tutsi during the Rwandan massacres.

The Sudan Tribune adds that:

Karti cautioned that Africa was still reeling from “an inferiority complex” that makes its leaders prone to interpreting any statement within certain contexts even if it was well-intentioned.

I am trying to figure out how these terms could be “well-intentioned” coming from a man wanted by the ICC for genocide in Darfur while hearing them in the context of attempted genocide in the Nuba Mountains. Seems to me that it is fairly clear that Bashir’s rhetoric is appropriate for his aim and that the world needs to see Bashir for what he is, a wanted war criminal seeking unashamedly to commit more war crimes.

Why Help Nuba? – A Short Video

Sudan Rejects UNSC Demand to Negotiate with SPLM-N

Sudan has is rejecting the UN Security Council’s demand to negotiate with the SPLM-North based upon a June, 2011 agreement. SPLM-N Secretary General Yasser Arman indicates that the SPLM-N has agreed to negotiate. A statement signed by him states that:

The entry point for the comprehensive peaceful settlement in Sudan is for the parties to address urgently and seriously the humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile immediately and to put into effect the tripartite agreement of the United Nations, African Union and the Arab League, which was signed by the SPLM-N long ago and avoided by Khartoum using different tricks to buy time. And in this regard, the SPLM-N is ready for a humanitarian cessation of hostilities that will enable the UN, African Union and Arab League to implement their proposal.

Sudan’s leader Omar Bashir, no doubt feels that since Sudan seems to currently have the upper hand in international opinion to force South Sudan to abandon support of the SPLM-N, it is time to increase Sudan’s military operation against the SPLM-N rather than to negotiate. In response to this decision by Sudan, the United States may push for sanctions against Sudan. However, there is little to no chance that sanctions will pass the UNSC as both Russia and China are likely to veto any such resolution.

Responding to Khartoum with Unity

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.
Air Superiority
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.
Conclusions
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.

The Answer – South Sudan’s Economy will Collapse without Oil Revenues

As if the problems for those threatened in the southern states of Sudan were not bad enough already, South Sudan may well be forced to comply with demands made by Khartoum in order to survive. The Sudan Tribune published an article about the fact that the World Bank is warning the government in Juba that its economy will collapse if the situation between the countries is not remedied.

The crisis began with Juba’s decision to shut down its oil production in a dispute with Khartoum over the fees Sudan was charging. Since that time fighting has broken out and Khartoum has pledged never to allow South Sudan’s oil to flow through its pipeline. 98% percent of South Sudan’s revenues came from sales of that oil. The World Bank was briefed on March 1st by Marcelo Giugale,the World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, who noted that even if non-oil revenues in South Sudan triple this year, it will not be good enough to avert a crisis by the middle of 2013.

So here, alas, must be the reason why the UNSC and United States have been pushing Juba to meet the demands of Khartoum.

According to the article, Guigale told representatives of the major donor groups including the United States, United Kingdom, European Union (EU), Norway and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) among others that:

“[T]he World Bank has never seen a situation as dramatic as the one faced by South Sudan.”

The article notes that Guigale went on to say that:

The decision (to halt oil production) was shocking and that officials present had not internalized nor understood the consequences of the decision.

There is a near certainty of the collapse of South Sudanese currency if things do not change rapidly:

As a result of “sharp” drop in influx of hard currency and once citizens in South Sudan realize that value of their local currency is slipping “there will be a run for the dollars and families with dollars will almost certainly shift them outside the country.” Giugale pointed out that because most South Sudanese are not fully financial literate the run on the point has not yet happened. “Once it starts, the currency will almost certainly collapse,” Giugale says.

South Sudan’s foreign cash reserves could possibly last a little over a year or even up to a year and a half with significant austerity measures put in place. During this time poverty will rise dramatically and expenditures on things such as healthcare and education will fall significantly, impacting daily life. Large scale famine and disease would be a real possibility. The World Bank would shift its aid to South Sudan from economic development to humanitarian aid, crippling the economic growth of the nation.

There are two alternatives to this that I can see. South Sudan tried one and may well have been trying the other.

The first option is to build an alternative pipeline that does not run through Sudan. Salva Kiir met with Chinese leaders to propose this. China rejected it as an option, not simply because of the political cost in its relationship with Sudan and other Arab nations or because of the significant expense involved, but because it could take years, not months, to create. Additionally, the report from the World Bank of which China was well familiar could lead China to believe that the government of South Sudan could collapse before any pipeline could be completed, thus potentially rendering useless any investment in it. Salva Kiir returned from China with loan guarantees, quite possibly ones contingent upon improved relations with Khartoum and a renewed flow of oil.

The second option may have been to take Heglig from Sudan in an attempt to force Khartoum to accept significantly less for oil flowing through the pipeline. I cannot say with any certainty that this was the purpose behind taking control of Heglig because there are other potential reasons, however, the thought may have been that:

Ultimately Khartoum gets a share of all the oil flowing through the pipeline, so it really doesn’t matter one way or another whether or not it owns the wells along the way. If we (South Sudan) control all of the oil flowing in, Khartoum will have to deal with us or they will suffer.

Sudan would have suffered for certain, but Sudan can easily hold out far longer than South Sudan. This plan might work if Juba had several years worth of reserves and a broader economy not almost entirely dependent upon oil revenues, but it never could have worked swiftly.

This all may then explain why the international organizations and the United States reacted so strongly against South Sudan concerning Heglig. They likely believe that Juba’s sole option in averting an existential crisis is to mend relations with Khartoum and that millions of lives are at stake if that does not happen.

A third option is not being discussed and probably will not be, namely a US or UN led effort at regime change in Sudan. There are too many factors to list right now, but suffice it to say that the bottom line is that a large scale invasion would create a dramatically increased humanitarian crisis without solving any part of the existing one in the near term.

The significance of this understanding for those concerned about the suffering in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur as well is that there is no pressure that may be exerted upon Khartoum by Juba that will be of help. Worse, intervention, even strong sanctions, by the UN, US, AU or any other body against Sudan would likely jeopardize its willingness to allow transit of oil and military intervention could, likely would, result both in a dramatically worsened humanitarian situation and in the pipeline being shut down for an extended period of time almost certainly leading to the economic collapse of South Sudan predicted by the World Bank.

Thus, South Sudan has no choice but to work with Sudan in order to get the oil flowing once again. It can spend a few months determining which concessions are best for it to make, but it has little or no choice but to make some significant ones.

This is a very bleak picture. The survival of the people in the Nuba Mountains who are being persecuted by the Khartoum government will then depend upon non-governmental organizations raising funds and sending in large quantities of humanitarian aid without the help of major international agencies and certainly without any help from the government of South Sudan. It is up to us to Help Nuba!

South Sudan’s Official Map Claims Heglig for South Sudan

Accusing Sudan of occupying and claiming territories since the resources were discovered, South Sudan released a map of its territory that includes Panthou/Heglig and other disputed territories on its side of the border. According to the Sudan Tribune:

The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Service, Madut Biar Yel, told the press after the cabinet meeting that six areas that were contested and occupied by Khartoum including Heglig/Panthou were included as part of South Sudan as per the new map presented to the cabinet by the Vice President…

The areas disputed by Khartoum are located in the four bordering states of Upper Nile, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. Khartoum has a different rival map which has also incorporated the same disputed territories.

Madut accused Khartoum of occupying territories which historically belong to South Sudan and claiming them because they have resources

Why Not Mention Genocide

I remain highly bothered by the complete absence of any mention by the United States at the UN Security Council, much less by the UNSC itself, of the ethnic cleansing and genocide being practiced by the government of Sudan against the people of the Nuba Mountains. I am appalled that instead the term chosen to refer to those fighting for their very lives against people who are trying to starve them and their families to death or force them to flee the country is “rebels.” The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising were rebels. The people bombed into hiding in caves in the Nuba Mountains are indeed rebelling. They wish to stop the government that is trying to murder them from accomplishing the feat. Such a rebellion! What gall they possess to think life deserving of rebellion!!!

Here is a United Nations resolution that totally ignores the genocidal nature of the regime, ignores the awful nature of its actions in recent times, and ignores the long history of the conflict, instead acting as if it began with South Sudan taking over Heglig from an purely innocent Sudan. Instead, it acts as if Sudan has every right to starve hundreds of thousands of people to death and to bomb them if they resist. No aid must be allowed to come to the rebels, the UN insists. No aid. This makes a mockery of the commitment “Never Again.” For an organization that itself has a day devoted to genocide, it is an absurdity.

This cannot be just about the war not long ended possibly resuming. It cannot, because resuming the war to save thousands of lives–that alone–would be reason to begin it anew and to begin it with the blessing of the UN which by all that is right and good should send troops to make sure that food aid is delivered to the starving masses. Certainly, the United States should have spoken out to mention the horrors occurring from its bully pulpit as chair of the Security Council. Yet, it did not. Why not mention the genocide in Sudan?

Here are President Obama’s words offered last Monday at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They stand in stark contrast to those offered by US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice’s words at the UN Security Council which did not mention South Kordofan or Blue Nile or mention genocide at all. I think that in this context President Obama’s words at the USHMM offered exactly one week before need no commentary. It will suffice for each to be followed by a simple question to be asked of the United States in its handling of the Sudan conflict at the United Nations, “Why Not Mention Genocide?”

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.

Why not mention genocide?

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

Why not mention genocide?

The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

Why not mention genocide?

And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Why not mention genocide?

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate — because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

Why not mention genocide?

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  

Why not mention genocide?

I will give my own answer, “Because it would require good people to act. We know that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Help Nuba!