South Sudan after Paanthou crisis
By Steve Paterno
May 13, 2012 — Diplomatically, when the Paanthou crisis occurred, South Sudan found itself unprepared and underrepresented in the diplomatic front. The diplomatic ferocity of its opponent in Khartoum to spread propaganda was never been equally matched. Just overnight, the newly emerged country found itself almost isolated internationally, for acting rightly in self defense. The barrage of condemnations against South Sudan came from even close allies and friends such as the USA.
As a result, South Sudan had to resort into drastic measures. The nation made a painful decision just to please the international community by immediately ordering the pulling out of its troops from Paanthou, an area that belongs to South Sudan but claimed by Khartoum, because of its oil wealth. To further compromise and heed to the international community call, South Sudan even went out of its way by doing more than its share of responsibility, when it decided to withdraw its police forces from Abyei area, leaving the civilians basically vulnerable under the mercy of cruel Khartoum armed forces.
To make up for its diplomatic gap, South Sudan dispatched high level official delegation into foreign capitals to plea for South Sudan case. This then followed by deployments of South Sudanese ambassadors to strategic countries and international organizations. South Sudan is now in a bit better shape to make its case heard internationally, which is really simple in a way. Actually, there is no moral equivalent between Juba and Khartoum so as to level the competition. Khartoum is ruled like how the criminals run the streets of crime hit cities in the West. The government in Khartoum is run by what the Sudanese people locally refer to as mujirimin (thugs). Even the head of the Khartoum regime, President Omar al-Bashir is an indicted criminal and an international fugitive. The regime is killing its people and causing problems with everyone else. The records are there in abandon to speak for themselves.
Now that South Sudan has done more than its share of obligations, it is the turn of international community to pressure the mujirimin in Khartoum to act in accordance with international norms and demands. Khartoum must be held to account for all the UN resolutions and other agreements it unilaterally abrogate and continue to violate. This then will pave the way for peaceful negotiations as it will place Juba and Khartoum under equal footing, because as things currently stand, the two are not equal in the world standing.
In order for a peaceful and genuine negotiations to take place, the negotiations between South and North Sudan must be transferred under the auspicious of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). One begins to wonder how in the first place the negotiations between South and North Sudan ended up under the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), headed by a failed South African politician Thabo Mbeki, a former South African president who could not even secure the chairmanship position in his political party of African National Congress (ANC), even though he was an anointed president of the Republic of South Africa. The panel is not only headed by a failed politician, but it has proven in its deed that it is failing, since it has done it in Darfur and is now doing it in the case of South Sudan. Sadly enough, this supposedly continental panel includes consultants like Dr. Alex De Waal, an opportunist masquerading as scholar and expert on Sudan. The following two articles (Alex De Waal and Darfur Genocide Question and Alex De Waal response by proxy on Darfur genocide question), written by this author is enough to portray an accurate picture and motives of Dr. Alex De Waal in his involvement in Sudanese affairs. In short, (AUHIP) appears more of a dumping ground for employment accommodations awarded to African failed politicians such as Thabo Mbeki or the Western opportunists, masquerading as experts, the likes of Dr. Alex De Waal. No wonder right after the Paanthou crisis, Mbeki ran to the UN and began to toe the line of Khartoum, by accusing South Sudan for aggression. How can South Sudan a victim of constant belligerence suddenly turned into an aggressor in a course of one night is still baffling to those who follow issues in that region.
At any rate, the stakes involved is more higher than accommodations of failed politicians and making the relevance of expertise of Western opportunists. For that reason, the IGAD must immediately take over the negotiations since the issues under negotiations are pertinent to Comprehensive Peace Agreements (CPA), brokered by IGAD.
Otherwise, the easiest unilateral alternative for South Sudan is clear as it is declared in South Sudan TV by a South Sudanese army general deputy chief of staff Isaac Obuto Mamur that in case of a failed political settlement, the South Sudanese army stands ready; starting by demarcating the borders in African style of courage, honor, and sacrifice. The declaration by the battle hardened General with the body that sustains more bullet wounds than an African elephant can withstand is of course not just a bravado pep talk to the troops. The South Sudanese troops have just proven to their opponents in Khartoum and the entire world that they can easily demarcate the borders if they so wish to. So, that decision is currently pending under political negotiations, while the South Sudanese troops reserve its rights to demarcate the borders. The UN Security Council threats of sanctions against the Republic of South Sudan has actually little bearing on abilities, moral, and battle prowess of South Sudanese troops—the generation of people who are driven by their desires for freedom, justice, and equality.
South Sudanese gallant forces, the SPLA has performed outstandingly as they acted in self defense to chase Khartoum forces from Paanthou. They sent Khartoum weak armed forces running, leaving behind scores of dead bodies, all their belongings, and even some human souls that the SPLA is able to preserve as prisoners of war (POW), in accordance with Geneva Protocal of war. Simply put: SPLA incursion into Paanthou has proven that Khartoum armed forces is not a competition in ground combat in comparison to SPLA. Khartoum is still winning the air war though, where South Sudan is lacking behind. This means, South Sudan needs to upgrade its air defense capabilities so as to effectively deal Khartoum a blow.
More importantly, South Sudan needs to manage and coordinate its military operations against Khartoum jointly with Khartoum’s armed oppositions, particularly the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). The opportunity of coordination has been missed during the incursion of Paanthou, because the action was in response of self defense and unplanned. However, with a better planning and strategy in coordination with the other armed groups in the Republic of Sudan, an incident similar to Paanthou scope, would have created a momentum that will establish a life of its own in driving the Omar al-Bashir thuggish regime out of power within just a shortest period of time.
Since, the coalition against Khartoum regime extends far and beyond, South Sudan must capitalize on the momentum in making sure the coalition stick and increase in size. Uganda already bravely came out against Khartoum’s regime belligerence by declaring its readiness to face Khartoum in its aggression, which it wages not just against South Sudan but neighboring nations, such as supporting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda.
Ironically, and by implications, the USA military is also involved in this coalition war against Khartoum, despite the contradictions of American administration public condemnation of South Sudan. In a letter from US President Barack Obama to American Congress, dated October 14, 2011, the America President revealed that he decided to deployed American troops in central Africa to combat the LRA atrocities. The troops are specifically deployed in areas affected by LRA, Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a layman’s word, America decided to fight the LRA, which actually means, fighting Khartoum—the force behind LRA. Perhaps it is a high time that the South Sudan President Salva Kiir pay a courtesy call across to American President Barack Obama so as to have him explain the contradiction of trying to fight the LRA, which is supported by Khartoum against South Sudan, and at the same time condemning South Sudan for standing up against Khartoum’s constant belligerence. So, if President Obama gives a lame excuse for the contradiction of policy because of American election, then he must have a courage to explain to any of the families of those American combat forces fighting the LRA who are the real backer behind the LRA, specially the provider of the weapons and bullets that will kill these brave American soldiers during this combat operation.
The CPA was intended to transform the Sudan. Since the CPA was signed, all the political forces, which are by the way oppose to the regime in Khartoum with a vehement zeal, were looking for direction so as to challenge the brutal dictatorship of National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum. Since then, they never found a direction. Now there is an opportunity for them to effectively deal with the thuggish regime in Khartoum by looking for direction and leadership in the Republic of South Sudan. Therefore, the Republic of South Sudan needs to call and sponsor a conference of all Sudanese opposition groups to be held in Juba. The conference goal should be the overthrow of the criminal President Omar al-Bashir and his NCP regime, among other things.
In case the South Sudan government, the SPLM in particular has not done it yet, they need to immediately establish contact and send special invitation to come to Juba for the popular governor of Gadaref state, Karamallah Abbas, who is bravely challenging the regime in Khartoum. Governor Abbas is the first to challenge the marginalization of the people of Gadaref by the regime in Khartoum, which led into his ouster from power by the regime. Gadarif state is a rich agricultural area, but yet the local people of the state go hungry despite the food they produce. The awareness of marginalization orchestrated from Khartoum is now spreading like cancer and South Sudan must lead in creating the awareness.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at email@example.com