By Ngor Arol Garang
June 13, 2013 – South Sudan has now confirmed media reports about decision by Sudanese president Bashir, ordering his minister of petroleum to shut down flow of the crude oil to the international markets through Sudan. Bashir made the decision at a rally north of his country’s capital Khartoum. He was inaugurating electricity project in the city, making the day one of the joyous days for his supporters.
I watched it on Sudanese television stationed in the twin city of Omdurman after receiving calls from number of foreign journalists, one of whom had a local colleague from Sudan who attended the event. They were seeking contacts of relevant south Sudanese officials to gather reactions to balance up their stories. They also sought my reaction which I declined but helped them get the contacts they wanted.
Reasons given by the Sudanese president for ordering stoppage of the oil from flowing to the international markets through Sudan was that, according to him, the government of South Sudan provides support to the coalition of rebel groups fighting with declared agenda to remove his government from power. These are not new allegations. They have been there since secession and the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit has always been quick to deny, questioning credibility of the source of the allegations. Not only has President Kiir’s administration been engaged in the denial about the claims which are made by the government of Sudan headquartered in Khartoum but also accuse Sudan of having been providing strategic supports to his political opponents and different militia groups, allegedly to fight proxy war calculated to destabilise the new born country.
These allegations of Sudan providing weapons have been substantiated by defecting militia groups back to the South with heavy military weapons, ammunitions, vehicles, uniforms and of course knowledge.
Three groups have come from Sudan after independence. One came in 2012 under the command of Major General John Duit and the other came in April 2013 under the command of Major General Bapiny Monytuil. The new group under the command of General Johnson Uliny came this month, just a week in Upper Nile State. They were all responding to the number of amnesties issued by President Salva Kiir, one of which was issued in April 2013, pardoning all the groups for crimes they have committed while fighting his government in different places in the country.
Besides claims by these groups, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) also confirmed reports of spotting white aircraft, dropping parcels suspected to be weapons and other military supplies allegedly by the government of Sudan to the militia group led by David Yauyau in Jonglei State.
Add to these allegations was the designation of South Sudan by the Sudanese parliament as an enemy state after the Sudanese defense minister and 1st vice president said Khartoum would embark on plans to collaborate with other political forces to remove the SPLM led government in Juba. These, among other pejorative remarks, were made at the height of conflict over Panthou which is also known as Heglig in Sudan. The language, however, changed after the two countries reached an understanding to sign cooperation agreement in September 2012, a deal which many in South Sudan saw as a sold out of some territories by the government in Juba so as to get oil flow again. It was struck in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after months of negotiations facilitated by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel.
One of the provisions of this agreement was to create a buffer zone that allows the two countries to pull back their armies, 10 kilometers from their initial positions. The SPLA which is the national army in the south responded to the directives by its command in Juba. Sudan which was supposed to do same failed, renewing criticism from general public in the south against decision by the government in Juba.
The list of complaints by South Sudan against Sudan is long and I do not want to windbag those who would read this article with what is already a public knowledge. What I would like to share now is the general feeling, asking next plans by the government of the republic of South Sudan to manage its economy, without oil revenues. There have been plans to diversify the economy but which have never been practical. The government in the past eight years relied heavily on oil, neglecting other income generating sectors notably agriculture, tourism, developing roads and improving taxation system.
With oil now gone and not sure when it will be used to support developmental projects, one would like the governing leadership to reach out to the general public to seek their opinions and quickly design new strategy to cope with current economic situation so that it avoids collapse.
The good thing is that the economy is small to manage. It is not a large scale economy. The country does not have industries which would require huge hard currencies to sustain them. The current challenges are limited. They can be addressed if the government ensures that some of the suggestions below are implemented.
· Focus attentions on diversification of the economy by forgetting oil money and take aggressive lead in the mobilisation of the public to return to cultivation. Ensures land must be dug for food.
· Improve collection and proper management of none oil revenues. Transparency and accountability must be adopted by following all legal procedures when handling public funds.
· Reduce the size of the government to at least 12 cabinet ministers and around 150 members of parliament or even less. The two houses, lower and upper, should be combined.
· Abolish institutions created for political accommodation purposes, especially institutions with similar functions.
· · Use financial assistance to support aggressive transformation of the SPLA with the training, including provision of the modern weapons, establishing strong air force, raise the payment for our soldiers to at least 1000 SSP net for a private so as to motivate them.
· Ensures the army gets paid on time as well as making sure that their supplies, especially foods, fuel, medicines are not in short. Transparency and accountability should be enforced in the army. The ministry of finance and the auditor chamber should a close eye on how the funds given to the army are spent. They should not handle funds. All their projects and requirements should be handled by the nominal team of people with expertise in what they require.
· Conduct oil exploration and reach out to countries which would agree with plan to mortgage off oil to finance construction of the new pipeline and agricultural projects.
· Use the cuts (savings) from the reduced government to support infrastructure development especially roads to ease movement for produce and people, health, education, food production with priority as mentioned before.
If the government pay a listening ear and do this with seriousness and interest, I think the country can manage the economy and pick up from where it is at the moment and join the rest of the world.
The author is a Sudan Tribune Journalist and can be reached via [email protected]