The African Confidential,
April 09, 2014 (AC) — US President Barack Obama was among the first world leaders to congratulate South Sudan on the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in January, which he described as “a critical first step toward building a lasting peace”.
Now, South Sudan’s leaders need to work to fully and immediately implement the agreement and start an inclusive political dialogue to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict, Obama said then.
“The full participation of political detainees currently being held by the Government of South Sudan will be critical to those discussions, and we will continue to work to expedite their release” Obama said.
But it appears, Obama’s patience on the South Sudan leader, Salva Kiir is wearing out. First diplomatic sources say, Obama is not happy that Kiir has not lived to the expectations of America and the international community of “playing a constructive role”.
Equally disappointing, the United States which has long supported the aspirations of the people of South Sudan for independence, has found Kiir a stumbling bloc towards peace through his actions, first by detaining political prisoners against the American wishes as well as the development partners.
To Obama in order to regain the trust of their people and the international community, South Sudan’s leaders must demonstrate their sustained commitment to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. But to America, Kiir has not lived to this expectation and still believe in military option if peace negotiations in Addis Ababa fails.
To Obama’s disappointment, to ensure that the lives of their people and future of their young country are not further marred by continued violence, and that individuals who have committed atrocities are held to account, Kiir prefers, only the rebel force should be brought to account because they attempted to overthrow a legitimate government.
“Obama administration feels Kiir’s leadership has been challenged and may not make it to the next level,” a source knowledgeable with South Sudan-America relations said. Another source said, America considers Kiir a weak leader as opposed to late Dr. John Garang and has shown dictatorial tendencies.
“He (Kiir) has failed to galvanise unity within the army and even in the ruling SPLM,” the source added.
The source say, Obama is also worried that Uganda may not stay long to prop up Kiir because of the war in Somalia and the Central African Republic. Once Uganda departs, Washington fears, Kiir’s political base will become more shakier and hence a possible coup within.
It is because of the war in Somalia and CAR that Washington asked Uganda army to leave South Sudan territory.
Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama’s new top diplomat for Africa, Ms Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the cessation of hostilities agreement signed between South Sudan and renegade Riek Machar forces also requires foreign troops to pull back to defensive positions.
“We feel deeply committed, given past lessons, to try to prevent the chaos and the genocide that too often comes [out] of the violence that can occur if things break down,” Mr Kerry told journalists during a virtual press conference. “We don’t want this to cascade into a more violent repetition of the past. So, that’s why we’re committed.”
The fighting between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar broke out on December 15. Uganda sent it’s troops several days later to fight alongside forces loyal to President Kiir.
An estimated 8,000 people are said to have been killed and thousands displaced from their homes since December 15.
Ugandan officials, in response to Washington’s initial February 8 call for withdrawal of foreign forces, insisted the UPDF were invited by Kiir and would stay put on South Sudan soil, but that position seems under consideration.
Withdrawal of Ugandan troops, the only foreign force that raced to prop up Kiir’s faltering government, is one of pre-conditions set by Machar’s group at the ongoing IGAD-brokered talks in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has joined Norway in publicly asking the UPDF to leave.
Both Ms Thomas-Greenfield and Secretary Kerry said they will remain deeply involved in issues of South Sudan because the US government under various administrations invested heavily to secure its independence from Sudan.
The other concern by America is that under Kiir’s watch, her rival China has managed to grab eight lucrative oil deposits while her companies, Exxonmobil and Haliburton are taking over only four deposits, tilting the balance of power in influencing issues in the newest country in favour of Beijing.
The African Confidential in its February Edition reported that immediately Garang was killed along with eight Ugandans and six other Sudanese in a helicopter crash July 30, 2005, cracks emerged in the leadership of the then semi-autonomous state.
The death of Garang caused riots and killings in the streets of Sudan, an indication of a power vacuum.
Two incidents tested the capability of the new leadership in Juba, headed by Kiir, a few days after taking over the mantle.
There was a mutiny of troops under the Joint Integrated Unit (JIU), a force set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/A and Khartoum in December 2006. The mutineers shot their way into Juba town from their base across the River Nile demanding salaries, looting shops and paralyzing businesses. It was on personal intervention of Garang’s widow Rebecca that the mutineers were convinced not to march to State House, and so they called off the mutiny. Since then Mrs. Garang has remained at the heart of South Sudan politics even after she was relegated by Kiir. Analysts believe with Kiir exiting, America favours Mrs Garang as his immediate replacement because of her appeal to the SPLM members and those from other parties but with a strong believe in the South Sudan cause.
The other theory is that analysts believe Sudan’s Omar Bashir is behind the current conflict in South Sudan because of the oil reserves that the South took over when she attained independence.
Landlocked South Sudan seceded with most of the formerly united country’s oil fields, but Sudan retains the ports and facilities needed to get that product to market. A row over transport fees led to a 16-month standoff, shuttering production of about 350,000 barrels per day.
African Confidential reported that what has riled Khartoum is Uganda government’s current feasibility assessment of transporting some of its crude oil to the coast through the planned Juba-Lamu pipeline – in effect bypassing Khartoum – which has been collecting exorbitant fees from her neighbor to fuel her crumbling economy.
According to international media reports, a Japanese company, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, has been contracted by the Kenya and South Sudan governments to lay 2000 kilometers of pipeline to transport crude oil from South Sudan to the Kenyan coast.
Toyota Tsusho Corp. plans to lay down pipelines with a total length of 2,000 kilometers for oil exports from South Sudan and Uganda via Kenya, according to sources within the oil industry.
One of the pipelines will transport oil from South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Lamu, allowing South Sudan to bypass the existing pipeline going northward to a Red Sea port via Sudan with which it has kept strained ties since its independence in 2011 following a two-decade-old civil war.
The Ugandan government is joining the new company as Toyota Tsusho plans to connect the South Sudan-Kenya pipeline with another from the Albertine Graben of Uganda. Toyota Tsusho is spearheading the project for which investments are expected to total more than US$5 billion.
With this massive project under way, America whose oil reserves are dwindling by the day, may not afford to have a weak leadership in Juba.
It for this and other many factors earlier identified that America prefers Kiir to be out of power, sources claim and he is either replaced by Ms. Garang or Riek Machar. At worst, Garang’s son, Mabior Garang can be the other alternative.
To confirm this theory or fact, there are reports within the diplomatic community, America has secretly contacted South African government to give safe passage to Kiir once he agrees to step aside and give perks befitting a retired Head of State.
All said and done. There has not been a true confirmation from either Obama administration or Kiir on what is happening between the two. As we keenly monitor events in South Sudan, our eyes and ears remain open to receive the new developments.