Category Archives: Heglig

All Things Being Equal, There Is No Morality

It is becoming more and more the norm that newspapers and editorials present “both sides” of any and every issue. To be considered unbiased, it seems that one must invariably find fault with each side of a dispute and to present both sides as equally responsible for any problems. The logic is that one side cannot be correct or right. They only have one opinion, one view. The other side’s view must be equally valid or they would agree with the first side. This makes no sense. It is an abdication of journalistic ethics to make no effort to determine right or wrong, truth or lies. Yet it is the new standard.

Ask both sides. Print both views.

The latest in this trend of politically correct moral equivalency may be found in a recent New York Times editorial about Sudan and South Sudan. The Times Editorial Board wrote:

South Sudan, along with Sudan, created this crisis, and they have the means to fix it.

The two sides fought a civil war that killed more than two million people before a peace deal in 2005. In the past year, they barely avoided a return to all-out conflict. Violence continues in Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, a rebel-held area where the Khartoum government is trying to bomb and starve the people into submission. Thousands have been displaced.

It is difficult to see how South Sudan created the crisis by stopping the flow of oil that was providing an endless supply of money for Sudan to use to buy weaponry from Iran with which it has been using to bomb the border region, including into South Sudanese territory, and to commit genocide first in Darfur and now in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Was there no conflict ongoing before South Sudan stopped the flow of oil in January, much less when it went into Heglig in March and April? In fact, I think it safe to say that there were many attacks ongoing by the Sudan Armed Forces in the border region prior to South Sudan’s military response in Heglig.

Here’s an article about the Sudan Airforce bombing Jau in Unity State in South Sudan on February 14.

Here’s one about the bombing of Western Bahr-al-Ghazal state in January.

Then of course there is the bombardment of South Sudan friendly civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile which is ongoing, but began long before the flow of oil was shut off from the south or any South Sudanese troops set foot in Heglig. Satellite Sentinel’s report from January of 2012 details similar events for months prior. One could potentially make the argument that defending civilians against genocide is a good reason to conduct military operations, but the international community has made it pretty clear that the people are on their own and that South Sudan cannot offer official help. “Genocide away,” I guess. “Never again” are words for commemorations rather than policies.

But more to the point, how can one forget the bombing of Yida Refugee Camp in Unity State in South Sudan on November 10th, 2011?  The Times must believe that Sudan’s bombing of the refugee camp must have been justified in anticipation by several months of South Sudan’s future military action or else it would be difficult to argue that “South Sudan created this crisis,” even limiting the “crisis” in question to the past year alone. Moral equivalency cannot possibly allow for Sudan to be the obvious aggressor even when its leadership is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court!

This all said, while restoring the flow of oil through Sudan will bring money into the South Sudanese economy, it also will provide Sudan with a much needed influx of capital with which to fund its military and police activities, harming the possibility of regime change in Sudan and prolonging the ongoing crisis of oppression caused by the Khartoum Regime for decades now.

The Economic Crisis in Sudan and Revolution

This week, Sudan offered to admit humanitarian aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile under certain (unacceptable) conditions, including only allowing organizations approved by the regime to distribute the aid. The conditions for the admittance of aid offered by the Sudanese are clearly both a delaying tactic and a barely veiled attempt to weaken the position of the SPLM-North and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which have been able not only to hold off the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) but to soundly defeat them on the field of battle.

The Khartoum Regime is facing a slew of crises that are building upon one another.

First, the independence of South Sudan took with it the vast majority of the oil resources.

Second, the battle of Heglig resulted in two major losses for Sudan, even after South Sudan returned control of Heglig to Sudan. The flow of oil out of Heglig from Sudanese sources was greatly reduced due to damage to the installation there and the flow of oil through the pipeline from South Sudan was completely shut off, virtually eliminating the two primary sources of income for Sudan. This has led directly to an even bigger problem.

Third, the resulting economic crisis is forcing changes that do significant damage to the ability of the Khartoum regime to maintain power.

  • It can no longer provide subsidies for gasoline and food that keep the populace happy. It has already eliminated the gasoline subsidy and may be forced to lessen or eliminate food subsidies as well as a result of pressure on the prices due to hyper inflation. It is one thing to offer $2 worth of bread for $1 and something entirely other to offer $10 worth of bread for $1. As the real price increases, the subsidy becomes untenable.
  • It can no longer borrow large sums of money even from China because the fear of hyper inflation is so great that nations are concerned that the loans would not be repaid at all or would be paid back at pennies on the dollar. Without oil flowing through the pipeline, Sudan can’t borrow money.
  • It can no longer support the bureaucracy necessary to maintain a police state. The cost of maintaining a fighting force substantial enough to hold off rebel groups on multiple fronts, maintain a deterring presence on the South Sudanese border in disputed territories, and maintain control in the streets in the center of the country is immense. As the need for police support in the interior of the nation increases, the Khartoum Regime will have no choice but to abandon the periphery or offer significant compromises to the internal opposition groups.

The implications of this choice are profound. The regime has a choice of how to weaken, but not to avoid weakening. It can try to maintain some control by ceding some power to the internal opposition, hoping to quell rioting, or it can risk a complete collapse by defending the periphery while continuing to fight in the center as well. The choice would appear obvious except for one problem.

No matter who will run the country in the near future, there will be overriding economic problems. Let us imagine for a moment that the regime would collapse and the SRF would take over the entire country after a major fight. The nation, emerging from this conflict, would have extremely limited financial resources and millions of people facing food insecurity. The oil industry would take time to build up. The new government would need to devote substantial resources to maintaining security and much of the Arab wealth would flee the country in fear of the new regime. Sudan could become a failed state in rapid fashion with a resulting humanitarian crisis dwarfing the current problems facing the nation.

While there is hope for positive change in Sudan and the revolts occurring right now are a good sign that it might happen. Things could easily take a turn for the worse. This is a regime that has committed genocide already. To imagine that it could not use extreme violence against protesters would be delusional.

The best case scenario at this point would be for the Khartoum regime to willingly go into exile while a regime that includes the SRF, if not one led by the SRF, would work with willing parties in Khartoum to create a peaceful transition of power that allows for immediate and  massive international investment in Sudan and in the border region of South Sudan, enabling the rapid growth of oil related income for the two nations.

Let us hope for a peaceful transition of power that leads to rapid economic growth. Anything else may not be enough for hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan and South Sudan who are already struggling to survive.

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.

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.

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.

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