Category Archives: SPLA

Why Help Nuba? – A Short Video

Interview with Abdul Aziz Hilu

The Global Post has an excellent interview with General Abdul Aziz Hilu, chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), commander of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-North) and Chief of the Joint Military Command of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).

How will this end?

We are working for regime change, for complete transformation, for writing a new constitution, a democratic constitution that recognizes diversity, that accepts the liberal values of justice, equality, individualism. We want to achieve lasting peace and justice in this country.

Some may say we are not qualified to reach this but I think it is possible.

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!

South Sudan Agrees to the Terms of the UNSC Resolution

South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor Kuol said that South Sudan would follow the terms of the resolution. He stated:

It is my privilege to reaffirm to you that, in compliance with the decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement, and in the spirit of our commitment to peace, my government ordered the withdrawal of our police force from Abyei Area on 28 April 2012. We expect the international community to exert efforts to ensure the immediate and complete withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces from Abyei Area.

As acknowledged formally by the African Union, my government is already committed to the cessation of hostilities and the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the African Union High Implementation Panel. We welcome the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, and the commitment of the UN Security Council to the enhancement of the AUHIP led negotiations process through the active participation of the UN, the Chairman of IGAD and other international partners.

We appeal to the United Nations and its member states to urgently mobilize humanitarian assistance for the population affected by Sudan’s continuous aerial bombardment and ground incursions in northern states of South Sudan.

“African Ways” and Sanctions as “Extreme Measures”

The UN Security Council’s plan will likely accomplish little. Even if it does lead to Sudan and South Sudan returning to the negotiating table, it is unlikely to lead them to resolve the issues when they talk. For the Nuba Mountain people, the most important thing is what this resolution does not do. It does not help them. There is no threat against Sudan for acting against the people of South Kordofan or Blue Nile. The resolution is all about halting fighting between Sudan and South Sudan.

What is most disheartening to me, however, are the positions expressed by China and Russia as they spoke about the UNSC resolution. I find these statements to be appalling.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said:

We are always very cautious about the use and threat of sanctions. China has all along maintained that African issues should be settled by the Africans in African ways.

“African issues?” “African ways?” What is this if not racism? I can see the point made in a discussion,

“They’ve always had tribal warfare and slaughtered each other.”

“Who are we to interfere?”

Of course, China nor the UNSC has interfered in the past. They have let millions die while nobly not interfering.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that:

The arsenal of political and diplomatic instruments for normalizing the situation has nowhere been exhausted. We consider sanctions as an extreme measure.

Sanctions? An “extreme measure” against a genocidal government whose leaders are wanted for war crimes by the ICC? Really??? “Extreme???” Is it more extreme than a government deliberately trying to starve a significant minority of its population to death or force them to flee the country amid an indiscriminate hail of bombs?

Not according to the Russian Ambassador or to the UNSC. The Sudan Tribune article tells us that:

The Russian ambassador said that sanctions should not be used in relation to conflicts in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging since last year between Sudan’s army and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) who want to topple to Khartoum government.

The resolution orders Khartoum and SPLM-N to cooperate with the mediation and use a June 2011 framework agreement as a basis for talks. The deal was signed by presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie only to be scrapped by Bashir himself later.

Opposition Parties in Sudan Reject Bashir’s Declaration of Emergency

According to an article by Radio Dabanga:

The Umma Party and the Popular Congress Party said establishing special courts is unconstitutional and against international conventions on human rights ratified by Sudan, as well as being destructive to the relationship between the two countries.

The parties call on the international community to intervene to protect civilians subject to arbitrary killing and arrest outside of the law.

Representatives also pointed out that Sudanese nomadic tribes routinely cross the border into South Sudan and back moving their livestock. The emergency declaration, they noted, also subjects citizens of Sudan to “extra-judicial murder and arrests.”

What is Wrong with the UNSC Plan

It appears that Russia is willing to support the resolution proposed by the United States in UN Security Council that calls upon both Sudan and South Sudan to cease hostilities. The resolution has no specific penalties for failure to comply though it is assumed that penalties will include sanctions imposed by the African Union and potentially enforced by the UN. According to the article in the Sudan Tribune:

UNSC’s intervention was requested by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) which issued a communiqué last week saying that Khartoum and Juba must reach a deal on post-independence issues within three months including oil, border demarcation, citizenship and Abyei.

This would be great. It just has no chance of happening. Is there any possible chance that Sudan would agree that Heglig should be called Panthou and be a part of South Sudan? Any chance? Might South Sudan be forced to admit the reverse? Possibly, but unlikely. More important are the AU plan’s immediate goals:

  1. Immediately cease hostilities – within 24 hours
  2. Unconditionally withdraw troops from disputed areas
  3. Cease harboring or supporting rebel groups fighting against the other nation
  4. Cease issuing hostile propaganda and making inflammatory statements to the media

I can see the first and the last of these occurring to some extent while each side negotiates with the UNSC and AU.

The second and third, however, are going to be much more difficult. Sudan would need to withdraw from many areas including Heglig which it just reoccupied and which is vital to its economy. Is Sudan likely to withdraw from Heglig? No. It is actually more likely that Heglig will be considered an undisputed part of Sudan by much of the international community and therefore no penalty will be forthcoming.

As for ceasing to harbor or support rebel groups, it will be impossible to confirm compliance. If these groups continue to act on their own, the appropriate governments will be accused of supporting them regardless of whether or not they actually offer material or any other type of support. In addition, remember that the rebel groups in the south of Sudan are fighting for freedom against a genocidal government. The UN as an organization is supposed to support democracy. Yes, I know that this is farcical at this point, but to have an official policy that mandates that people combating genocide are not to be supported is at best wrong and at worst cruel and inhumane.

A further problem, and not a minor one at all, is that the AU proposal does not address the famine issues, the ethnic cleansing issues, or the genocide issues. It pretends that “citizenship” includes those. It does not. Only an official sanction of ethnic cleansing by the United Nations could justify calling the citizenship of all Christians in Sudan into question.

Frighteningly, the United States at the helm of UNSC has put forth a proposal that does not directly address the crisis for the population of the southern states of Sudan. The proposal only sees state actors, abandoning the suffering people in the south to the whim of Sudan as a sovereign state. This, in my mind, is an appalling abdication of the role of America in the world and the supposed role of the United Nations. Do not get me wrong. I have no conception that the UN has ever been effective at preventing ethnic cleansing and genocide or that the United States should be expected, based upon past history, to help. I have written about this very topic on this website recently. I merely hope that the United States would change the historical pattern that allows genocidal regimes to act without impediment for years on end while the world cries in horror.

In the meantime, while the UN works on bringing Sudan and South Sudan to the negotiating table, Sudan will starve and slaughter tens of thousands of people in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. We need action against Sudan, not talk about action. We need to Help Nuba!