SCORES of South Sudanese who have lost loved ones, the girls and women who have been raped and the thousands forced to flee to neighbouring countries must be wondering whether life would be as bleak if it were John Garang and not Salva Kiir who had led them to independence.
Like the Biblical account of Moses who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt but didn’t get to enter the Promised Land even after wandering in the desert for 40 long years, Garang who led the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement for 22 years, fighting for justice and equality before signing on to a comprehensive peace deal with the North in 2005 that saw him serve briefly as First Vice President, died in a plane crash on July 30, 2005. It was to be another six years before South Sudan got it’s independence.
Just like the Israelites’ woes didn’t end when they reached the Promised Land, over 98% hopeful South Sudanese who voted in favour of independence in January 2011 now know that their leaders’ promise of peace, prosperity and stability was hot air.
Kiir, their president who urged them to vote for independence so they could finally be free and “no longer be treated as second class citizens as they had been for decades,” and Riek Machar, the vice president he sacked in July 2013 after the latter declared his intention to challenge Kiir for the presidency, are both unwilling to see past their egos to resolve the conflict that some say has claimed about 50,000 lives, displaced over 2 million and left at least 4 million at the risk of famine.
After six failed mediation attempts over the last two years to get the two parties to commit to lasting peace, the people of South Sudan must be fed up and with no viable solution on the cards, maybe it would be a good idea for Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir to step in and take “his” southern territory back.
Three positives would come of a North-South reunification:
First, Bashir would get a chance to right his wrongs. Everyone deserves a second chance as is often said, and just like US Secretary of State John Kerry recently remarked that Washington is open to resuming talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the hope of finding a political solution to end the country’s 5-year civil war, a similar arrangement could be extended to Bashir.
This would not exonerate him of the Darfur atrocities and other crimes but for now, there’s an urgent need to deal with the impasse in the south and he can help.
Secondly, economic losses would be curbed to a point:
A joint report by Frontier Economics, one of Europe’s leading consultancies, Juba University’s Center for Peace and Development Studies and Uganda’s Center for Conflict Resolution estimates the direct economic costs of the crisis for the economy of South Sudan, its neighbours and the wider international community at between $22 billion and $28 billion over the next five years.
The same report recommends that if action is taken to ensure that peace is achieved in 2015 and not later, “the international community, particularly Western donors who have already spent as much as $1.8 billion fighting famine and sponsoring unsuccessful peace talks, could save about $30 billion by reducing expenditure on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.”
This would also enable neighbouring economies of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda caught up in the conflict through reduced trade and other costs borne by regional bodies like the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediating the conflict, to save all of $53 billion. Continued conflict is simply too costly, unsustainable and therefore unacceptable.
Thirdly, the oil would flow again:
In 2010, before the two countries separated, Sudan was the second-largest oil producer in Africa outside of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Since the split, Sudan and South Sudan’s production has declined, and together, they were ranked fourth-largest non-OPEC African oil producer in 2013, data from US Energy Information Association (EIA) indicates.
Disagreements over oil revenue sharing and armed conflict are largely to blame for the decline. Under a reunited Sudan, with Bashir in charge, squabbles over pipeline fees and who owns what will be curbed.
Production, which has too often been disrupted, will resume and further help shore up the economy. Hopefully this time around, oil revenues will go towards rebuilding all of Sudan and not simply lining a few top dogs’ pockets.
So Mr Bashir, go on and reclaim what’s yours, after all, both you and the late Dr Garang wanted the same thing anyway, a unified Sudan!