South Sudan will be a good spectator, while its oil follows

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

June 17, 2013 (SSNA) — President al Bashir’s outburst at a rally in Khartoum North on 8 June, 2013 was yet one in hundreds of occasions on which he often gets carried away by not exactly a bravado so as to say, but it is one of these things engrained in his Arabized Nubian [Arabs of Sudan] mentality where a warrior would dance and boast of his knighthood in front of his tribe’s women.

To those who know him well, they know that this is not the man’s first time to use the wrong place and the wrong platform to issue such orders which often has far reaching consequences on his country. He again made it to the news headlines when he told that rally in Khartoum state that he had ordered his oil minister Awad al-Jaz to block the pipeline carrying landlocked South Sudan’s crude to Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, accusing Juba of continuing to support to the Sudanese rebels.

This is what al Bashir of Sudan said:

"O’ Awad [oil minister] tomorrow direct oil companies to close the pipeline and after that let them [South Sudan] take it via Kenya or Djibouti or wherever they want to take it", the Sudanese president said. And you can imagine him shouting, and dancing his stick dance.

"The oil of South Sudan will not pass through Sudan ever again," Bashir added.

In the early 1970s  and 80s it was the Libyan strong man the late Mouamar al Gadhafi who was known to be the crazy man of the continent, for he had demonstrated a completely an unorganized type of  diplomacy. Thank God, he is dead now, but of course the scene is still full of his kinds.

The 27th September 2012 cooperation agreement between Juba and Khartoum was an agreement which took the whole of the international community a lot of effort to hammer. It has matrix for implementation as well as channels for complains should one side feel that the other isn’t being unfaithful.

In spite of all this well written document, it is unfortunate to admit that it failed to prevent president al Bashir of Sudan to revert to the ‘al Jaalein –way’ of doing things, when he turned to a mob of supporters in Khartoum Bahri (North), to not only accuse the Republic of South Sudan of helping the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels, but it was here that he decided to terminate his country’s obligation to the cooperation agreement.

Al Bashir went on and stressed that the oil of south Sudan will not pass through Sudan ever again – read the above quote. This far was al Bashir’s official stand on the issue of relationship with its southern neighbour, and whatever modifications that he came up with in the following few days shouldn’t really be taken seriously if we are to take al Bashir himself seriously.

The sixty days grace period in which the oil of South Sudan will still continue to follow through the Sudan to the Red Sea port of Port Sudan, should better be understood in its true context. These sixty days is the time period allowed for in the agreement, whereby in an event of final decision to scrap the cooperation agreement. 

In this period south Sudan continues to enjoy the right to export it oil through Sudan and thereafter for the oil to be shut down in case such a decision has been arrived at by all the stake holders – Sudan –south Sudan – the various oil companies – the African union peace and Security Council (AUPSC).

However since it seems that al Bashir is keen to reverse his negative stand albeit on a condition that South Sudan stops its support to the SRF rebels, then we can say that the oil will continue to follow through the Sudan as it used to until such a time in the future when South Sudan decides otherwise.

This is simple logic and Khartoum knows that it is not concerned about the role of South Sudan as a government here, but rather it seems to be accusing certain individuals in Juba, that they continue to support the rebels.

First it was the RSS government and now it is some individuals or circles in Juba who are believed to be the ones supporting the Sudanese rebel groups. This being the case it can be reasoned out that even the degree of such kind of clandestine support if any does really exist,  will obviously not be a thing to upset the balance of power in the Sudanese civil war.

But let us also reason out the issue from a more objective view point, and in this case if it is true that a few individuals’ support to the SRF is capable of sending the entire government insane, then Khartoum is already suffering a serious war fatigue.  Because  otherwise how would you explain the mental state of such a clique that has fought wars against its own people since 1955 – till today [2013] to remain sound?!

Khartoum however has never hidden its hopes for a return to good relationship between the two countries. Its officials who know the real truth, but are unable to criticize their president over his amateurish reaction that has now brought the two countries at the verge of a diplomatic row and likely to lead to another military confrontations, coupled with the huge negative impacts that these can have on their country’s already ailing economy;   have expressed their will to see that the oil of South Sudan continues to flow.

To do this without making al Bashir look foolish in front of the world audience, the NCP officials chose the easiest thing to do and that is to push the whole situation into a corner where repeated meetings between Sudan and south Sudan will appear to have solved the problem.

Those who read the extract of the speech by NCP media secretary Yasir Youssef [ST], who spoke at a regular meeting of the NCP political sector committee, will appreciate that Khartoum is now looking for an exit strategy after realising how detrimental to the country, al Bashir latest rhetoric on closing the RSS oil is.

Youssef who will never dare of course to change the official position of his country, held on to the erroneous argument that Juba’s support to the rebel groups is the main difference between the two countries.

But even if certain circles in Juba were to be supportive of the Sudanese rebels, how does that become the main difference between the two countries, if as you read these lines, many South Sudanese rebels who had been receiving regular support from Khartoum in order to topple the RSS government are currently in Juba seeking integration. So for argument sake, who is now better than whom?

Still it could be a sign that Khartoum is back to its senses and acknowledges that there are mechanisms within the so-called cooperation agreement that needs to be exhausted first, when he [Yasir Youssef] said:  "Any mechanism conducive to stop this support is welcome, whether it comes through visits, dialogue or proposals, provided that it leads to stop this support," .

However President Kiir has repeatedly denied allegations by Bashir that his government backs the Sudanese rebels. “We have repeatedly made clear our disengagement with the SPLM-North and have offered to mediate a peace process between them and Khartoum,’ Kiir said.

“Those grievances [allegations levied by Khartoum on South Sudan] should be brought before the Joint Political Security Mechanism (JPSM). The allegations should then be investigated by the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) or the Ad hoc Committee,” he said.

On the other hand the SRF through one of its leaders, Yasir Saed Arman has already expressed the group’s position on the new African Union mediation initiative that has been presented by Thabo Mbeki to the two partners as a way forward. Arman confirmed that his party welcomes the proposals made by the AU as it aims to investigate the accusations being traded between Khartoum and Juba over support to rebel groups.

The truth being  said, for as long as the SRF rebels operate in the Sudan, the Sudanese confused leadership will always look for someone to blame for its military defeats.  The bottom line is that, either al Bashir militarily defeats the SRF[ and he knows that better], or he reaches an agreement with them or worse still he runs away and leaves the seat of power to them. In all these scenarios RSS has the much obliged role of playing a good spectator, while its oil follows.

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba is the Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can reached at: [email protected]

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