US Shifts stance on South Sudan
The East African - April 14
“It is definitely unfair of the international community to expect Juba to just sit and watch Khartoum carry out daylight robbery of her property without responding.”
By Jacob J Akol*
“Master”, pleaded Camel, “my nose is cold. Can I put it in the tent to warm it up?” “Of course you can,” said the kind master. Shortly after, the Camel pleaded with the master to allow him put his ear inside the tent. When this was permitted, the head followed, then the front legs and then the hump. The rest is history. As we all know from this Arab story the Camel kicked the master out of the tent and into the cold night of the desert and claimed the tent for himself; but does it follow that the tent is the property of the Camel?
Anyone who knows a bit of the history of the Sudan would automatically conclude that any “disputed territory” along the Sudan-South Sudan border rightly belongs to South Sudan; but has been appropriated, by hook or crook by the Sudan. South Sudan has no history of land or wealth-grabbing from North Sudan or from anyone else territory. North Sudan is built precisely on that principle. The late Dr John Garang de Mabior, who led the then South Sudan’s-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) for more than 20 years, illustrated this philosophy once to a crowd of Dinka herdsmen in 1998:
“Imagine a traveller walking into your cattle camp one evening; you welcome him warmly, give him milk to drink and the best bed to sleep on. He stays with you for indefinite period and when you tell him that he has overstayed his welcome and was time for him to go, he claims that it was your fault to let him stay so long anyway and demands a share of your cattle: would you allow him to do so?”
There was a deafening “Nooo! Never!” from the crowd.
Would Garang have given Khartoum the chance to dub the world into believing that the Heglig Oil Field is in Northern Sudanese territory? That we will never know.
South Sudanese who know that Heglig or Panthou or Aliny oil field is nowhere near the border of the Sudan as it stood on January 1st 1956 are mystified as to when and how the area has now become “part of (North) Sudan” as the international community is now clambering to permanently disposes South Sudan of its territory and oil wealth.
The United Nations Secretary General, the European Union, the African Union and even friends of South Sudan like Norway, are calling on South Sudan’s army to pull out immediately from “Sudanese territory”. The United Kingdom and Egypt, which jointly ruled the Sudan until January 1956, should tell the rest of the world where exactly Heglig is located and they will, if truth be told, acknowledge it is tens of miles within the border of South Sudan in what was known as Western Upper Nile, purposefully changed later by Khartoum after the discovery of oil into the so-called “Unity State”, just like they have changed Paanthou to Heglig.
Another anomaly that’s deceiving the International Community into thinking that Heglig is part of North Sudan is the judgement of the International Court of Arbitration (ICA), which excluded Heglig from being part of Abyei. Fair enough; but who said Heglig was ever part of Abyei?
The confusion first arose from the findings of the Abyei Border Commission (ABC), who were directed to define the territory of the nine Ngok Dinka Chieftaincies whose territory was transferred to Kordofan (North) during the condominium for “administrative reasons”. The ABC included the Paan Aru area as part of the territory belonging to the nine Ngok Dinka chieftaincies. What they should have made clear in their report was that this particular area, Heglig or Paanthou or Aliny, though occupied by a section of the Ngok Dinka, was never transferred to Kordofan and had always remained part of Western Upper Nile now known as Unity State.
The question is: If Heglig or Paanthou or Aliny was never part of Abyei that was transferred from Bahr Al Ghazal to Kordofan, why did the Government of Southern Sudan accept the ABC’s findings without questions, making it clear that Heglig was never a part of Abyei transferred into Kordofan? The answer could either be pure lack of attention to details on the part of Juba; fear of giving a reason to Khartoum to reject the findings of the ABC or a collaboration by some people from Warrap State and Abyei to annex the oil field to Abyei, which they believed would vote in a referendum to be part of the Warrap State. After all 2% of oil proceeds is usually allocated to the state from where the oil wells are located.
As it turned out, Khartoum disputed the findings of the ABC. In the process of Khartoum’s intransigence, Juba agreed to have the case of Abyei taken up by the International Court of Arbitration. This Court redrew the original map of the ABC and excluded Heglig from territory awarded to the Ngok Dinka. Khartoum was jubilant with the decision of the ICA, asserting that the decision had now legalised their illegal occupation and annexation of Heglig to the North. Although Juba was not entirely happy with the decision of the ICA, nevertheless, they accepted the ICA’s decision, while still believing that the demarcation of the border between North and South as it stood on January 1st 1956, would show Heglig to be well within the border of South Sudan. After all first things first: the independence of South Sudan was paramount to South Sudanese; anything else could be sorted out later; so they thought.
Little did they expect that Khartoum would not adhere to the ICA’s decision or to the dictates of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on Abyei. While they appeared to be in agreement with both the Abyei Protocol and the decision of the ICA, they were in fact preparing to abort any demarcation of the Abyei borders as prescribed by the ICA as well as finding ways to abort the Abyei Referendum as prescribed by the CPA.
Khartoum firs aborted the demarcation of the Abyei border by arming Arab militiamen who threatened to stop by force anyone carrying out the border demarcation. When the international community dilly dully on forcing Khartoum to affect the decision of the ICA, Khartoum invaded Abyei by force, two months before the independence of South Sudan, on the pretext that their forces were first fired upon by the SPLA as they were moving their units out of the area. The fact that Arab tribes of Kordofan had a stronger motive than the SPLA to fire upon Khartoum’s troops leaving Abyei never registered with the international community. Equally, Khartoum’s own devious elements could have set up some Southern elements within their pay roll to fire on Northern troops for it to justify invasion of Abyei and abort the Abyei Referendum.
When, once more, the international community dilly dully with Khartoum on the invasion of Abyei, Khartoum invaded the Nuba Mountains, then Southern Blue Nile. In all three cases, thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced into refugee camps in Ethiopia and South Sudan. The so-called “International Community” continued to dilly dully with aggressor Bashir.
Then the bombing of South Sudan’s territory and actual invasion of border areas begun, with clear indications that Khartoum intended to cordon off more oil areas deep inside South Sudan.The dilly dullying continues.
It is definitely unfair of the international community to expect Juba to just sit and watch Khartoum carry out daylight robbery of her property without responding. No wonder South Sudanese at home and in the Diaspora find themselves greatly offended by Ban Ki Moon’s reported ultimatum to Kiir to pull South Sudanese troops out of Higlig without pre-conditions. They see the UN SG as being soft on Bashir on multiple occasions and unduly bossy with Kiir.