By Jacob K. Lupai
February 14, 2012 (SSNA) — In the 1980s about four-fifths of Sudan’s commercial energy requirement was provided by imported petroleum and petroleum products, and foreign exchange costs for oil imports amounted to over 60 per cent of earnings from merchandise export. It can therefore be seen that greater efforts were being made for the discovery of domestic petroleum deposits to lessen Sudan’s dependence on external sources. In those endeavours major finds of petroleum deposits occurred in Unity State in Southern Sudan and this marked the beginning of the exploitation of southern oil by the Sudanese government for the development of the North. This partly resulted to a conflict which developed into a full blown war of liberation by the South that lasted for decades.
Comprehensive peace agreement
From the time of the discovery of substantial petroleum deposits in Southern Sudan, the war of liberation dragged on for a little over two decades. Despite enormous resources devoted to the war the exploitative North could not win an outright victory over the struggling South. With international pressure and internal contradictions the trembling North had no choice but to maneuver its way out of the conflict it had imposed on the South through a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). Importantly the CPA stipulated that after the interim period agreed upon the South would decide in a referendum whether to be part of Sudan or opt to be an independent country in its own right. In the interim period the revenue from oil in the South would be divided equally with the North. However, more often the North played games by fiddling with figures for oil from fields in the South. In short the North cheated the South of the oil revenue. The South was getting less than what was expected as equal share. However, the South seemed to have avoided rocking the boat at any cost because of the stronger aspiration for independence from the northern domination, marginalization and oppression. Indeed what appeared as outrageous patience produced the desired result of ultimate independence to Southern Sudan.
Independence to Southern Sudan
In the dying days of the interim period Salva Kiir Mayardit the then President of the Government of Southern Sudan declared openly that unity of Sudan had not been made attractive. This set the scene for a protracted campaign for independence to Southern Sudan. Salva Kiir Mayardit warned that the date for the referendum was redline and asserted that any postponement would not be accepted under any circumstances. He boldly led from the front and indeed the referendum took place exactly on the prescribed date. As expected Southerners voted overwhelmingly for independence and predictably at the end of the interim period Southern Sudan was declared independent Republic of South Sudan which gained an instant worldwide recognition including recognition from North Sudan. However, some quarters had worries about the northern reaction to the separation of the South. Also worries were expressed about the stability of the South as independent of the North. Indeed five months after the declaration of Southern Sudan as independent Republic of South Sudan there are worries about northern vegetative reaction and rampant insecurity. This, however, has not diminished the southern firmed stand for independence. The period of five months since independence makes it too early to judge that South Sudan is a failed state.
Theft of oil from South Sudan
Salva Kiir Mayardit the President of Republic of South Sudan alerted the world of the theft of oil from South Sudan by Sudan. The theft of oil from southern fields is the northern reaction to the recently declared independence to Southern Sudan. This reaction has continued as threats of war and of course the daily theft of oil from South Sudan oil fields. This is to be expected from a neighbor that has been throughout the ages deceitful and a perpetual liar. This time the Republic of South Sudan has put it in black and white that the Republic of Sudan is a thief that needs nothing but the strongest worded condemnation possible not ruling out persecution. It is unfortunate that the African Union (AU) does not seem to see the Republic of Sudan as a warmonger and a thief that threatens regional peace and stability. The AU instead seems to encourage the Republic of South Sudan to be dependent on the warmongering Republic of Sudan. It is time for Mr. Tebi Mbeki to go as the chief of the AU panel on negotiations between South Sudan and Sudan.
The AU panel under Mr. Mbeki is setting a very dangerous precedent in conflict resolution by trying to create a dependency culture in South Sudan. South Sudan cannot be made to be at the mercy of very unpredictable police state like the Republic of Sudan ruled by demagogic Islamists who can blatantly commit an act of theft in broad day light without shame. South Sudan cannot depend on Sudan for its oil export for the badly needed foreign exchange for development and security while the Islamist demagogues confiscate and divert oil from South Sudan with impunity. The strategy is crystal clear. It is to starve the Republic of South Sudan of the vital revenue for development and security so that the Republic is seen as a failed state. Since the inception of the CPA this has been the overriding strategy of the arrogant Islamists in Sudan. However, the Islamists are wasting their time. Every South Sudanese is aware of their terrorist plans. It is only that the AU panel under Mr. Mbeki has become more of a liability than an asset.
Deterrent to theft of oil from South Sudan
It is now abundantly clear that the Republic of Sudan wants to drag the Republic of South Sudan to war. This is to save the Islamists from internal contradictions and possibly the Arab Spring. The wind of change will soon catch up with them. The people of Sudan and of South Sudan are one in aspirations. They all aspire for a peaceful co-existence and development for a decent standard of living. People do not want to shed tears for unnecessary loss of lives orchestrated by self-centered Islamists. We have had experience of wars that only the sadistic and the illiterate fanatics can contemplate a return to war. It was the Islamists who forced the people of South Sudan to separate from the North because of their false perception of paradise on earth when the path of God, in the form of Islamic Sharia, is followed. How can the theft of oil that belongs to others be the path of God?
Deterrent to war for the theft of oil from fields in South Sudan can only be achieved when the Republic of South Sudan has the military might that can make the Islamists to tremble. For now the Republic of Sudan has the upper hand as it can enter southern air space and bomb people with impunity. The suggestion is for the Republic of South Sudan to have an Air Force of its own that can send a clear message of warning to the demagogic Islamists to stay clear of the air space of the Republic of South Sudan. People in the Republic of Sudan may need a regime change for a peaceful co-existence of the two countries in the Nile Valley.
There is no short cut in stopping the theft of oil from South Sudan. It is the preparedness for war that in itself will be a deterrent to war and hence a deterrent by extension to the theft of the oil from South Sudan. Sudan may be encouraged to behave the way it does because of the phrase “no return to war” which seems to send a message of encouragement to the hawks in Khartoum to further intimidate South Sudan. We should be equally concentrating on building an advanced Air Force in Sub-Saharan Africa as a deterrent against adventurers. We should be able to patrol our skies and be ready to respond decisively when our air space is violated. The hawks in Khartoum need to understand that South Sudan oil fields are not fields for games. The games should have ended the moment Southern Sudan was declared independent.
In conclusion, an independent South Sudan should not tolerate any threat from any Islamist. It is therefore important to grow in military might to deter any demagogic Islamist invading our country and uniting it by force to the North. When an invasion occurs as when Idi Amin Dada of Uganda invaded Tanzania the war should advance rapidly to the centre for better prospects of lasting peaceful co-existence. The peripheries in Sudan are all in flames. So it should not be a mammoth task to see the back of the Islamists.
The author can be reached at [email protected]