Economic Cold War: South Sudan Crisis and the Influence of "Invisible Hand." – Part II



Sino-U.S Economic strife and South-Sudan crisis



Throughout the Cold War, Sudan government had its support coming from the West whilst the former rebels, the SPLA/M secured their logistics from former member-states of the Soviet Camp. However, the rebel movement encountered some turbulence in the brief period of 1990-1996, following the collapse of Soviet Union. Fortunately for the SPLA/M, Omar Bashir’s regime accommodated America’s adversary Osama Bin Laden.


Angered by such insubordination, America sanctioned Sudan economically and started issuing financial support to SPLA/M, empowering the rebels to inflict heavy losses on SAF, therefore, making the Khartoum’s government vulnerable and feeble to host Bin Laden. The rebels and America’s alliance grew even profoundly, allowing America to study the geo-politics of southern parts of the Sudan comprehensively. Despite Garang’s quest for the unity of entire Sudan, America discovered two things that it later utilised to its greatest advantage. 

$1     (1)The popularity of the quest for South Sudan independence among Southerners.

$1     (2)The prolific oil reserves mostly situated in south.


Now, because the economic sanctions prohibits trade between U.S and Sudan, America’s access to oil in south is only possible if sanctions are removed, but this would have been a contested topic in the US congress. Thus, the viable option was to grant South Sudan its independence, this explains the birth of CPA. During the process of CPA’s negotiation, SPLA/M served as America’s cordon in Sudan, while America hoped that after granting independence to South-Sudan, the new sovereignty would be retentive and resign the oil contracts with U.S. as supposed to China.


Meanwhile in Sudan, after the sanctions, Bashir turned to China and Iran and, to lesser extent, Russia, for economic support; after failing to secure financial backing from the rich Arabian Gulf States, because it felt out with Saudi Arabia due to Sunni-Shiite conflict which placed the duo at odds. Since Sudan and Iran were in the same side of religious dichotomy, Sudan had logistical support coming from Iran but could not secure financial backing because Iran was also under economic pressure. China was in need of oil to fuel its growth, so Sudan took full advantage and sold 78% of the national oil to China, who constructed the oil pipeline in 1998. In an attempt to get that 78% back, US had to carve South Sudan out of Sudan because more than half of the oil reserves are situated in the South. However, in 2011, after the independence, the contracts remained as signed by the NCP with China, that is to say, the oil continued to flow to China. Hence some people speculated the death of Garang, three weeks after the independence, to be surrounded by this conspiracy. Nevertheless, Salva Kiir succeeded Garang but the contracts remain fixed, almost three years after the independence, the oil is still flowing east (to China).  


What had actually gone unnoticed during the fight for South Sudan’s independence is the pressure that U.S oil companies asserted on U.S government to grant South Sudan its independence, as to plunder South Sudan’s oil wells. However, after the independence things did not go accordingly. The oil contracts remained binding with China, so the pressure by U.S oil companies became even more vehement. Hence there became a need for America to intervene in South Sudan’s affairs by grooming someone that is not as communist oriented as Garang and Salva to administer the country and to see America’s corporate interest represented. Their choice had to be no other than Dr Riek who was once their ally during the aftermath of the Cold War. Dr. Riek Machar is also known to use democracy as the basis of his campaign for leadership, especially after his fall out with president Kiir.


Although it is highly doubted that the U.S might have supported Dr Riek before the alleged December 15th coup d’état, it is nonetheless, an unjustifiable fact that the U.S did not condemn Riek’s rebellion. Albeit, the U.S President Barack Obama said that the U.S would not condone forceful removal of democratically elected government, in practice America did the contrary. The rhetoric and America’s position on South Sudan conflict both serves as core evidences. For instance, Dr. Riek claimed the allege coup was in-fact not a coup, America’s position was that it found no evidence that supports claims that the event was a coup. Had America admit that the event was in fact a coup, or condemn the rebellion, their constitution would rule that America cuts its support to the coup plotters or rebels, an activity that would undermine a grand strategy of putting into power their preferred president. Furthermore, Riek called for the withdrawal of Ugandan forces, a call that America later echoed. Riek also demanded the release of the detainees, and so did America. The impending arms embargoes to be imposed by the U.S and the EU upon South Sudan is another underlying factor worth taking into consideration. So one can easily see the general trend depicting the party that America and its allies have solidarity with.


The U.S displeasure with Kiir’s administration became ostensible almost two months after President Kiir impeached the Vice President Dr Riek Machar. Riek’s portfolio as a Vice President was vacant until unanimous appointment of Hon. James Wani Igga. The U.S exhibited disinterest in the new Vice President, in the event that took place in New York. While leading a delegation of South Sudanese diplomats including the Minister of Foreign Dr Marial Benjamin to the United Nation General Assembly, the Vice President received an inhospitable welcome, in a farce that Sudan Tribune quoted the following statement “The country’s vice-president and the influential foreign affairs minister were made to remove their shoes and told to stand in an isolated place within the entrance gate of the airport lounge before they were subjected to an aggressive check from head to toe and from arm to arm after which they were impolitely allowed to go without letting him know that the check was completed”.  Despite having shown diplomatic passports, the security operation contrived was a diplomatic embarrassment. The incident shows how irritated the U.S is with the cabinet reshuffle that witnessed the removal of Dr. Riek Machar.      


It is not such a surprise to people that are conscious of the history of international system and have read books such as the Confessions of Economic Hitman, The Wonga Coup, Dead Aid, All the Shah’s Men, Bush vs. Chavez, Uhuru Na Ujamaa, Hegemony or Survival and so on, to see South Sudan’s problem as a direct confrontation of super powers competing both for economic interests and political spheres of influence. To sustain its hegemony, America has to calibrate its strategies of countering China’s growth precisely. Oil is the second-largest source of energy in China, accounting for 18% of the country’s total energy consumption, which an estimated 260,000 bbl/d comes from Sudan and South Sudan.


Although Heglig’s oil crisis in 2012 caused significant decline on these trade statistics, causing minor turmoil to China’s energy sector, the initial trade started to pick up, after the resettlement of the crisis. It is therefore superficial, that the complete termination of South Sudan’s oil contracts with China and resigning them with U.S will hamper China’s growth. An efficacy that America is desperate to attain, and can only achieve if their ally (alleged to have been harbored in the U.S embassy during the bereavement period of December 14th and 15th 2013) usurps the top position of presidency. Check mate!


In concluding summary, Salva is desperately trying to be impervious in his attempt to resist a force that casted a dark cloud over South Sudan politics, America’s dirty hands, to put it succinctly. America’s covert influence on South Sudan’s crisis can be traced in the activities that were at first far-fetched but recently became substantial facts. At first was an incident involving a UN helicopter shot down, by the government forces back in 2012; in an area where David Yau-Yau waged rebellion. The helicopter was allegedly providing logistics to Yau Yau’s rebels, but the UNMISS hastily dismissed the allegations. However, UN failed to answer what the helicopter (that did not notify the government of its operation) was doing in the rebel area. Then there were rumors surrounding Dr. Riek and Hilde Johnson’s secrete relationship, the rumors later suggested that UNMISS sympathized with Dr. Riek and his rebellion. Evidences depict the discovery of uniforms outside UNMISS compound (allegedly owned by Dr. Riek’s rebels that had sought refuge in the compound), the refusal of UNMISS officials to allow the Minister of Information to access the UNMISS compound, to recover weapons belonging to the former government combatants that defected with Dr. Riek and were being harbored inside the compound UNMISS compound in Bor and constraining the government to investigate the course of rebels. Moreover, following the re-capturing of Bor Town by the government forces, the government discovered UN tanks under the possession of rebels, when asked, the UN claimed those tanks were looted, although UN has not made an official report about the incident. This proves that America is using UNMISS to execute its interest of supporting Dr. Riek. The UNMISS, however, denied these allegations and claimed “neutrality” and humanitarian mandate. However, evidence proving otherwise did not cease coming to light, if anything they became even more luminous.


The UNMISS is widely believed to be arming the rebels after thirteen trucks, out of a fleet consisting of 18 trucks, were loaded with sophisticated weapons, attempted to be delivered to the rebels’ arsenal situated in Bentiu (a rebels’ stronghold in Unity State) were intercepted by the government forces in Lakes State. A truth that the UNMISS once again claimed to be fallacious but the citizens remain cognizant as their postulations became justified. The weapons included anti-personnel land mines that were banned in the 1997 Ottawa treaty, also known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, a mistake that the U.S government has not yet officially rebut. The incident raises a lot of questions, why is UNMISS consigning (prohibited) landmines to its contingent, who is it going to use the mines against? 


Why consign the landmines to people of South Sudan, when the UNMISS is the organisation responsible for conducting demining projects across South Sudan? Why load eighteen big trucks full of weapons to a contingent that only consist of less than 150 personals? The “WHY” questions never cease nor ever get answered.

The logic is very simple, like all of the Bretton Woods institutions, the UN is also a neo-liberal organisation that must uphold American ideology, norms and values. In fact, it is manipulated to do so. America’s dominance is reflected in the process of electing the UN chief. There have been numerous occasions in the past where the U.S appointed their preferred candidate to lead the UN, upon their disapproval of the elected chief. It is due to such systematic manipulations that there has never been a country where the U.N has been involved in and maintained neutrality, except in Congo back in 1961, under the leadership of a Swedish National Sec-Gen Dag Hammarskjold. While widely considered U.N’s most effective chief, Hammarskjold mysteriously died (in a plane crash incident) as he maintained neutrality in Congo’s affairs and attempted to bring peace to the then newly independent Congo.


In Addis Ababa the trend remained relatively the same. In an interview broadcast in SBS Dinka Radio, the Minister of Information, also a member of the government delegation deliberated that, time has passed and the government’s delegation has not even met, let alone discuss anything, with rebels’ representatives yet. The discussions have instead been between the government delegation and IGAD; the latter attempts to set the agenda for the talks! Why is it IGAD that is setting the agenda instead of the two parties? IGAD’s role is to facilitate environment that is conducive for talks between the warring parties and to mediate consensus, it should not compromise with discussions, otherwise IGAD is as guile as the UNMISS. This war will not have victors; China and U.S who are engaged in an economic competition are using both Dr Riek and president Kiir as proxies. The regional governments have intervened to represent their interests. It is unfortunate to emphasise that, for as long such prevailing state of affairs remains binding, South Sudan will mostly likely continue to be a very much self-destructed state, where exogenous politics impede the country’s quest for a long lasting peace and prosperity.




Much gratitude expressed to Agutto N. B Dengaguek and Deng Dekuek for their editorial and publication contributions.

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