Open Letter to the President of the Republic of South Sudan

Presidential Palace
Juba, South Sudan
Date: Friday 9 December 2011

Mr. President,

December 9, 2011 (SSNA) — Observing the sequence of the current unwholesome political developments in my country of South Sudan, I feel inclined to offer a contemplative comment which may assist in addressing the quandary afflicting the Republic of South Sudan. With this humble preamble stated, I would very much like to solemnly and honestly cogitate on the matters below:

1. National Defence

The ability of the government of the Republic of South Sudan to steadfastly defend and sustain the country’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity, citizens and the broad array of national interests that includes practical attempts at deracinating the flourishing venality (corruption), as well as inventing pacific methods of resolving the rolling internal armed conflicts in the country would definitely be appreciated and should thus crest the official business agenda of your government.

One would intuitively presume that the government of South Sudan would swiftly embark on the defence of its citizens as a matter of exigency, a move which would have seen an instant halt to Khartoum’s incessant military forays and aerial attacks in the border areas of the new Country. Regrettably, the government of South Sudan has chosen to progressively remain passive and evidently feeble, in the face of Khartoum’s aggressive posture, and deplorably, saddling South Sudanese population with yet another stint of excruciating humiliations, after they (people) have endured nearly half a century of Khartoum’s, horrific brutality, maiming, rape and wanton killings in South Sudan. It is an utter shock to all to realize that the government of South Sudan is either incapable or lacks the willpower to defend its citizens from external aggression, contrary to the most rudimentary construct and phraseology in the country’s Constitution that calls for the defence of South Sudan’s sovereignty and its people. Needless to state here that under section 51 of the United Nations Charter, the country possesses the inherent right to defend its territorial integrity and political independence from external aggression. Alas, it is the unfathomable morass and lack of visible and viable acuity that have permeated the new country’s national strategic thinking which in turn has expounded Khartoum’s belligerent and arrogant attitude towards the new country.

Mr. President,

Your leadership has repeatedly on a number of occasions stated that South Sudan would never ever go to war despite Sudan’s relentless military aggression against South Sudan’s citizens. One is doubtful as to whether letting Khartoum aware of your government’s limitations in terms of military capabilities in defending the new country is the right thing to do. Disclosing to Khartoum that you will not respond to aggression from Sudan’s military does certainly embolden the NCP government to increase its assaults on the people of South Sudan believing that Khartoum would always get away with such criminal habits and practices, furthermore Khartoum finds it quite an effective stratagem and leverage to exert excessive military pressure on the Republic of South Sudan as a method of gaining maximum concessions at the current post-secession talks with your government.

This is not tantamount to declaring that South Sudan should adopt a confrontational resonance and stance towards its knotty northern neighbour, but your government should physically demonstrate to all and principally reassure the citizens of the new country that South Sudan would no longer tolerate brazen bellicosity and is set to repulse any incursions into its territory at all cost in order to shield its citizens from harm. It is discernably credulous and rather pathetic for your government to dwell on trumpeting distress signals to the international community for assistance without first taking an initiative, whilst it is abundantly clear that the new country possesses what it takes to militarily protect its citizens. The persistent raids along the South-North border areas have lamentably become moreover familiar phenomena to the extent that it’s now creating widespread sense of despair, anxiety and despondency among the citizens. While Juba strictly instructs its soldiers in those areas to absolutely do nothing that might provoke Sudan’s army into further action, Khartoum sends its air force to lay havoc mostly on civilian targets in South Sudan. Admittedly, you can’t unilaterally succeed in preserving peace if the antagonistic party doesn’t subscribe to it, and turning the other cheek with the intention of lessening the trouble does not actually work, it is futile and definitely counterproductive.

It would have worked out well without major protracted military engagements if the South Sudan border guards had immediately launched a counter attack on the intruders and driven them out of Abyei. The concerns being widely articulated in the highest echelon of government in Juba at the time  that Khartoum was prepared to thwart the independence of South Sudan was incontestably ill-conceived or rather gullible to state the least. An insightful leader constantly surrounded by a retinue of aides and supposedly erudite advisors would almost certainly discover that the intention of the attack on Abyei was purely a combined canvass of sabre-rattling and brinkmanship, solely designed for the purpose of extracting excessive concessions in future negotiations with the Republic of South Sudan, rather than a masked format of starting up a war. Al Bashir had already accepted the invitation to attend and give a speech at the South Sudan’s independence celebration, it is inconceivable that he could inanely turn around to spoil the show and risk the wrath of all those countries that had agreed to send delegations or representatives to attend the independence ceremony in Juba. A plan of that sort could possibly have worked much earlier, probably during the Referendum voting period or during the counting of the votes, but not when the representatives of the world’s sole superpower were preparing to attend the celebrations. Furthermore, Sudan wouldn’t start another war against South Sudan while it is fatigued or exhausted from battling the various mushrooming rebel groups in its territory. Sudan’s economy was and still in a shamblesshape internal opposition to the regime is rife, a ticklish setting that could spark off another Arab Spring revolution in the Sudan at any slightest provocation. Not even China which is Sudan’s military guarantor would advise Omar Al Bashir to cuddle such imprudent and perilous spoor, as Beijing is more concerned with sustaining its economically rewarding dual-pronged policy of striving to maintain and palliate the two incompatible neighbouring countries in order to retain the flow of the oil to the insatiable Asian giant.

2. Post-Secession talks

i. Abyei

Mr. President,

It’s quite hard to envisage the pattern and progression of South Sudan’s overall policy towards the Republic of Sudan with regard to the post-secession negotiations. This is where there has disappointingly been a muddle or lack of pellucid direction. The government of South Sudan is continually shifting positions, thus undermining the quality of its argument. The Abyei Boundary Commission’s report (ABC) drawn up by the team of experts, and largely known as the ABC Report, did state that Abyei territory belonged to the Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms as of 1905, albeit Khartoum had long maintained that the ABC panel of experts had ‘exceeded their mandate’, the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague thought otherwise, affirming that the ABC did not exceed its mandate and that Abyei area belonged to the Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms. It is therefore hard to understand why the government of South Sudan is now talking of ‘comprehensive package’ that is considerable fortune that could be offered to the government of Sudan in exchange for the later to relinquish control of Abyei. South Sudan won’t offer financial or monetary inducements for its borderline to get demarcated by Sudan. Bribing Khartoum to demarcate the North-South border signifies a fundamental shift from conventional logic to the realm of senselessness, The fully mandated negotiating team and the President must understand that the return of Abyei to the fold is not via soothing or mollifying the government of Sudan through offer of “financial packages”, it is through liberation struggle, as we are not engaging in a lucrative business of mortgaging our territory; Abyei is an integral part of South Sudan and must be united with the new country whether sooner or later. The argument of the SPLM that any Referendum vote in the enclave must be exercised only by the people of the Nine Ngok is perceptively valid, and this should be the stance of the government of the Republic of South Sudan, no swinging of position. Hence, any repudiation of or withdrawal from this is sound stand point is synonymous with betraying the people of Abyei. Furthermore, the government of South Sudan should never rely on the United Nations organization, believing that the world body would intervene on its side in any eventuality involving war with Khartoum. It is worth noting that this is the very organization with battered reputation and pervaded with series of dramatic failures in its 66 years of existence. While the Hutus slaughtered hundreds of thousands Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1984, the UN which had more than 25,000 soldiers in the country at the time had merely stood by in eerie watching the carnage unfolding as if it was a Hollywood movie. Identical gruesome scenarios occurred in Malakal in 2006 and Abyei in 2009 in which UN troops stood helplessly while Khartoum’s forces massacred and maimed hundreds of civilians. It has never been the tradition of the UN to engage militarily in conflicts. The government of South Sudan must defend its own citizens, territorial integrity as well as political independence.

ii. Sudan Demands $15 billion US dollars to fix fiscal gap

South Sudan’s designated chief negotiator with the government of Sudan and South Sudan’s conscientious official, had recently before departing for Addis Ababa to attend the latest round of talks with Khartoum, did indicate willingness to consider Sudan’s demand of $15 billion on condition that Sudan accepted a ‘comprehensive agreement’ on the outstanding issues, and he had boldly made the following statement: “South Sudan is ready to help the Republic of Sudan financially in order to fill its financial gaps.” Alike, the African Union did propose a modest sum to the tune of $5.4 billion to be paid to Khartoum by the Republic of South Sudan, for the so called fixing of Sudan’s fiscal gap. Arguably, there is hardly any single justifiable reason for the Republic of South Sudan to offer the government of Sudan such substantial sums of money. Such a capitulatory view won’t abet South Sudan, but spawns shattering outcome for the new country.  The people of South Sudan do not need to pay for seceding from the Republic of Sudan or for liberating themselves from Sudan’s horrendous misrule. The secession of South Sudan emanated from long years of sacrifices and bloodletting as underscored by Ms. Susan Rice, the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations who represented her country at South Sudan’s independence official ceremony on 9th July 2011, she noted that the independence of South Sudan was not a gift, but won through struggle. It’s thus tricky to twig the wisdom of placating the NCP rulers through awarding of princely financial compensation in order for Sudan to facilitate and accelerate the demarcation of the South-North borderline, or soften NCP’s stance in order for Khartoum to relinquish the control and handover the jurisdiction of Abyei to the Republic of South Sudan.

Presumably, Sudan has devised a perspicacious strategy of involving South Sudan to pay off part of the former’s foreign debts of 38 billion dollars. If that is the case, then South Sudan is at full liberty to demur contributing to Sudan’s debt repayments as it is an odious debt, that is, the debt was secured or incurred without the consent of the people of South Sudan and not for their benefit. The prodigal government of President Al Bashir had massively invested in procurements of advanced military equipment to vigorously pursue the war in South Sudan, killing and maiming millions. South Sudan which was an integral part of the Republic of Sudan was left in absolute ruins. The demand for the $15 billion made by Khartoum and seemingly accepted by the government of South Sudan represents nothing less than an act of downright profligacy and credulity on the part of the policy makers in Juba. Conversely, the government of South Sudan is not paying war reparation to Sudan to cover damage or injury, to the contrary, Khartoum should be declared the guilty party by the UN and the government of Sudan should be required to pay for the extensive destruction in South Sudan including the maiming and killings of millions by its unrestrained feral forces. At the Treaty of Versailles in July 1919, after the conclusion of the First World War, Germany was forced to pay war reparations for being the guilt party, but does South Sudan need to pay compensation for the triumphant manumission of its people?

iii. Oil sharing/rental or transit fees

Little wonder that, as a commodity of increasingly strategic prominence in our time, petroleum has for a long time been an object of geopolitical wrangling as well as squall of confrontation in a number of areas around the world. Irrefutably, oil plays a central role in shaping global politics. It was used as a leverage tool in the 1973 oil embargo by mainly the Arab members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to craft and influence a political outcome in their favour.

In the case of the Republic of South Sudan, it is seemingly a lugubrious scenario as Khartoum confidently wields a huge clout over the oil industry at the moment. Sudan’s control of South Sudan’s oil was confirmed by Ali Ahmed Osman, the Sudanese state minister of oil who recently made the following bold press statements: “We are not going to shut the pipeline, we’re not going to shut any well, we are not going to stop any company, because we have an agreement with the companies”. “The share of the companies will be exported,” (Sudan tribune: Sunday 29 November 2011).

From the preceding conceited remarks of Sudan’s oil minister, it is amply plain that Khartoum exercises boundless control over South Sudan oil which constitutes the mainstay of the latter’s economy. The government of Sudan also maintains separate packages of oil agreements with various external parties on the oil resource of a supposedly independent country. If Sudan could freely shut down the oil wells in the Republic of South Sudan, does it any longer make sense to refer to South Sudan as an independent sovereign country? How would the new country survive, let alone develop itself, given the current poignant entanglements and perplexities of the country’s leadership? How far do South Sudanese have to travel along that tragic trajectory? South Sudanese shouldn’t be dragged on to share in moments of utter disgrace and silent embarrassment. The current ambiance of indecision that oscillates between whether to rent Sudan’s oil facilities or share oil revenue with Khartoum makes a great deal of mockery of the quality and orientation of thinking in Juba. This is because those wielding power are more often inclined to exercising arbitrary decisions, and consequently ampler consultations are hardly made in tackling matters of vital importance. A case in point was the undemocratic and controversial Resolution of the Council of Ministers that unilaterally decided for the relocation of the capital city of the country from Juba to Ramchiel without involving the National Parliament. This move by the Council of Ministers is neither a healthy proposition to pursue nor the correct thing to do at the moment. If we are settling in for a genuine democracy, then let’s do it decorously right from the start and not otherwise. Certainly, moving the capital city at this moment when the country has the most pressing priorities unattended to makes an amusing anecdote.

As oil features saliently in South Sudan’s economy and as a resource of critical importance to the oil-reliant country it follows that decisions vis-à-vis the oil resource should be handled judiciously and I must state here that direct and effective control of the oil through a South Sudan’s state oil company should be established and if realized, this would largely be seen as a prerequisite for asserting the country’s sovereignty. The country’s authorities should streamline a sensible and sustainable policy for dealing with the resource, in order that its citizens benefit from it.

The Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the Republic of South Sudan is on record for asserting that the rental fees for Sudan’s oil facilities must be fixed in conformity with international practices. Propitiously, South Sudan’s leaders on this point are on the right track and the same page, this time, unanimously arguing and advocating for “rental fees” as opposed to” sharing”. It would be utterly incredible and quite absurd that any individual, group or organization would contemplate a split of South Sudan’s oil resource between the two neighbouring countries. The African Union and a number of countries outside the continent have more often made cryptic references to oil sharing rather than rental fees. Such unhealthy and unfair submissions should be dismissed by the people of South Sudan with scarcely any misgivings. South Sudanese must resolve their own problem and never ever think that someone somewhere would step in to present magic solutions to their problems. The African Union (AU) akin to its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has always been of insignificant value to the continent’s population. Darfur is one of the lingering testimonies of AU’s chronicles of failures in Africa. It is morally incorrect for the AU to suggest that the government of South Sudan paid the sum of $5.4 billion dollars to Sudan to mend up the latter’s abysmal economy, while ignoring the bestial and inexcusable conduct and paroxysms of Sudan military in unleashing extensive and systematic murder, looting including a scheme of the deliberate spreading of HIV Aids through rape spree in South Sudan. It is the citizens of the new country that justly deserve the right to compensation or war reparation from the government of Sudan, and not the other way round. The next round of talks must seriously tackle South Sudan’s genuine concerns, not on the reading of the AU, UN or any other organization or country.

1. Control of the oil wells of South Sudan

Mr. President,

It makes minimal or no sense at all for the continued occupation of South Sudan oil production regions and oil wells by the Sudan government’s forces It is equally an unpardonable blunder on the part of the government of South Sudan to be reclusive while Khartoum liberally steals the oil. The statement made by Khartoum that it will deduct 23 percent of the oil to cover for the costs of the use of its oil facilities is nothing but a revelation of state-sponsored grand theft in its classical sense, and this state of affair has been going on since Khartoum began exporting the first oil consignment to the international market more than 15 years ago. I have gathered from a trustworthy source that Khartoum has been pumping over 1,000,000 bpd of the oil over the years, contrary to the 500,000 bpd declaration. The government of Sudan has probably colluded with Chinese engineers and oil officials to report figures which are far below the actual production level figures, in order to defraud the people and government of South Sudan and derive handsome gains. Juba appears to be utterly in the dark about the scale of the oil theft. I would suggest that the government of South Sudan takes the first step of informing the UN Security Council of the development and formally request the government of Sudan to withdraw its forces controlling the oil wells. It is absolutely absurd to argue that Khartoum’s forces are there to safeguard the oil wells. How much do we pay them for doing that sort of work in our territory? Unless the government of South Sudan deploys its own troops on the ground to secure the oil wells, and Juba takes up the real supervisory and administrative work on the ground Khartoum will continue with its robbing splurge, until the oil wells run dry.

2. Stymieing Politics and the Alternatively Pipeline

Recent media reports have surfaced with incredible stories suggesting that the oil of South Sudan would not justify a construction of pipelines to alternative seaport of a another country other than Port Sudan, and the flimsy excuse offered is that the oil reserves are dwindling fast and would not be of a commercial quantity. It would be worthwhile for the government of South Sudan to solicit the assistance of independent experts to conduct an assessment and determine whether or not these stories carry any credible weight. A cursory look appears that both Khartoum and Beijing are behind those uncorroborated fables and anecdotes, While Sudan would like to keep on stealing South Sudan’s oil that flows through its pipelines, China prays that there are no modifications to its current scheme of things that might turn out to be unpleasant to Beijing rulers. So such a strategy might involve officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to disclose to the world media of the depletion of the oil reserves of South Sudan. Such a story would persuade the government of South Sudan to abandon or suspend the pipeline project, making Khartoum the winner, which would further bilk South Sudanese and purloin their oil. The construction of the pipelines should be prioritized and built by a foreign company in collaboration with the government of South Sudan. Three to five years’ time could witness the end of our country using the extortionate or usurious facilities of the government of Sudan. It is up to the government of the Republic of South Sudan whether to pursue the right course by advancing on to initiate the alternative pipeline project to Kenya and instantly dismiss what appears to be a coordinated scheme of deception and dupe or continue with the status quo and risk the outcome.

3. End the sporadic rebellion peacefully

If the government of South Sudan invests substantially on pursuing some pacific methods to prevent the escalation of the undulating internal armed conflicts in the country; it would immensely contribute to serenity and long lasting stability that comes with all the consequential spin-offs of a stable country. Seemingly, it is hard to do so at the moment as Khartoum embarks on a grand scheme of recruiting, training and arming some sections of the South Sudanese community with the aim of creating instability in the breakaway part of the former Sudan, while Sudan army annexes the oil-rich border regions, and declaring those areas as defining the January 1, 1956 colonial configuration. The government of Sudan being the main player has always sought to control the resources of South Sudan. Oil which has become the citadel of Sudan’s economy is at the centre of the conflict. The claims made about the causes of the rebellion, cannot be substantiated, because the various rebels groups have become militia forces aligned to Sudan military, launching joint operations with Khartoum’s forces of doom. As an exercise of national duty, the government of South Sudan should always drive back any incursions from across the border while concurrently engaging some of the rebels in peace talks. The prevalent assumption that driving back any invaders from across the border would result in war between South Sudan and Sudan is visibly flawed. The amnesty granted to the rebel leaders by your government is quite commendable. Engaging the rebels in peace talks could deprive them from their local supporters who swell the ranks of those rebel groups, thus benefiting and bolstering the efforts of the Sudan armed forces.


In view of the aforesaid matters, the government of South Sudan either proceeds on swiftly to stand on the cusp of making one of the most sanguine decisions ever made that could shape the destiny of the citizens of the new country for the better, or else risk an unpalatable sequel. However, it might be a lot safer and worthwhile to ruminate on the following counsels:

(A)   Defending the country, its citizens and territorial integrity is the rudimentary duty and responsibility of the government of South Sudan. To progressively remain docile and militarily drained in the face of Khartoum’s aggressive practices demonstrates futility and an utter lack of responsibility. Sudan is applying both brinkmanship and sabre-rattling game to extract maximum gains from South Sudan at the negotiating table. Furthermore, it would be better for the authorities in the country to refrain from telling Khartoum that South Sudan would never go to war with the north whatever the level of provocations, this is quite awful and is definitely playing into the hands of the enemy. It is better to say “we are capable of defending ourselves” and truly mean it than to say “ we are not going to war”

(B)   South Sudan should streamline its overall policy towards the Republic of Sudan with regard to the post-secession negotiations. The issue of Abyei enclave was decided by the Hague-based Arbitration Court. What remains to be executed is the border demarcation, while the question of voting at the Referendum in the area remains the sole prerogative of the Dinka Ngonk People. The government of South Sudan should ensure that this solid stance is maintained. Offering Khartoum substantial sums of money to relinquish control of Abyei and hand it over to the government of South Sudan is manifestly an absolute failure of the authorities in Juba.

(C)   The government of South Sudan being misled by the African Union has shown willingness to offer $15 billion to Khartoum for what commonly known as the “fixing of fiscal gap”. If this grand fantasy is realised, it would constitute the worst letdown and a catastrophic financial mistake in Africa’s contemporary record. Khartoum does not deserve any compensation, equally Juba does not need to compensate the Jallaba for destroying and enslaving South Sudanese, to the contrary Sudan should pay war reparations to the government and people of the Republic of South Sudan.

(D)   No sharing of oil revenues between Juba and Khartoum, but negotiations on oil facility rental and transit fees are the issue to discuss. The transit fees, as stated by the South Sudan’s SPLM General Secretary must be in harmony with universal practice as opposed to Khartoum’s oafish and stroppy demand. The government of the Republic of South Sudan should immediately initiate the processes of constructing oil pipelines to a Kenyan seaport for the export of South Sudan’s crude oil. Sudan and probably other parties might have been responsible for the falsehood and story that South Sudan’s oil is depleting fast and would not warrant a construction of pipelines any longer. This action is to prevent South Sudan from independently controlling its oil resource and make Port Sudan the only possibility that South Sudan would rely on for oil exports. Khartoum must not be allowed to steal South Sudan’s oil by deducting the 23 percent that the NCP leaders have agreed upon. The legal action to be taken by the government of South Sudan will certainly not work. The single most effective solution lies in the removal of Sudan’s army that controls the oil wells and to be followed by the deployment of South Sudan army contingents so as to guard the oil wells, thus making it practically impossible for the Jallaba to steal the oil. Absence of such a stern measure will categorically be a complete fiasco. The Abyei Court verdict should feature as a reminder.

(E)    There is no alternative to talking to the various rebel groups’ leaders, more fighting will only engender brutality and counter brutality. The NCP leaders must be made to understand that it doesn’t pay to continue sponsoring rebellion in South Sudan as they too have a soft belly to explore.

Thank You Mr. President

Peter Lokarlo Marsu
Former casual Lecturer,
Graduate School of Business and Law (GSBL),
RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia
Copies to: Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Juba
Cc. Hon. Mr. Pagan Amum Okiech, SPLM General Secretary, Juba
Cc. Hon. Mr. James Wani Igga, Speaker of the National Assembly, Juba
Cc. The respective State Governors of the Republic of South Sudan
Cc. Hon Lt. Gen. Nhial Deng Nhial, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Juba
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