On the Brink: Juba must Confront Khartoum’s Aggression against the Republic of South Sudan

“[When] I was in the SPLA, I was a propagandist. I have been compared to Goebbels”—Atem Yaak Atem, deputy ­minister, ministry of information and broadcasting [The Guardian].

By PaanLuel Wel, Washington DC, USA

November 22, 2011 (SSNA) — The Republic of South Sudan must immediately confront and appropriately address Sudan’s wanton aggression toward the sovereignty of South Sudan. Our airspace and undisputed borders have been freely violated in Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Upper Nile States. A sizable number of innocent civilians and refugees have been repeatedly killed in these past weeks.

While these belligerence from Khartoum may be recent, it nevertheless dovetailed with their past track records of violent military takeover of Abyei, political destabilization of South Sudan through training and arming of South Sudan murderous militias and with their unyielding refusal to settle outstanding post-separation issues of border demarcation, delineation of resources and Abyei’s CPA-mandated referendum.

Of all the sustained reckless provocations from Khartoum, this week violations of our airspace and illegal incursions deep into undisputed territories of South Sudan amounted to an official declaration of war on the Republic of South Sudan by(north) Sudan. As such, Juba was within her legal mandate to respond in kind just as the Republic of Kenya did on Al-Shabaab of Somalia after their illegal border incursion, and the US did on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But instead of formally declaring war on Khartoum for disrespecting the territorial integrity of South Sudan, Juba has, on one hand, officially refused to be drawn into an all-out war with Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) while, on the other hand, is offering Khartoum billions of US dollars to address all the remaining post-independence issues.

In what appear like a reprehensible appeasement to the rest of the world but, presumably, a calculated cajolement of Khartoum regime by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, Pagan Amum, the SPLM SG, announces:

“In the interest of peace between the Republic of South Sudan and Republic of Sudan, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan has offered billions of United States Dollars to the Government of the Republic of Sudan to resolve all the outstanding post-independence issues that include, but not limited to, the status of Abyei, oil, the international borders between the two countries, and security.”[MatataSafi]

While Juba reluctance to take on the SAF may be attributed to the fact that an all-out war with Khartoum government, especially at this time, may not be in the best interest of the young republic of South Sudan, the timing of offering such generous undeserved economic package to Khartoum, while they are butchering our own civilians and violating our territorial integrity, is not only ill-informed but also strikingly a bountiful reward for impunity.

It sends the wrong unmistakable message that the more Khartoum regime violates our sovereignty, bombards and slaughters our innocent civilians and sheltered refugees, and refuses to resolve lingering post-independence issues, the more concessions itcan hope to extract from us on all impending post-secession issues.

If SPLM is not cautious enough about their political and economic overtures toward the NCP, and if they don’t strive to scale back a little bit from their unsolicited generosity to Sudan, Khartoum may end up taking 50% of our oil, the whole of Abyei minus the inhabitants or even dare enough to militarily imposed Khartoum-favored borders on South Sudan, carving most oilfields into its own borders.

Worse still, it could annexed, or rule via proxies, the oil-producing state of Unity and the agriculturally-rich state of Upper Nile. The rebel movements of South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) and the South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army(SSLM/A), plus the rest, are Khartoum-trained and –armed proxies that it can effectively use to invade and control oilfields. Anyone who still doubts their determinations to destabilize the country must listen to George Athor addressing journalists in Nairobi, Kenya: “I believe you cannot make an omelette without breaking an egg, or eggs, [and]so people must die so we have peace, we have democracy and sacrifices have to be made” [Reuters].

Repeated attempts by President Kiir’s government to make amend with the Athor’s rebels has been thwarted by the rebel unreasonable demands which include, but not limited to, holding of “new elections, the release of political detainees, and the selection of a third party to enforce any future peace agreement with the government” or some representation in the government with “two or three ministerial positions [allocated to them], until new elections are held” [VOA].

The International Community may not do much given the continued diplomatic sheltering of Khartoum by Russia and China (both of which are exploiting South Sudan’s oil) in the UN Security Council. While South Sudanese have been traditionally expecting, and indeed received, much help from the US, the Obama’s Administration has, beyond any reasonable doubt, proven to be the biggest disappointment so far, contrary to candidate Obama’s promises.

Condemning “indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilian targets [as] unjustified and unacceptable” the Obama’s Administration, which has long been routinely reluctant to take on the NCP-led Khartoum regime, hence giving them all the tacit freedom to wreck havoc that they could only have dreamed of under President Bush’s Administration, offers the following tampered reaction to the latest escalation of violence on South Sudan:

“The United States strongly condemns in the clearest possible terms the bombing by Sudan Armed Forces on both sides of the international border. Indiscriminate aerial attacks on civilian targets are unjustified and unacceptable. The attacks violate international law, escalate the ongoing crisis that erupted this summer in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and increase the potential for direct confrontation between the two sovereign neighbors. The bombing should cease immediately and restraint be exercised by all parties to prevent further escalation of hostilities. The United States supports non-violent efforts to transform Sudan into an inclusive, democratic state” [VOA].

But it is notevery American that holds the same view of Khartoum government—as a reasonable government rule by rational beings that you can logically argue and negotiate with—as the Obama’s administration does. In his article “Secretary Clinton: Action, Not Words for Sudan” featured in the Huffington Post, Tom Andrews, the former US Congressman from Maine, writes:

“Wanted war criminal and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir continues to ratchet up a campaign of violence and humanitarian assault that, if left unchecked, could one day equal his achievement in Darfur. His latest attacks included bombing villages in South Sudan, targeting refugees and creating conditions that could lead to armed conflict with the newly independent nation” [Huffington Post].

And closer to home, Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, during a joint press conference he held with President Salva Kiir Mayardit at the Entebbe Statehouse, called on President Omer El-Bashir to stop his aggressions against the Republic of South Sudan [allAfrica.com]. An all-weather friend of the SPLM/A and the people of South Sudan, President Museveni could offer a gateway for South Sudan to galvanize the backing of the East Africa community as well as much of the Sub-Saharan African countries within the AU in the face of Khartoum aggression.

Indispensable as the international and regional assistance might be, true salvation, however, lies within the borders of South Sudan. Whereas the effort of the Government of South Sudan through Hon. Bol Makueng, the SPLM Secretary for Information, Culture and Communication, may be appreciated as a right step in the right direction, it is not just satisfactory, given the urgency and the gravity of the current situation, for the SPLM-led government to just declare that:

“All the people of South Sudan are asked to be united behind your SPLM leadership at this time when the independence and sovereignty of the motherland is under threat from the colonial government of Sudan.” [SPLM’s Press Release]

Concerted organization and holding of public demonstrations is the answer. Imagine if the SPLM-led South Sudanese government had simultaneously organized nationwide public demonstrations in all ten states—in Juba, Wau, Torit, Bor, Malakal, Rumbek,Bentiu, Kuacjok, Aweil and Yambio. Imagine how powerful that SPLM’s press statement would have been had it been read in each of those ten capital cities, by the respective state governors flanked by all leaders of South Sudanese political parties in those states.

Imagine if President Kiir’s bloated cabinet had come out before the cameras to read that SPLM’s press release denouncing the blatant violation of South Sudan’s sovereignty by Khartoum. Better still, imagine, if President Kiir had come out, flanked by all the leaders of South Sudanese political parties in Juba, in front of international press, to criticize and rebuke Khartoum’s hostility.

Just imagine if the statement was read in front of a roaring crowds, condemning Khartoum unprovoked aggression against, and illegal incursion into, the sovereign state of South Sudan. Imagine if, before unleashing that powerful—but peaceful—tool, the government of South Sudan had intentionally invited international press to broadcast and internationalize the outrage that Khartoum’s belligerence had ignited from within the patriotic masses of South Sudan.

I mean, even if we, South Sudanese, had to grudgingly acknowledge the fact that our army, the SPLA, may not be in a perfect shape to defend and secure our borders, the effective deployment of national and international media and the efficient organization of public protestations are not endeavors that would call for the humiliating retreat of our army nor a death of anyone.

Our veteran political journalists—Atem Yaak Atem, Jacob Akol of Gurtong, Nhial Bol of The Citizen and Alfred Taban of Khartoum Monitor (though I have not heard of him since July 9th)among others—could be called upon to provide the means and the platforms to confront the government of President Al-Bashir of Sudan.

These veteran wordsmiths proved themselves crucial to our cause during the war of liberation. In the face of these unprecedented onslaughts from the north, President Kiir and Vice President Dr. Machar may as well recall them for this latest national duty. Similarly, Dr. James Okuk, Dengdit Ayok and Ngor Garang should make use of the public sympathy they garnered from South Sudanese, following their incarceration by President Kiir’s government.

The three gentlemen should capitalize on their predicaments—call it a blessing in disguise, making lemonade out of lemons or what have you—by leading a countrywide tour condemning the violent and irresponsible activities of Al-Bashir government against the people of South Sudan. In the process, they will kill two birds with one stone: galvanizing and solidifying South Sudanese national fury and resentment against Khartoum as well as teaching President Kiir a vital lesson about the essential role of the media in South Sudan.

And while the home front would be all up in arm, the Seventh Front—the Diaspora community—could be organize and use to inform and sensitize the international community about Khartoum bad-neighborliness. Huge three-day public demonstrations in Washington DC, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Sidney, Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg etc could be as powerful and effective as sending SPLA into a full-scale war with the SAF. These could be all done smoothly without casualties, or any further danger of escalations of the violence, to worry over.

In African societies, there are two main occasions wherein public gathering is a norm: celebration of happy events and the mourning of the bad ones. We did come out on July 9, this year, to celebrate the birth of a new born baby. Sadly, that baby is now a confirmed threatened species in its mere infancy! As the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews of this little creature, our natural impulses would have been to marshal our army toward off the danger.

But that option, understandably, carries much more risks than panacea. That, however, does not necessarily mean that we surrender the endangered baby—our sovereignty, our dignity, our future and our heritage as a nation—to the inevitability of the beckoning fate. We must embrace the press and public demonstrations to channel our anger and to fight our wars.

When push comes to shove, even media propaganda is an acceptable and justifiable tool to confront the devil. Juba must confront Khartoum’s aggression against the people of South Sudan.

You can reach PaanLuel Wël at [email protected], PaanLuel Wel (Facebook page), PaanLuelWel2011 (Twitter account) or through his blog account at: http://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com//

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