US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today arrives in South Sudan, where she is expected to highlight concerns over the country’s conflict with Sudan and to press for a peaceful resolution.
She is likely to press South Sudan President Salva Kiir to resolve outstanding disputes with Sudanese President Omar Bashir after the two sides failed to meet a 2 August deadline set by the UN Security Council to reach a negotiated settlement to a series of conflicts that observers fear could lead to a restart of the decades-long military conflict between Juba and Khartoum.
“These issues are oil and revenue sharing, citizenship, a disputed border,” said a high-ranking State Department official. “Both countries are experiencing economic dislocation.”
Clinton “will express our continued concern about the lack of movement in the resolution of the key issues that divide the two countries,” the official said.
“It is absolute important that South Sudan and Sudan move as quickly as possible to resolve these issues. That requires political leadership and engagement of the presidents of the two countries.”
“Consequences are quite serious for both countries. Both are heavily dependent on oil for their revenue,” he added.
“Both countries are in a non-work spiral as a result of their political differences and as the result of the cut-off in oil … Our desire is to see all of these issues negotiated out.”
External intervention is required to prevent Sudan from becoming another Syria, say two prominent observers.
The regime in Khartoum “is responsible for more death and destruction than all of its neighboring Middle Eastern and North African dictatorships combined,” according to John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project, and Dave Eggers, the author of What Is the What and A Hologram for the King:
“Bashir is taking no chances that the Arab Spring might be followed by a Sudan Summer,” they write in the Washington Post:
Over the regime’s two decades in power, the central issues surrounding good governance in Sudan — eliminating corruption, promoting democracy, supporting equality and the rule of law, and even ending mass atrocities — have been subordinated in the quest for short-term cease-fires. The deals have collapsed because none of them has addressed the basic violations of rights, which are at the core of every one of Sudan’s conflicts and the current protests…..
Meanwhile, though, it’s time for the United States and others to take a stand with those protesting and fighting — and dying — for democracy in Sudan. This support can take many forms, including rapid and substantial support to the Sudanese opposition and civil society, which are working assiduously for real democratic transformation. Washington and others should also work within and outside the U.N. Security Council to create a meaningful consequence for Khartoum’s aerial bombing and humanitarian aid blockade.
“Now that the specter of mass starvation is looming in Sudan’s war zones, and Sudan’s cities are pulsating with demand for change,” Prendergast and Eggers conclude, “the international community must respond more creatively and forcefully, lest an outcome more like Syria than Libya result.”
But the US does not seek “regime change” in Khartoum, insists Princeton Lyman, the administration’s Special Envoy to Sudan (right). Indeed, Washington wants to improve ties with Sudan, if it embraces democracy and respects human rights.
“The Sudanese believe that the Southern government is still a revolutionary movement committed to working with Sudanese rebel groups to achieve violent regime change,” he told a recent Congressional hearing. Such suspicions, “coupled with an undemarcated border and a lack of effective mechanisms for communication between the two states have fueled these recent violent clashes.”
But the US does not share this agenda.
“Frankly, we do not want to see the ouster of the [Sudanese] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures,” Lyman recently told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We want to see freedom and democracy [in Sudan], but not necessarily via the Arab Spring.”
Poor US-Sudanese diplomatic relations have fed mutual distrust, he told the Washington-based Atlantic Council this week.
“Above all, it has kept our two countries from realizing the benefits from a normalized relationship, the political, security, and economic benefits that would derive from it for both of us,” he said. “It is not in our interest to have poor relations with Sudan.”
The US was pleased with Juba’s recent initiatives in the negotiations with its northern neighbor and South Sudan should be commended for curbing a recent spate of tribal conflicts.
“Yes, we are disappointed in some things,” Lyman told McClatchy Newspapers. “But we have a very good dialogue with Juba on all of it.”
“The United States wants to have a normal, indeed a productive, relationship with Sudan,” he said. “It saddens us… that we are not on a warm and friendlier course.”
But better relations with Washington are contingent on Khartoum respecting Sudanese citizens’ democratic aspirations and human rights, said Lyman, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy:
Sudan must stop bombing civilians and welcome international offers of humanitarian aid for civilians in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, who are caught in the fighting between Sudanese armed forces and southern rebels…..Sudan would also have to seek a meaningful resolution of outstanding issues with South Sudan, which would lead to the resumption of trade between the African neighbors. …. An improvement in the U.S.-Sudan relationship would mean exchanges between military schools and colleges. It would include a role for Sudan’s Armed Forces in international peacekeeping operations, economic ties with the U.S. and support in the fight against terrorism.
The United States has had a troubled relationship with Sudan for more than a decade, a period marked by tensions over violence between pro-government Arab militias and rebel groups in the western province of Darfur, negotiations with South Sudan and the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The International Criminal Court has accused Sudanese President Omar Bashir of committing war crimes in Darfur… The United States placed Sudan on the list of states sponsoring international terrorism in 1993 and, as the conflict in Darfur flared, also imposed economic sanctions.
“This is not a situation that lends itself easily to a normalization of relations,” said Lyman.
“It has restricted our interaction at senior levels. … It has engendered suspicion and often public antagonism between our two countries,” he added. “Above all, it has kept our two countries from realizing the benefits from a normalized relationship.”
Despite US diplomatic efforts, a “binding deal on oil revenue sharing will not be possible or sustainable” if cross-border conflicts are not resolved, say leading analysts.
“Both of the military-dominated governments would plough a huge percentage of oil revenues into security, risking an even greater escalation, making both sides understandably wary of an oil deal without security guarantees-particularly Khartoum, which faces multiple insurgencies just a year after its painful loss of the south,” according to the Eurasia Group’s Philippe de Pontet and Clare Allenson:
Talks have broken down several times over the location of a demilitarized zone, which would represent the first step to ending hostilities. During her visit to Juba this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will pressure the Kiir administration to follow through on security guarantees in order to move negotiations forward. Juba’s implicit bargain now appears to be to demobilize its affiliated militias in Southern Kordofan and elsewhere, in exchange for an independence referendum in Abyei, which would likely see the district join South Sudan. Khartoum will no doubt exact a higher price, through higher transit fees. Hammering out such a deal will be tough, but the reality of a mutually destructive stalemate, together with both Juba and Khartoum’s revised oil offers, should offer scope for a deal-albeit a shaky one-sooner than most would expect.
Conflict-resolution will be a key priority for a newly-launched Juba-based policy research group, supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The Sudd Institute will draw on policy input from civil society groups to address issues of rule of law, effective governance, domestic security, as well as disputes with Sudan.
“We are helping to develop a South Sudanese voice to inform multiple aspects of the policy-making process,” said Jon Temin, USIP’s director of programs for South Sudan and Sudan.
“The South Sudan government is fighting fires on a number of fronts. Our assistance to the Sudd Institute will help build an institution that is able to step back and make policy recommendations,” he added:
The Sudd Institute, which was started by six South Sudanese, officially opened on 1 May this year. Its founder members include, Jok Madut Jok, a former USIP senior fellow and Abraham Awolich, a South Sudanese specialist in public administration with experience in development and governance work.
In its strategic plan, however, The Sudd anticipates that the institute will largely focus on peace and security issues, including rule of law, justice, security sector reform and relations with Sudan, while also concentrating on policy ideas that foster an “inclusive, responsive and transparent government.”