Debate

Earth, blood and oil - South Sudan's first year of independence

One year after the declaration of independence, South Sudan is fighting against many problems but at the same time has large assets such as oil and fertile soil. In January this year, an oil shutdown was introduced after conflicts over pricing. Maybe the stop can lead to South Sudan starting to invest in diversification and taking advantage of its large land areas, writes journalist Cecilia Bäcklander.

South Sudan has been independent for just over a year. The problems the new country faced were known in advance, but the population still had high hopes for what freedom would bring. People are now plagued by conflict, corruption, illiteracy, unemployment, underemployment, lack of roads, schools and hospitals. They are magnificent obstacles in the work of creating a new society with its own institutions. But South Sudan has oil; 98 percent of government revenue comes from oil and 75 percent of Sudan's oil resources went to South Sudan at the time of the split.

Ongoing conflicts with Sudan have marked the first year of independence. Battles are taking place along the more than 2000-kilometer-long border. No oil has been extracted since January this year. Now the states have agreed and production and exports will start again. In the short term, the oil stop has created chaos. But perhaps this could lead to South Sudan seeing its vulnerability and seriously starting to invest in diversification and taking advantage of its large untapped, fertile lands.

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became the world's newest country after a well-organized referendum in which 98 percent of the population voted for independence from Sudan. The referendum was set in a 2005 peace agreement between the Khartoum government and the SPLM rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Independence is without return. It was preceded by decades of strife between the ruling Arab Muslims in the north and black ethnic groups with Christian or traditional religions in the south. In the middle of the battle were the great oil resources.

75 percent of the oil is located on the land of South Sudan, but the refineries are located in Sudan, where all the pipelines go.

The blessing and curse of the oil
75 percent of the oil is located on the land of South Sudan, but the refineries are located in Sudan, where all the pipelines go. The countries did not agree on pricing and in January, South Sudan stopped oil extraction and exports. The oil was not pumped up, nothing was transported out and no revenue flowed in. Since 98 percent of South Sudan's government revenue comes from oil, this was a financial meltdown. Nevertheless, the measure had the support of the population. They want to assert their right to what is perceived as an extractor in the north.

Sudan was also hit hard by the oil embargo. Price increases and savings led to protests against the regime. The lack of diversification and development of agriculture and industry also became clear in Sudan.

One month ago, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Omar al Bashir of Sudan crawled to the cross in the negotiations led by the African Union. Production and export of oil will resume gradually during the autumn. There is an abysmal mistrust between the two states but they cannot do without cooperation. At least not for long.

South Sudan has been negotiating with Kenya for some time for a pipeline to the coastal city of Lamu. Kenya has found oil in the areas bordering the South and perhaps dependence on Sudan can be broken. A line to Djibouti, via Ethiopia, is also being discussed. But it takes time, you have to find investors. Chinese companies, which are deeply involved in the oil industry in both Sudan and South Sudan, are hesitant.

Oil is also a finite asset. It is speculated how long South Sudan's sources will last, five or ten more years with full extraction and then declining, until 2035, the assessment is now. But maybe you will find new deposits. Diversification is required in any case.

South Sudan has unused land that is said to be able to supply the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. But there are almost no farms and no farmers.

Land and power
South Sudan has unused land that is said to be able to supply the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. But there are almost no farms and no farmers. There were farmers and small farms, but they were bombed together into itinerant villages and the farmers became soldiers. Nomadic ethnic groups live on livestock, there is famine every year and a lot of weapons in circulation after all the years of war. The number of attacks on neighbors to plunder livestock and expel enemies has increased since independence.

Parts of the long border between Sudan and South Sudan have not been regulated in agreements, some regions are disputed. Sudan attacks ethnic groups in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, burning villages, killing and displacing its inhabitants. Rebels with roots in SPLA in the south are fighting back. The population is fleeing to South Sudan and refugee camps there.

This burnt-earth tactic is reminiscent of the strategy of the 90s civil war when the government army devastated large areas in the south and chased the survivors on the run, to crack the SPLM rebel movement. Only the strongest survived unbelievable hardships and crossed the border into Ethiopia and Kenya. Most of them were young boys and were given the name "lost boys", we can read the shocking testimony from one of them in the book "What is this what" by Dave Eggers.

The UN states that hundreds of thousands of people are in the conflict areas with a lack of everything, including water. The World Food Program expects to distribute food to 2,7 million people this year, in a country with just nine million inhabitants.

One to two million South Sudanese were at independence in the north, in Sudan. They have no civil rights even though many of them were born there. Hundreds of thousands have crossed the border into South Sudan for an uncertain future, others are in limbo, waiting for identity documents from South Sudan.

The agreement in September between the south and the north established a disarmed buffer zone of 10 kilometers along the border and what were called soft borders to stop the war. The oil-rich and controversial Abyei province is not covered by this agreement. AU wants a referendum there in 2013. If the permanent residents of Abyei are allowed to vote for national affiliation, the majority will probably vote for the province to go to South Sudan and the nomadic ethnic groups from the north who traditionally use the pastures during the dry periods will be run over. This can hardly be done peacefully and it is doubtful whether the AU will be able to force the vote.

In South Sudan, as in Kenya, there is no doubt that the biggest culprits are often closest to power. Nor does the president make any secret of it.

Power and corruption
Sudan, before the split, was ranked 2011 as number 177 out of 182 countries in Transparency International's corruption report. (North Korea and Somalia came at the bottom of the list.)

Corruption within the ruling SPLM is widespread and many have robbed themselves of common resources during the transition years between the 2005 peace treaty and independence.

Since the disappearance of oil revenues, President Salva Kiir has attacked corruption and tried to reclaim what was defrauded. In May, he wrote a letter to 75 senior officials urging them to return $ 4 billion that he said had disappeared in corruption since the peace agreement was signed in 2005. Most of the money is believed to have been used abroad to buy real estate, cash, among other things. paid. "When we came to power, we forgot what we were fighting for and began to enrich ourselves," the president wrote, promising amnesty for sinners to make amends for their guilt.

The information minister claims that $ 60 million has been repaid so far. Skeptics point to Kenya's long-standing example, which shows that anti-corruption activists disappear into exile, drop out or are fired on gray paper. New anti-corruption generals are appointed but no money is ever returned and impunity is total.

In South Sudan, as in Kenya, there is no doubt that the biggest culprits are often closest to power. Nor does the president make any secret of it.

One of the government's problems is being able to pay salaries to the oversized army where most of the treasury has gone. The army is the dominant force in South Sudan after all the years of war and a hungry and dissatisfied giant army could threaten all development and security.

South Sudan has lots of land, largely unused, but only 10 km of paved road. Despite the green land masses, everything is imported.

South Sudan's untapped resource
South Sudan has lots of land, largely unused, but only 10 km of paved road. Despite the green land masses, everything is imported. The 2005 peace treaty started a kind of gold rush against South Sudan from neighboring Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia and from international organizations and investors. Kenyans and Ugandans run and manage service industries and transportation. What needs to be done now is to create a South Sudanese economy where investment in agriculture is encouraged. It's about starting from the beginning, but there is great potential.

Nomadic shepherds will not build up agriculture. In the worst case, they will be seen as obstacles to development. And we will surely see a discussion about neo-colonization and land grabbing if foreign investors show up on stage.

The government of South Sudan needs to attract investors and at the same time have control over operations and conditions so that agricultural development benefits South Sudan's poor and partially starving population. Not only investors should be kept in check. Corruption is an infection that easily leads to chronic disease in the heart of a government that has to deal with the oil billions.

Can the rulers manage to lead the creation of a better South Sudan? So far, one year into independence, that question can not be answered in the affirmative. But of course, South Sudan will move towards a better future. Good contacts, both economically and politically, with neighboring countries that have economic growth, such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, guarantee this.

 

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

Do you want to respond to the debate article or is there something in the text that is incorrect? Contact us at opinion@fuf.se

Share this: