Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sudan Prepares Major Military Offensive To Divert From Internal Unrest

By Joe Odaby

Juba, South Sudan — September 30, 2013 … The leading South Sudan think-tank, The Fashoda Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies, has published a strategic analysis of the recent military buildup in the neighboring Sudan.

Northern Sudan (capital: Khartoum), from which the South has seceded in 2011 after a long civil war, is led by the Islamist government of President Omar al-Bashar who was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The Fashoda institute points out that “the escalating fuel riots in Khartoum, and increasingly other cities in Sudan, serve as a stark reminder of the inherent fragility and instability of the country”.

The riots were sparked by the spiraling prices of all fuel products following the abolition of subsidies and the growing shortages of all fuel products. The recurring shortages of fuel result in shortages of food and other products and goods brought into Khartoum from both the Red Sea ports and the countryside. Within a few days, the riots became the worst since the 1989 riots that led to the military coup that brought to power Omar al-Bashir. “What began early this week in Sudan as a protest against the removal of fuel subsidies has developed into a full-blown uprising that is threatening President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s 24-year rule,” Arab political observers warned on September 27.

As the Khartoum riots escalated and turned political, the Sudanese military was sent to the streets to crackdown the riots by force. By 27 September, the Sudanese government acknowledged that over 50 demonstrators were killed by the security forces, over 250 were wounded, and over 600 were arrested. Numerous opposition sources put the casualties tally in Khartoum alone at over 150 fatalities, over 750 wounded, and over 2,000 arrested and/or disappeared. The military’s violent crackdown in Khartoum sparked even bigger and more violent riots over the weekend throughout Sudan. The protesters are now openly demanding the overthrow of Bashir’s regime while calling Bashir himself “a killer”. Moreover, both the Sudanese government and Arab diplomats report a growing use of automatic weapons by the rioters starting the evening of September 27. On the morning of the September 28, four security personnel were shot and killed in Khartoum by unidentified gunmen in the ranks of the rioters.

The Fashoda Institute writes that “the oil crisis is unfolding and escalating at a time when Khartoum is spending huge sums of hard currency on advanced weapons – mainly weapon systems optimized for long-range strikes and major wars rather than handling insurgencies such as the never-ending insurgency in Darfur”.

The Juba-based think-tank unveils that “in recent months, Khartoum has embarked on an unprecedented military build-up – mainly of air power. The key weapon systems are being purchased from Belarus. Most important is the acquisition of 12 refurbished Su-24Ms (4-6 of them already supplied) and 18 refurbished Su-30MKs (originally leased by India from Russia but returned to Belarus for the legal reason that the Russian Air Force cannot operate them).

Sudan was also negotiating the acquisition of another batch of second hand Su-25s to augment the existing fleet of 11 Su-25s (out of 14 originally purchased from Belarus). Belarus has a large arsenal of high quality combat aircraft that was put on sale for hard currency. A total of 35-36 Su-24Ms were withdrawn from service in February 2012, and the remaining 22-23 Su-24Ms are available for purchase. As well, 17 Su-27P and 4 Su-27UBM1fighters were withdrawn from service in December 2012 and also put for sale. The Belarus Air Force also has around 20 Su-25s stored in Lida. Khartoum expressed interest in virtually every major combat aircraft available and the main lingering issue is the availability of hard currency”. 

The Fashoda Institute points at the scope of the Sudanese military buildup: “Sudan is also looking for additional MiG-29s which Belarus cannot offer. Sudan acquired numerous MiG-29s in the last decade. In late 2008, 23 of the MiG-29s were in active service. However, only 11 of these MiG-29s were operational in the first half of 2013. One MiG-29 was claimed by the South Sudanese air defense on April 4, 2012. Apparently, the aircraft crash-landed in a Sudanese airbase and was written off. The other 11 MiG-29s were grounded due to maintenance difficulties. Sudan is interested in a large number of MiG-29s and the main candidate source is Ukraine that has around 100 MiG-29s of various models stored in reserve”.

“The most important undertaking by the Sudanese Air Force in recent months is the large scale recruitment of mercenaries – aircrews, technical experts and ground crews – from all over the former Soviet Union”, discovers the Fashoda Institute. “Their main mission is to activate, up-grade and better utilize the existing arsenal of the Sudanese Air Force (that had suffered both combat and technical damage in recent years). The first visible result is the growing number of MiG-29s that are taking off for test and evaluation flights. The efforts of the ex-Soviet mercenaries have already returned 4-6 additional MiG-29s to flying status.

The revamped Sudanese Air Force has unprecedented long range reach covering northern Ethiopia and all of nemesis South Sudan. Indeed, the Sudanese government is also committing huge resources to the up-grading and expansion of all key military airbases in the southern parts of the country – including the extension of paved runways and the construction of new buildings, bunkers and other facilities.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese government is making strenuous efforts with Russia to expedite and increase the deal for assault helicopters and helicopter gunships. On order are 12+6 Mi-8T and 12+6 Mi-24D/V/P. Although Khartoum is ready to pay cash for everything – the Kremlin is not rushing the deal for political-strategic reasons. Again, the Sudanese acquisition of weapon systems is accompanied by the widespread recruitment of mercenaries – aircrews, technical experts and ground crews – to get Sudan’s existing arsenal of 20 Mi-8/Mi-17 assault and 24 Mi-24 combat helicopters into better operational status, and have highly qualified aircrews in the cockpits”.

The Fashoda Institute points out that “although the main emphasis of Khartoum is air power, the expansion and modernization of the military is not neglected either. The current priority of Khartoum is launching a concentrated effort to fully operationalize and activate the large quantities of heavy weapons (tanks and artillery) purchased from Ukraine in 2009-2010 and delivered over the next couple of years. The main weapon systems are T-72 MBTs, BM-21 MRLs, 152mm 1S3 SPGs, 122mm 2S1 SPGs, and 122mm D-30 guns. As well, the Sudanese army has embarked on the refurbishment and modernization of key military bases and garrisons in southern Sudan – including the installation of modern communications systems.

The Sudanese military build-up effort got a major boost on 9 September during the visit of Libyan defense minister Abdel-Rahman Al-Thani to Khartoum. Sudan’s defense minister Abdel Rahim Hussein signed an agreement with his Libyan counterpart on large scale weapons, spares and ammunition transfers mainly from Qadhafi’s stockpiles in southern Libya. In return, Sudan promised to restrain Libyan Jihadists that had sought and received shelter in Sudan and prevent them from returning to Libya. (The Sudan-Libya agreement is identical to the agreement signed with Egypt in 2001.) The supplies from Libya will also enable the Sudanese military to activate and return to operational use a sizeable force of older models of Soviet-origin weapons”.

“Taken together, these efforts point out to active preparations for a major land war rather than mere escalation of the fighting against irregular forces in Darfur or elsewhere in Sudan”, highlights the report of the Fashoda Institute.

“Khartoum needs a major diversion of the popular anguish and frustration”, says the Institute’s analysis. “Addressing external threats is a proven diversion from internal crises. The calls for the reunification of Sudan under the banner of Islam have been a popular rallying cry for the widespread Islamist and Mahdist constituencies – and thus a sure method for getting their supporters out of the swelling ranks of rioters. Moreover, it is also expedient for the Bashir administration to blame the oil crisis and shortage of funds on the lingering impact of the transfer of so many oilfields to South Sudan after the mid-2011 break-up of Sudan.           

Ultimately, Khartoum is driven by the grim realities of the region, and Bashir’s determination to get involved in crises with assertive offensive strategy. Irrespective of reassuring political rhetoric – Sudan and South Sudan are heading toward a major face-off that might easily escalate into violence. Abyei remains a volatile region with tension growing as a result of Sudan’s atrocious suppression of grassroots revolts in surrounding South Kordofan. The Abyei crisis will also keep lingering since the referendum is nowhere to be seen. Khartoum considers the Abyei oil reserves a shortcut to addressing the economic catastrophe and therefore won’t accept the secession the local population yearns for. The road to war from such irreconcilable quandary is very short. Abyei is not the only crisis point for the South Sudan-Sudan border demarcation as proposed by the AU is equally problematic and destabilizing, and thus might provoke crisis and war at any moment.

Furthermore, even though Cairo is currently focused on domestic issues in the aftermath of the military takeover – the crisis with Ethiopia over the Nile waters lingers on and is far from resolution. Dominance over the Nile waters is a sacred cause for both Egypt and Sudan – and thus no government in Cairo or Khartoum will ever allow itself to be portrayed as having compromised with the Nile Basin states. With no viable solution in sight, and with the work on the Ethiopian dams continuing apace – the crisis might still escalate into a major war. South Sudan will be dragged into such a war by regional geography”.  

“Thus, all of these are both ticking crises in their own right, as well as good causes for diversion and tension building for the besieged Bashir administration”, warns the Fashoda Institute. “Hence, Khartoum’s saber rattling and war preparations might prove self-fulfilling”.

The report on the think-tanks Website ends with assessment of the Juba’s options: “Little wonder that South Sudan is considering its own military build-up – as declared on September 22 by the new Defense Minister Kuol Manyang. Juba is determined to build a strong national army even if such undertaking might take nearly half of the national budget allocation. Manyang explained that Juba wants “the army to be at full military readiness to ensure victories in any military engagements.” Juba’s “strategic vision” calls for the building of “a strong and professional force” in regional terms. Manyang stressed that Juba’s ultimate objective is to deter the eruption of wars and crises, but that “the army, anywhere in the world, can only avoid wars when it is capable of winning them.”

South Sudan Establishes Database On Homeless Children

By Christian Edwards

Juba, South Sudan — September 19, 2013 (SSN) Mrs. Awut Deng, South Sudan Minister of Gender Child, Social welfare and Humanitarian Affairs, has engaged in a countrywide audit aimed at establishing the actual number of street children and orphans for the purpose of national planning.

Minister Deng has travelled to the Eastern Equatoria state to assess the situation of the homeless children there. Her visit, she said was to collect views of various civil servants, experts, charity workers on how best the street children could be helped to lead a normal life.

“It’s our collective responsibility to ensure that all these children go to school. They are the future of this country”, the Gender Minister urged.

She called on the governments of regional states, development partners, civil society organization and religious leaders to join efforts in ensuring “streets free of street children”.

Hon. Awut who was received by the state’s deputy governor Mr.Jerome Gama Surur, visited a school of the orphans in the state’s capital Torit. The school is operated by the charity organization, Hope for Sudan. It has enrolled a total of 86 orphans. Madam Awut applauded the well wishers whose contributions made it possible to set up the center that she said has become home for many homeless children.

Awest Lomoro, a street child aged nine, appealed to the government for support, saying the government needs to take action to protect the fathers and the mothers. The South Sudan Gender Minister has in the recent past visited Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal states.

 

South Sudan President Kiir Takes Emergency Measures As Floods Continue

Juba, South Sudan — September 17, 2013 (SSN) Most parts of South Sudan are overwhelmed by flood waters as a result of  the heavy rains the country has suffered in the last few weeks. The most hard-hit states are Northern Bahr el Ghazal with a total of 5, 882 households affected, Warrap with 10,000, Unity 8,355 and Upper Nile with 8,000 households affected. Lakes states and parts of Central Equatoria are reportedly also affected.

The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, said his government is taking immediate measures to respond to the needs of the affected population and is setting aside 7 million South Sudanese pounds to rescue the situation.

 

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H.E. President Kiir during the briefing.

“Your government is deeply concerned with the suffering imparted upon you by this natural disaster and has taken immediate action towards finding temporary mitigation measures while also looking for long term solutions once we overcome the emergency situation”, the President said on Thursday in his address to the nation.

President Kiir said that “food, security, shelter water purification tablets, medical services, information on floods and evacuation” are the immediate needs of the affected people in South Sudan.

President Kiir has assembled a nine-member taskforce to map, assess and propose immediate intervention plans for helping the affected 37, 238 households.

South Sudan President Kiir said the floods have swept away farms and homes depriving most of the people of the affected areas of their livelihoods. Health facilities, livestock grazing areas and other public utilities have also been rendered useless. The South Sudan President warned that flood-associated factors such as outbreaks of diseases, hunger and general collapse of peoples’ coping mechanisms remain eminent.

 

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Homes and farming land have been flooded in most parts of the country.

Besides thanking the UN and other partners for responding to the emergency, South Sudan President Kiir also called on the business communities – both in South Sudan and abroad – to help the affected regions of South Sudan with whatever they can during these difficult times.

South Sudan: New Report On Regional Perspectives

By Joe Odaby

Juba, South Sudan — September 12, 2013 … The leading South Sudanese think-tank, The Fashoda Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies, has published the strategic analysis of the regional perspectives of Central Africa. Its conclusion: South Sudan, Central African Republic and Cameroon are set to become an energy alternative to the Gulf of Guinea.

The Fashoda’s experts point out that given the instability of Nigeria and limited energy resources of other Gulf of Guinea states – Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo – finding a long-term substitute or back-up for Nigeria is the main challenge for the global energy markets. Moreover, in seeking long-term solutions, the preference of the West (including Russia) is to continue relying on, and even expanding, the transportation infrastructure from the Gulf of Guinea.

Tankers that can no longer load in Nigeria can be diverted to load elsewhere in the area – most likely Cameroon’s seaports.

From a geological point of view – the untapped reserves of the Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic are the most promising alternate energy resources. “Production will be expensive initially because the virtual absence of infrastructure in both countries will necessitate major investments in electricity supplies, railroads, pipelines and simple roads”, argues the Fashoda Institute. “However, in view of the magnitude of the estimated reserves and the long-term potential of both countries – the early cost of infrastructure is not considered prohibitive or alarming.

In recent months, experts in both Western Europe and Russia have focused on the band/strip comprised of the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Cameroon as both a viable region for accelerated development in the near future and the core of a wider regional alliance”.

“The real challenge is the long-term political stability and predictability of governments and leaders”, stress the analysis. “The West (including Russia) is determined to ascertain the willingness, readiness and ability of local governments to commit to long-term cooperation. The commitment of both Juba and Bangui to democracy, rule of law and forthcoming elections give hope because democratic states tend to abide by official institutional commitments. Initial contacts and discussions, especially with South Sudanese officials, were promising. Senior officials from both countries showed interest in the various ideas the West has for regional development”.

The Fashoda Institute’s report has criticized South Sudan and CAR because “high-level decision making remains slow in both Juba and Bangui”. However, it pointed out that “after the alarm caused by the Nigeria crisis – there emerges a new sense of urgency in the West and a desire, if not determination, to quickly confirm policies and lock long-term cooperation”.

The strategic analysis has also noted that “there are hopeful signs that both Juba and Bangui are ready to expedite the process. The successful visit to Khartoum by President Salva Kiir and the completion of the agreement on sustained oil exports via the Port Sudan pipeline should ameliorate the immense financial burden on South Sudan and should finally enable official Juba to focus on long-term development. The swearing in of President Michel Djotodia in Bangui as a civilian leader signifies the beginning of the transformation of governance and the slow progress toward long-term development (not unexpected given the dire state of the Central African Republic).”

Encouragingly for the Central African region, the report says that “Western leaders and senior officials remain encouraged since both President Kiir and Pres. Djotodia expressed interest in principle in the regional development programs. However, official Juba and Bangui are yet to undertake concrete steps. This procrastination continues much to the chagrin of the key interested and committed foci of power in official Berlin, Moscow, London, Brussels and other capitals. Because of the Nigeria crisis, the expectations of Western leaders and senior officials that both Juba and Bangui will finally commit and start implementation will only keep growing”.

The analysis sums up the challenges and perspectives of the region: “The Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic are sovereign states. Both President Kiir and President Djotodia are honorable and patriotic leaders doing their very best for their respective countries. The West desperately needs the energy and mineral (including diamond) reserves and resources in both countries. Cameroon’s sea ports are the key to safe shipping to the West around West Africa and into the northern Atlantic.

These characteristics make the three countries an ideal location for long-term development and strategic cooperation that might further evolve and expand to the entire region. In as much as Western senior officials and experts still consider the band/strip comprised of the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Cameroon to be both a viable region for accelerated development in the near future and the core of a wider regional alliance – these Western senior officials and experts are yearning for a glimpse of comprehension of the new sense of urgency from official Juba, Bangui and Yaounde. It is now incumbent upon the leaders and governments in Juba, Bangui and Yaounde to demonstrate that they are cognizant of the new sense of urgency in the West, and that they are ready to help the West help them turn around the heart of Africa”.

 

 

South Sudan: New Roads, All-Terrain Trucks Will Integrate The Region

ssn_roads

By Joe Odaby

Juba — September 9, 2013 (SSN) … Experts are pressing for opening alternate transportation routes from Nigeria to East Africa and using high-mobility all-terrain trucks in order to
overcome the absence of quality roads all over the region.

A recent Reuters report showed how much the development of East Africa, especially of the South Sudan, is hampered by the shortage of quality roads.

Every day up to 130 trucks from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia or even farther away arrive at the customs clearing area the size of a football field in the small border town of Nimule, South Sudan’s southern gateway to Uganda.

As Reuters put it, “once a sleepy outpost built by colonial ruler Britain to mark its southernmost presence in Sudan, Nimule has become an economic lifeline for South Sudan since the world’s newest state seceded from Khartoum in 2011 following decades of civil war”.

Landlocked South Sudan depends on its oil exports flowing north to fund its state budget, and remains vulnerable to shutdowns caused by disputes over pipeline fees and border conflicts with its former enemy Sudan.

With almost no industrial production and just some 300 km (190 miles) of paved roads, the new nation depends on truck drivers to provide it with everything from diesel to beer, condoms, trousers, laptops and frozen salami.

Whenever the road is blocked, supermarkets across the country struggle to get supplies.

Cross-border traffic has, however, been on the rise since a U.S.-funded project converted the dirt track from the British era into South Sudan’s only paved road.

The economic impact was immediate. “The new Nimule road has boosted trade and also lowered the transport cost of goods,” said Kimo Adiebo, professor of economics at Juba University.

Annual inflation has fallen to less than 10 percent from over 40 percent since the road was completed last autumn.

From Juba 205 km (128 miles) north of Nimule, some goods continue their trip on bumpy roads to the rest of a nation the size of France. It takes up to a month for soft drink cans from Dubai, loaded in Mombasa, to reach the countryside.

The border is open only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as the road from Nimule to Juba becomes dangerous at night with frequent accidents and bandits robbing passengers.

That total dependence on the Juba-Nimule road leads experts in Juba to press their Government and the Western neighbours of South Sudan – Central African Republic, Cameroon and Nigeria – for opening alternate transportation routes from the West to East Africa.

However, building the new roads is a costly and lengthy process while South Sudan needs alternate transportation routes right now – to provide for its remote deprived regions and to integrate the country torn apart by years of civil war. Many Western and local transportation experts agree that a quick and cost-effective solution will be procurement of high-mobility all-terrain trucks. A fleet of such trucks would help South Sudan to overcome the absence of quality roads and speedily integrate with its regional neighbours.

 

South Sudan Breaks Oil Embargo Imposed By Muslim North

By Joe Odaby

Juba — September 5, 2013 (SSN). The visit by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to Sudan’s capitol Khartoum on September 3-4, 2013, might prove a turning point in both bilateral and regional terms. In the climax of the Summit, Presidents Kiir and Omar al-Bashir signed oil export agreement guaranteeing the South Sudanese oil exports will continue “without any impediments” across “flexible but secure borders” between the two countries.

The agreement removes the immediate threat of economic strangulation and uncertainty by repeated Sudanese threats to close down the oil exports of South Sudan via the pipeline to Port Sudan.

Kiir and Bashir also agreed to “remove all obstacles” in bilateral relations and fully implement all existing cooperation agreements. In this context, the two presidents tilted toward the Juba interpretation of these mutual agreements – namely, the separation between economic issues and each of the various security issues from border delineation to the fate of Abye (where the referendum scheduled for October is unlikely to be implemented on time). Khartoum remained reticent, though.

“We are now taking new steps,” Bashir told Kiir. “We respect all the agreements … and are committed to implementing them as one package.” Kiir was more optimistic about the impact of the Summit. Khartoum and Juba must “close the old chapters and open a new page,” he said. “These two countries cannot always remain on a war footing. If they do that, they cannot offer services to their citizens.” Kiir considered the Khartoum Summit to be the springboard for a new era in bilateral relations. “I do not want these agreements to be on the books [only]; we will work to implement them fully and we are here for that,” Kiir noted.

This breakthrough did not happen in a vacuum. In early August, soon after the establishment of the new government, President Kiir instructed the government to come up with a breakout in the deadlocked relationship between South Sudan and Sudan. Within days, Foreign Minister Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin announced the formulation of new Sudan policy in effort to address the immediate economic challenges and defuse mounting threats along their mutual border and elsewhere.

After rocky start and several delays in the planned Kiir-Bashir Summit, Juba succeeded to convince Khartoum of its sincerity and the Summit took place. Indeed, President Kiir arrived in Khartoum a mere 72 hours ahead of the expiration of the deadline set by Khartoum to halt the flow of South Sudanese oil via the pipeline to Port Sudan.

Beyond the dramatic oil export agreement, the Summit contributes to the overall building of trust and reducing tension between the two neighboring countries.

Ultimately, however, the greatest achievement of President Kiir in the Khartoum Summit is buying time and securing funds for consolidating the true independence of South Sudan from strategic and economic points of view. The arrested development of the first two years – the direct result of the country’s stifling by blocking of oil exports – can now end and the true potential of South Sudan be realized.

Juba will soon have the resources to properly address the growing geo-strategic and geo-economic importance of South Sudan in both economic and regional strategic spheres. Juba can free land locked South Sudan from dependence on one venue of export, as well as develop a system of regional alliances and joint infrastructure construction programs (particularly westward as favored by the EU and Russia).

Juba can also accomplish a long-overdue defense build-up to address the lingering domestic crises (particularly Jonglei), the growing regional instability (such as still unresolved Nile waters crisis), and the unprecedented build-up by the Sudanese Armed Forces (especially the Air Force).

With Juba’s new political vitality and acumen clearly demonstrated in the conduct during the Khartoum Summit – Western political leaders and senior experts are eagerly awaiting the follow-up moves at the geo-strategic and geo-economic levels.