Agriculture alternative to oil for development in South Sudan

By Jacob K. Lupai


February 14, 2012 (SSNA) — The media of recent have been full of lead news items about oil production shut down in South Sudan. The lead news items cover mainly two stakeholders, the Republic of Sudan and of South Sudan, with African Union’s High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) as a mediator between the two stakeholders. Until 8 July 2011 South Sudan was part of the Republic of Sudan. However, on 9 July South Sudan became an independent Republic and with it carrying most of known quantities of petroleum deposits. This left the Republic of Sudan reeling on the verge of bankruptcy as it had heavily relied on the exploitation of oil from fields in South Sudan. In retaliation the Republic of Sudan schemed to punish the Republic of South Sudan by stealing, diverting and confiscating oil to swell its coffers with looted oil money from South Sudan. This blatant scheme of looting South Sudan of its valuable oil resources made the President of the Republic of South Sudan to declare a halt to oil production as a direct response to the theft of oil by the Republic of Sudan. Led by people lacking in sensitivity and morals the Republic of Sudan threatened war with the Republic of South Sudan over oil that belongs to South Sudan. It is worth noting that the Republic of Sudan is led by the National Congress Party (NCP) which prides itself of following the path of God. However, as led by hypocrites who are in all probabilities a liability to the Republic of Sudan, the NCP has broken one of the Commandments of God, Thou shall not steal.

The role of AUHIP

It may be of interest to highlight the role of theAUHIP in the on-going oil crisis between the Republic of Sudan and that of South Sudan. It can be asserted that the intention to form the AUHIP was a noble one. It was a mechanism to defuse tensions between the new Republic of South Sudan and that of Sudan. It was like a go-between in a situation that might deteriorate into an open conflict of unknown consequences. The choice of Mr Thabo Mbeki, the former President of Republic of South Africa, must have been a carefully thought out plan. Mr Mbeki was a lead struggler against Apartheid in South Africa. He knew very well the injustices perpetrated by Apartheid. Eventually Mr Mbeki got the top job as the President of Republic of South Africa. He must have found it a daunting task to reverse completely the injustices perpetrated by Apartheid. Unfortunately internal politics did not allow Mr Mbeki to see through his term of office and the plan he might have had for South Africa in post Apartheid era. Out of job Mr Mbeki’s curriculum vitae (CV) must have been very impressive to the African Union which eventually employed him as the Chairman of the AUHIP to help bridge the gap by mediating negotiations on outstanding issues between the newly independent Republic of South Sudan and that of Sudan. Like South African Mr Mbeki must have known perfectly well that South Sudan had also struggled against injustices perpetrated by North Sudan. Since South Sudan is a sovereign independent country Mr Mbeki is duty bound to respect the independence of South Sudan. There is no way that Mr Mbeki should even think of a minute dependence of South Sudan on North Sudan especially for oil revenue vital for development and security. Mr Mbeki must be extra careful of Islamic zealots whose ambition is to islamise what they view as infidel Black Africans from Northern to Southern Africa in order to turn Africa into a sea of Islamic fanaticism and a springboard for subversion worldwide. Hopefully Mr Mbeki may not be the type of person who easily succumbs to the vice of Islamic zealots’ bribery. The role of the AUHIP should be seen as neutral, playing a fair game between the Republic of Sudan and that of South Sudan.

Priorities of South Sudan

A government sets its priorities as a reflection of the ruling party’s plan of action in delivering services to the people. A month after South Sudan was declared independent Republic the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, addressed the first joint sitting of the national legislature and the nation. In his address the President was like laying down the priorities of his government. The priorities are first education, second health, third infrastructure, fourth justice and rule of law, and fifth modern and professional army. Arguably the priorities can be expanded in details to include agriculture, sanitation and clean drinking water. The priorities set are a reflection of noble intentions of the government. Education is indeed a priority. This, however, should not only be limited to basic education. Importantly each state may need to have a technical institute of various fields of study to turn out middle level technicians vital for development efforts at the grassroots. For example, an agricultural institute will turn out professional agricultural workers that can transform traditional agriculture to a modern one capable of achieving food security. We also need technicians in the various fields such as public health, water harvesting, building and road construction, sanitation, plumbing, electricity and auto mechanics to mention but a few. However, what may be stated as a priority is one thing and what may actually take place on the ground is quite another. For example it was declared that within the first 100 days of the new government 30 new primary schools and 4 new secondary schools would be under construction. It is not clear to what extent this has been achieved on the ground. It is also not clear to what extent 600,000 children have been vaccinated against deadly diseases within the first 100 days of the new government. On justice and rule of law the picture may be depressing indeed. People are being killed for their money by people in uniform and land is being grabbed from legitimate owners by people in military uniform without due process of justice and rule of law. How can a modern and professional army terrorise people for their legitimate right to land they own? Where is the evidence that the army is disciplined or being disciplined not to molest law abiding and innocent civilians? Presumably the army is not yet modern and professional. This is the challenge to the President on his priorities on justice and rule of law, and modern and professional army.

Agricultural development in South Sudan

The President, who has received countrywide support, has shut down oil production in South Sudan because of the cheating by the Republic of Sudan. This has obviously robbed South Sudan of the bulk of revenue for vital services to the people. This, however, should be seen as something positive in the effort to diversify. Diversification should have been something adopted earlier. Nonetheless, it seems policy makers and development planners have been very slow. It can be asserted that priorities were poorly set. For example, it is widely accepted that agriculture is the backbone of the economies of countries including the Republic of South Sudan in Sub Saharan Africa. However, investment in agriculture has always been very low. In the Draft Budget 2011 of the Government of Southern Sudan, Education was 5.1 per cent, Health 3.7, Infrastructure (Transport and Roads) 9.2, Justice and Rule of Law (Judiciary and Internal Affairs) 10 and SPLA and Veteran Affairs 25.6 per cent of the total budget. Education which was mentioned as first priority only got 5.1 per cent of the total budget in contrast to Justice and Rule of Law, and Modern and professional Army mentioned as priorities fourth and fifth which got the lion’s shares of 10 and 25.6 per cent respectively. Despite the impressive budgetary allocations to Justice and Rule of Law, and Modern and professional Army insecurity is worrying. People are killed at any time for their money by people in uniform and land is also being grabbed by people in military uniform.

As to confirm insecurity is worrying, on 11 February at about 11am near Konyokonyo market in Juba an incident occurred that would have turned uglier. A man who seemed to be in his late twenties was trying to hit a woman but the man was being restrained. In exasperation the man threw a plastic chair at the woman. When he could not get close enough to the woman probably to beat her up, the man released a bullet from a pistol. Fortunately the bullet was shot onto the ground and no one was hurt. One brave man who seemed to be an acquaintance of the man with the pistol kept on restraining the man. The man with the pistol had a pair of hand cups attached to his belt. With a pistol and a pair of hand cups one could speculate that the man was most probably a security agent. Of concern is how could a security agent who was supposed to keep public tranquility was involved in scaring people by fighting and shooting with a pistol in public? Where is the discipline of a professional security agent if the man was indeed a security agent? The man who had a pistol and a pair of hand cups could have easily arrested the woman instead of using a chair as a missile and wasting a bullet by shooting onto ground. This may be a challenge to the President for his priority on justice and rule of law.


There shouldn’t be a panic about the halt in oil production. South Sudan is blessed with abundant fertile soils and uncultivated virgin lands that can sustain agricultural production for centuries to come. What is important is to prioritise agriculture as one of the top priorities for the needed revenue for development. Investment in agriculture is the key. Also there has to be commitment to the agricultural sector. The culture of total dependence on goods produced by other countries should be discouraged at any cost. Partial dependence may be allowed to cover a shortfall in our production efforts but total dependence may only confirm our complacency. Seven years is long enough for people to have learned lessons.

In conclusion, budgetary allocations should reflect the priority accorded the agricultural sector for self-reliance in production for revenue and food security. According to the Draft Budget 2011 Agriculture and Forestry got only an insignificant 0.9 per cent of the total budget. A budget of 10-25 per cent for the agricultural sector will be at least sufficient for the sector to take off as expected. This should be treated with great importance attached in light of the loss of revenue from oil production. The agricultural budget can be realized through the attraction of investment in the sector.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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