Has Kiir ordered South Sudan Army (SPLA) to withdraw or to defend the nation against Khartoum’s military incursion?

By: John Bith Aliap, Adelaide Australia

January 8, 2013 (SSNA) — Khartoum’s aggression on the Republic of South Sudan has well been documented and the so-called international community which can be described as nothing less other than a global business organization remains voiceless to condemn Khartoum’s desert guerillas about international crimes they have been committing against the citizens of a sovereign nation-the Republic of South Sudan. The regime  led by the most wanted men on the  earth has long been yearning to invade the Republic of South Sudan, but events in the past, notably ‘Panthou battle’ have arguably changed rules of the game in the rump city of Khartoum and made things go against Islamists’  long-held ambition of Arab expansionism in Africa.

As it has been shown in South-North Sudans’ history, the colonial hangover which influences Juba and Khartoum’s relations rewards Khartoum with a false impression that South Sudan… [the dear part of Sudan as it’s commonly referred to in Khartoum] could easily be conquered, but the jihadists – blinded by their desert religion ‘Islam’ are utterly unaware that the Invasion of South Sudan cannot be as easy as attending mosque prayers. Panthou survivors can tell the rest of story.  

After the final conclusion of Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] which resulted to the birth of the Republic of South Sudan, Khartoum’s ambitious invasion on this newly formed nation has long been anticipated. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s minister of Information and Broadcasting had this to say and I quote: “We urge our citizens in Northern Bahr el Ghazal…in northern Upper Nile, … in Unity state and we urge our citizens in Western Bahr el Ghazal that they should be alert because the Sudan People’s Liberation Army will protect its territory,” Gurtong 30th December 2012.

However, despite recent Khartoum’s boarder incursion, the ability of South Sudan Army [SPLA] in honoring its constitutional obligations cannot be underestimated. Last year, Khartoum’s gangs brought up in Arab-Islamic chauvinistic environment were forced to believe unbelievable when uniformed fearless South Sudanese sons and daughters made a courageous decision to stormed ‘Panthou’- the stolen land of South Sudan and remained in control there for good ten memorable days-and withdrew due to international pressure. Historically, Khartoum has always prides itself as a big boy when dealing with the Republic of South Sudan, but with demoralized forces made up of conscripts who are usually round up at schools, shopping malls and other public gathering places, things can be different in the battle field than expected in Khartoum; and SPLA has clearly demonstrated this in Panthou and recently in Northern and Western Bhar el Ghazal states.  

In recent weeks, fresh fighting at the border between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces has become a chewing gum phenomenon, and this has forced scores of border communities to flee their homes. On the 26th of December 2012, Sudan Armed Forces [SAF] attacked SPLA positions in Warguet-Northern Bahr el Ghazal state resulting to unconfirmed number of people dead Radio Dabanga 26th December 2012. Not long even before those killed in Northern Bhar el Ghazal were buried, Khartoum’s fighter-bombers and ground troops launched another barbaric attacks in Western Bhar el Ghazal in which several soldiers and civilians were killed and wounded Reuters- January 3rd, 2013.

The Republic of South Sudan which recently joined the list of global sovereign nations expects that the international community would condemn Khartoum’s aggressive behavior, but surprisingly, it has neither condemned Khartoum’s aggression nor has it issued a single condolence message to families of those killed by Khartoum’s invading forces. This situation leaves South Sudanese to ask: What’s preventing the international community from seeing the writing on the wall. However, the people of South Sudan are urging the international community to shun its historical double standards if it’s serious in solving post referendum issues which have been lingering between Juba and Khartoum since the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. The international community, which is seen as Khartoum’s ally should be reminded that South Sudanese are more determined to continue protecting their nation until a logical conclusion is found.

Although the international community takes its own share of blame in Juba and Khartoum’s antagonism, Kiir also deserves scrutiny. The withdrawal of South Sudanese troops along Khartoum-made disputed border areas has recently becomes Kiir’s  John Kudusi song in Juba. In his highly publicized New Year Eve’s speech, Kiir announced: ‘the Republic of South Sudan will withdraw its troops from border areas to allow for the operation of the proposed demilitarized border zone with Sudan. We are temporarily withdrawing our forces from the immediate boarder areas. This will allow the demilitarized border to be operational. We hope that these arrangements will make sure that peace and stability is maintained along our common border’ Sudantribune December 31st 2012.

The above statement sounds promising to peace-loving nations, individuals and groups, but Islamists in Khartoum may have differing view to it.  Given Khartoum’s border incursion policy, the term ‘withdrawal’ which appeared in Kiir’s speech is too big to digest and South Sudanese seem to be even more allergic to hear this terminology based on their decades-long and back-breaking struggle with Khartoum. However, although Kiir’s recent announcement of troops withdrawal may have been destined to appease the international community- and perhaps to gain political points in the current round of talks in Addis Ababa, this decision has drawn fierce criticisms and a simmering anger among South Sudanese –especially in border communities. Therefore, unless it’s meant for political purposes, the decision to withdraw troops along the disputed border in the current atmosphere of Khartoum’s military threats remains unpopular and worth abandoning.

In the face of rigorous criticisms, Kiir seems to have taken off his trademark cow boy hate and revised his decision of troops’ withdrawal along the disputed border. In a report entitled ‘Kiir calls on SPLA to defend South Sudan before leaving for Bashir summit’ published on the 4th of January 2013 on Sudantribune website, ‘Kiir called on the country citizens to mobilize against the ground and air attacks carried against strategic border territories of Northern and Western Bhar el Ghazal states over the past few weeks’ Sudantribune January 4th 2013. This statement has long been over due and it sends a clear message to Khartoum that Juba is running of patience, and it will not tolerate any further provocations. In the last few months or so, South Sudanese have been complaining that Kiir is too soft to adequately deal with Khartoum-hence incapable of leading such a conflict-ridden nation, but the above rhetoric which calls for mobilization of citizens against Khartoum’s repeated aggression will likely change rules of the game and restores the nearly lost trust, hope and confidence on SPLM-led government.

According to Cooperation Agreement signed in Addis Ababa on the 27th of September 2012, Juba and Khartoum should unconditionally withdraw their troops out of disputed areas, but the implementation of this agreement has proven to be  an emotional roller coaster-especial on Juba’s side whose its historical  border  areas were intentionally  made disputable by Khartoum. However, despite doubts that surround this agreement, the Republic of South Sudan still has a responsibility to implement its share, but such implementation-especially withdraw of troops along the disputed border areas-which will allow the creation of Safe Demilitarized Border Zone [SDBZ] should be conditioned with the full deployment of neutral troops and the establishment of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission [JBVMM] prior to withdrawal. If Kiir agrees to withdraw South Sudanese troops along the disputed areas before the deployment of neutral troops, this will leave border communities in the air; and it would be a moral gigantic failure he has ever done in his life time. Based on the analysis done in this article, it remains to be seen whether Kiir has ordered South Sudan Army [SPLA] to withdraw or to defend the Republic of South Sudan against Khartoum’s military incursion given his two contradictory statements.

The author is a South Sudanese citizen and can be corresponded at [email protected]

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