Khartoum and its policy of containment toward South Sudan: What is Juba’s response?


JUBA, South Sudan – The origin of the term containment (containment policy) can be traced back to an American Diplomat, George Kennan. During the Cold War (1947-1989) between the United States and the Soviet Union, George Kennan formulated the containment policy as a United States’ response to a series of moves by the Soviet Union to enlarge communist influence in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Africa, and Vietnam. This policy was comprised of numerous economic and military strategies which if combined would slowly force the Soviet Union to abandon its expansionism policy, if not bring it to total collapse. In his article entitled “The Sources of the Soviet Conduct,” George Kennan wrote;

It would be an exaggeration to say that American behavior unassisted and alone could exercise a power of life and death over the Communist movement and bring about the early fall of Soviet power in Russia. But the United States has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.

To further argue for such a policy, Kennan also predicts; United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.


South Sudanese have waged a two-decade war (1983-2005) against the Arab dominated Sudan government, and in 2005, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) (the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and the government of Sudan signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the civil war between the two warring parties. The CPA granted South Sudanese the right to vote on a referendum to choose between unity and separation. South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted for separation (98%) and South Sudan seceded from the Sudan in 2011. Since the split, relations between Sudan and South Sudan have been rocky. The border demarcation and the issues of the three disputed areas of Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan remained as potential source of re-newed conflict.

History has it that whenever a country is divided in to two, the two new countries face continuous border conflict. This is the case with North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea just to mention a few. South Sudan and Sudan are not exception to this trend. Disputes between Sudan and South Sudan never ceased since the CPA was signed, and continued after South Sudan independent. For example, Khartoum and Juba had two major military confrontations since the CPA was signed. The first military confrontation between the two parties took place in the disputed area of Abyei in 2008 as a result of Khartoum’s violation of the CPA by trying to militarily occupy Abyei. The conflict ended with the intervention of the African Union which ordered both sides to withdraw their troops from the area to be replaced by African Union’s troops.

In 2012, South Sudan and Sudan were once again caught up in one of the biggest military showdowns since the South broke away from the North. South Sudan national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) clashed at the disputed oil-rich border-town of Heglig (Panthou). The conflict ended with the SPLA capturing Panthou and occupying it for 10 days before withdrawing following the International community’s pressure. It was at this point that Khartoum started to change its national security policy toward Juba. Khartoum’s strategy changed from attacking Juba directly to trying to destroy it through the containment policy.

The Military Containment policy beings

As discussed above, Sudan tried to use its military to intimate and harass South Sudan right from the onset. But after the Higlig military showdown between the two countries, Khartoum came to realize that it may never destroy South Sudan through direct military actions. Therefore, it resorted to bringing South Sudan down through indirect means which are referred to in this article as Khartoum’s containment policy towards Juba. Khartoum containment policy rests mostly on military and economic capabilities, and on international influence to lesser extent.

On the military containment front, Khartoum resorted to arming South Sudan’s rebels to destabilize the country. For example, Khartoum have been accused by the government of South Sudan of arming the rebels of the Late General Athor Deng Dut, General Tangginya, the Late Col. Gatluak Gai, Johnson Uliny and General Yau Yau to try to overthrow the government in Juba. This accusation have been proven this month when General Johnson Uliny himself confessed to the government of South Sudan that he was in Khartoum and was in fact being supported by Khartoum government during his war with South Sudan. Other Southern rebels who surrendered to South Sudan repeatedly made this confession making the issue more of a reality than just an accusation.

The Economic Containment policy follows

After Khartoum put in to place its military containment policy, it went on to implement its economic containment policy against South Sudan. In 2012, South Sudan decided to shut down its oil follows through Sudan. The decision was a result of a trap set by Khartoum to suffocate South Sudan economically. To lure South Sudan in to the trap, Khartoum continuously stole South Sudan’s oil as it passed through its pipelines to the world market. When this went on for a long time and South Sudan did not fall in to the trap, Khartoum took a daring step by confiscating a South Sudan oil ship and sold it at a discount price claiming that Juba did not pay the pipeline fees. As a result, South Sudan finally ordered the complete shutdown of its oil production. Having succeeded in luring South Sudan into its economic containment policy, Khartoum went further to implement the rests of the policy by souring all economic ties with South Sudan. For example, Sudan ordered the complete discontinuation of land, water and air trades with South Sudan.

After some months of complete Khartoum’s containment policy (military and economic), both Sudans experienced the devastating results of Khartoum’s containment policy. Since the split, for instance, food and fuel prices sky-rocketed in both countries, resulting in an unprecedented inflation. As a result, the international community stepped in to try to mediate between the two countries to resume normal political and economic ties.

The recent re-opening of the oil and the continuous Khartoum Containment plan

After long continuous negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, mediated by the African Union, Sudan agreed to allow the South Sudan’s oil to flow through its pipelines again. This was established in the Addis Ababa agreement, signed in, March, 2013, in which the two countries agreed to work together on a number of issues, including security arrangements, border demarcation and economic cooperation (trade and oil production).

After working together for some months after the Addis Ababa agreement, both sides agreed to resume South Sudan’s oil flow through Sudan. This was scheduled for this month (June), unfortunately, Khartoum recently changed its plan and reordered the shutdown of South Sudan’s oil flow through its pipelines and territory. This decision which is a violation of the March Addis Ababa agreement demonstrates that Khartoum is indeed still implementing its containment policy (both militarily and economically) against South Sudan.


Up to this point, Khartoum’s grand strategy toward Juba is a containment policy that is meant to eventually force the current government of South Sudan to collapse if not overthrown. Currently, General Yau Yau’s rebels are actively operating in South Sudan and are supported by Khartoum. Yau Yau’s strategy is to terrorize the public so that the public feel unprotected by the government, thus resulting in public’s distrust of the government which he thinks may eventually leads to public support of his rebels to overthrow the current government.

In addition, Khartoum’s recent decision to discontinue South Sudan’s oil flow through its pipelines and territory is a strategy to suffocate South Sudan economically. Since oil money is the only major source of revenue for South Sudan (98%), Khartoum’s calculation is that without oil revenue, South Sudan will not be able to fight the rebels, nor sustains itself economically, which can possibly results in to the collapse of the recent South Sudan’s government. Therefore, with its power to support South Sudan’s rebels operating at the edge of the capital, and with its power to deprive South Sudan of its major source of revenue, Khartoum seems to have cornered the current South Sudan’s leadership. So what is Juba’s response?

Sudan is run by a gang of highly educated and experienced political and military experts which makes it easier for Khartoum to quickly formulate political and military strategies against its enemies of which South Sudan is on the top. It is observed that whenever there is a major conflict/dispute between the two countries, Khartoum seems to be a step ahead of Juba, at least in strategizing. In another word, South Sudan has only been responding to Sudan’s well-planned act of aggression toward South Sudan. This suggests that Juba does not have any capability of initiating anything against Khartoum, nor does it have any capability to foresee and preempt any Khartoum’s planned act of aggression. This weakness can solely be blamed on South Sudan’s lack of a well-organized policy-making body (government sponsored think tank) that can study and decide the country’s political, economic and military needs.

Therefore, South Sudan needs to start thinking strategically by formulating short and long term political, economic and military strategies toward Khartoum and other national foes. Such an approach however will require South Sudan to critically look in to its human resource, both in South Sudan and in the diaspora to recruit a team of highly trained experts in different fields to aid the concerned government’s institutions in preparing the country for war and defense through research and strategic thinking.

*Thon Agany Ayiei holds an MA in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and works in Juba. He can be reached by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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