Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 1 June 2007

US Sanctions : The South Sudan Prospective

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By Steve Paterno

May 31, 2007 — As of late, there has been tremendous effort and pressure to resolved the ongoing genocide in Darfur, which has thus far claimed many lives. Any day that goes by without any resolution, it means another score for the government in Khartoum and a lost for the international community while for the Darfurians it means more death and destruction. Anyway, the most anticipated tougher resolutions were expected of the U.S., which for years has been threatening to issue tougher measures against those involved in the ongoing genocide in Darfur. But finally, on May 29, President George W. Bush announced a series of economic sanctions tightening the already existing sanctions in Sudan and targeting certain individuals and corporations in Sudan as the concrete measures to deal with the violations of the henious act of genocide in Darfur. Others hail Bush’s measures as welcoming but many more said those measures are either not tougher enough and even many more said those measures are too little and just too late to have any impact. As for the people of South Sudan, what will economic sanctions on Sudan just mean for them? President Bush may just has the answer or would he not?

For those who criticize President Bush of not being so smart, they often joke that President Bush is intellectually incapacitated to the point that he cannot even identify some of the influential countries in the world map. Perhaps President Bush may not know the name of Indian Prime Minister or he may call the Greeks as "Greekians" or he may even occassionally in a slide of a tongue pronounce Barak Obama as "Barak Osama." But, when it comes to Sudan, President Bush knows it too well that he dedicated most of his efforts and time to issues affecting Sudan. There are even rumors that he has been nicknamed within the White House circles as "Sudan Desk Officer." It has been alleged that President Bush does not only passionately taken into heart the problems affecting Sudan but also developed some level of expertise on Sudan in the course of his tenure as president of the U.S.

This allegation is largely true, because President Bush knows that Sudan is the largest country in the continent of Africa. President Bush might have learned from the National Geographic that the population of Sudan is a multiethnicity, which consists of Arabs and Africans, with hundreds of tribes both large and small who are either Muslims, Christians or from other religions. The politically powerful, Evangelical Christians of the U.S. probably preached hundreds of sermons to President Bush that the population of the people in North of Sudan is prodominently Muslims of Arab origins or of Arab orientations while the South is prodominently Christians of African descents. It is obvious that President Bush is also aware of the fact that Sudan is emerging as one of the oil producing countries with China dominating the oil explorations and exploitations. In the course of his career as President of the U.S., President Bush might have been told by the folks in Langley (a code name for Centeral Intelligence Agency or in short CIA) that Sudan is ruled by Islamic despot known as Omer Hassan al-Beshir. In the same briefing, he might have also been told that President al-Beshir is a one time host of the leader of international Islamic terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, who turned out to be U.S. enemy number one. President al-Beshir and terrorist Bin Laden used to be allies on international terrorism, and President Bush is aware that as a measure to punish Khartoum, the U.S. imposed a unilateral economic sanctions on Sudan back in 1997. As a bonus, President Bush might have also watched a video footage of former President Bill Clinton issuing statement ordering cruise missiles to strike suspected manufacturing chenical weapon factory in Khartoum. And, of course, Sudan is embroiled in a war within itself. For years, those wars have been raging, especially the North-South war, which took five decades. President Bush has been aware of all these facts and many more others.

It was in 2002, that the U.S. under the leadership of President George W. Bush took serious initiatives to broker a peaceful settlement between the North and South Sudan. If history will record Iraq, Iran, North Korea as President Bush’s international diplomatic blunders, and then the same history will favorably record the peaceful settlement between the North and South Sudan as President Bush’s successful diplomatic legacy. President Bush enthusiastically involved in the North-South peace agreement. The entire U.S. Congress were rallying behind him on this issue. A high level peace envoy was appointed as a result. Top level government officials in a rank of Secretary of State was directly involved in the negotiations. It was even said that President Bush goes around with the phone numbers in the notepad of Dr. John Garang, the chairman of SPLM, Vice President Ali Osman Taha, and that of President Omer al-Beshir so as he could reach anyone of them at anytime if there is an impasse in the peace talks. Of couse, this rigorous effort paid off in a peaceful settlement popularly known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The agreement is intended to resolved most of the problems affecting Sudan. Among its major provisions, it establishes a one country two systems where the South is granted greater autonomy in running its own affairs.

Even though South Sudan is autonomously independent in running its affairs, it depends entirely on Khartoum for a hundred percent of its budget, because it gets a share of fifty percent of the oil revenues generated from South Sudan oil fields from Khartoum. This implies that South Sudan is directly affected by the economic sanctions impossed on Sudan to halt its oil exports or distabilize its financial transactions through global financial system. The U.S. government and the proponents of economic sanctions on Sudan are drawn too much by the emotions of genocide in Darfur that they did not consider how economic sanctions will affect the people of South Sudan and how will that in turn affect the two-year-old CPA. There are efforts by the U.S. government to exempt South Sudan from any U.S. economic sanctions, but such efforts do not take into consideration that South Sudan depends on Khartoum for its budget and that South Sudan uses Khartoum financial systems for major transactions.

Others may argue that any unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Sudan by the U.S. government will have less impact on Sudan’s economy, especially on its oil sector because Sudan will continue to trade with countries such as China, Russia, India, and many more others. However, what is needed to be considered here is that most of the international transactions, especially the oil transactions are conducted in U.S. dollars. Therefore, those transactions are for most part transmitted through the U.S. financial system or those that link to the U.S. system, and as a result, those transactions will be impossible to transmit because they will be subjected to the U.S. scrutiny. Even so, the South does not have a banking system for international transactions as it relies on banking system of Khartoum, which are the same banking systems which are targeted by sanctions. Any fund the South can receive from Khartoum has to be transmitted through the financial systems that is being targeted in the sanctions, and even worse, the South Sudan government loves to conduct its transactions in U.S. dollars, even calculating its own budget in U.S. dollars, hence, the South is falling victim of the sanctions that it has nothing to do with.

The U.S. government is pretty good in using global financial system as a punishment mechanism. Just ask al-Qeada and the affiliates, and they will tell you that the U.S. has been largely successful in halting and freezing their terrorism financial transaction through the global financial system in part because most of those transactions are conducted in U.S. dollars and most often than not they find themselves through the U.S. financial system or those who are linked with the U.S. system. Therefore, if the U.S. ratchet a little bit on its effort to frustrate the Khartoum government through those financial system, then the South may as well suffers as a result because the entire budget of the South Sudan has its origin in Khartoum—the origin that will be a burden for South Sudan as this origin is target of the sanctions.

This sanction cannot come at any worse time than it is for South Sudan. The South is already desparately in need of finding other sources of revenues for it to stay afloat. The fifty percent share of its oil revenues just came short of its expected expenditure budget. The billion of dollars pledged by the donors for reconstruction efforts of South Sudan has never been fulfilled by those who made the pledges, the rich countries. And even worse, Khartoum is going to use this sanction as an excuse to scale down on the amount of the fifty percent oil revenues, which currently stands at two billion U.S. dollars. This is so, because Khartoum secretly controls how much revenues it generates from South Sudan and is even more prompt to manipulate the figures or probably introduce some corruption into the mix of this sanction. Recent history, perhaps the one from Oil-For-Food program in Iraq is a chilling reminder that sanctions sometimes cannot achieved its intended purprose, especially if the situation can be subjected into manipulation and corruption as it may just be in the case of Sudan. Anyway, for South Sudan, it seems to have no way out of this predicament which is not part of its making. As the South Sudan tries to borrow more fund, the World Bank is advising that borrowing at this state is not a good idea. So, the South cannot be cornered in anymore desparate situation than this.

Now, it is time for President Bush to seriously revaluate the progress of the CPA, and begin to take measures that will not jeopardize the survival of the CPA, after all, the CPA is Bush’s legacy. Many are issuing warnings that the CPA is in imminent danger of collapse, and any measure that weaken the government of South Sudan, especially financially will lead into eventual collapese of the CPA and ultimately a total destruction of Sudan. On Durfur, President Bush should push for measures that include among others a no-fly zone. A no-fly zone will actually deter any military advancement from Khartoum because it present real credible threat to Khartoum weak airforce and mobility of its murderous military. Such a no-fly-zone should follow with a massive deployment of hybrid force of African Union and the U.N. Peacekeepers. And it is here that the U.S. will play a vital leadership role by providing logistics, which will increase the mobility, capability, and combat readiness of the peacekeepers to effectively intervene in securing lives in the Darfur region. Most importantly, the U.S. must reconcile the Darfurian warring factions so as they have a meaningful purpose for unity in order to have settlement with Khartoum, because by imposing a no-fly-zone and deploying massive number of peacekeepers in the region, by then Khartoum may already cave in.

In South Sudan, the U.S. must work diligently in making sure that the CPA achieves its ultimate goals of referundum for the people of South Sudan and that for the people of Abyei Area. Instead of imposing sactions that inadvertently affect development in South Sudan, the U.S. should rather encourage a direct trade and investment with South Sudan while keeping Khartoum at bay. The U.S.should promote incentives to corporations, especially the oil corporations to directly invest in South Sudan oil sector. South Sudan is sitting on a potential oil reservoir and other natural resources, most of which are not tabed into yet, therefore, greater opportunity for investment in infrustructure and explorations of natural resources for many U.S. corporations. And as a guarentee for the CPA, the U.S. should help in training and eguiping South Sudan military forces. And finally, of course, the U.S. must use its influence to empower the people of South Sudan through democrtatic principles and ideals. With that, the U.S. will not only create stability in Sudan but the U.S. will also have a trading partner and an ally in the region. But without that, well...

* Steve Paterno is a Sudanese residing in the U.S.A., and he can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com



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