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South Sudan conflict might be fueled by foreign interests

South Sudan

Over the last month, our TV sets displayed African heads of states posing for photos with the Obama’s on the sideline of US – Africa summit in Washington. Those head of states we did not saw were either busy dealing with Ebola outbreak in their home countries or were simply not invited. President Robert Mugabe falls in the latter category. He chose to visit China as he is trying to generate support for Zimbabwe`s crumbling economy according to the Telegraph.

Though he accepted Obama`s invitation, President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan is in fact not happy with the role of the United States in South Sudan conflicts according to an article published this month in the New African magazine. The article titled “South – Sudan: why peace remains elusive” by Baffour Ankomah and was published on 19 August 2014. It details behind the scene machinations of South Sudan conflicts that is mainly fueled by foreign interests in the youngest country`s natural resources.

The conflicts that erupted on 15 December 2013 between president Salva Kiir and his vice president Dr Rieck Machar led many to believe that it was just another “African war”. Apparently it is not the case: the conflict is in part fueled by the economic interests of the United States and China. Baffour Ankomah reveals that from the vantage position of the government in Juba, one sees the hands of powerful outside forces hiding behind the scenes and stoking the fires, thereby making it not a local issue at all.

While the mainstream was expecting a new beginning after South Sudan independence on 9 July 2011, this was not the case for US oil companies and their Chinese counterparts. In the aftermath of South Sudan independence, US oil giants found themselves out of the country`s vast oil resources industry. Despite billions of dollars that were spent by the US government for South Sudan to reach its independence, US oil companies were set to gain nothing from the country`s oil resources. They are in large part under Chinese and other Asian oil giants.

This situation was merely created by the US government according to the article. It all started in the 1980`s by Washington not liking the SPLM/A because of America`s geopolitical and strategic interests of that time. The latter pushed it to support a United Sudan with the capital in Khartoum. America feared the so-called “communist threat” posed by Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile Mariam and its dislike for Muammar Al Gathafi`s Libya.

America support to Khartoum slackened in early and mid-1990s with the conclusion of the Cold War and Bashir government bending towards Islamist extremism. The late French President Charles de Gaulle was quoted as saying that states don`t have friends but interests. This is actually what happened when America switched its support from Khartoum to SPLM/A as it started to benefit from Washington`s political, economic and military support.

If Chinese companies found themselves having a large stake in South Sudan oil resources, it is surprisingly Chevron the American oil giant that was the first to prospect its oil resources. Chevron was surprised to discover that fish actually die of old age in the Suud region of South Sudan according to Baffour Ankomah report. Today, however there is not one US oil company in South Sudan`s oil industry. This situation is fueling the South Sudan conflict according to the same report.

South Sudan president, Salva Kiir Mayardit argued that this is a result of Washington mistake and that Juba does`t have any responsibility in it. As the South battled to break away from the North before 2005, the US had problems with the government in Khartoum and decided to pull out its oil companies from United Sudan that was under al-Bashir government. As the large chunk of oil resources happened to be in the South, the American pulls out affected the future of South Sudan.

This is what explain the absence of US oil giants in today`s South Sudan oil industry. The latter is actually dominated by America “new economic enemy” from the East headed by China and to a lesser extent India and Malaysia via their oil giant, Petronas. “You can imagine how this state of affairs rumbles stomachs and minds in the corridors of power in Washington”, writes the New African reporter.

In January this year during the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia many delegates voiced their concerns over how Americans are stoking fires in South Sudan for their selfish ends. The US definitely would like to have a share of the huge revenues Chinese and Asian companies are making out of South Sudan oil industry. At which price? Only the people of South Sudan can answer to this question.

AU delegates accused the Americans to be behind the political conflict that led to the breaking out of war in Juba on 15 December 2013. President Salva Kiir confirmed the allegations in an exclusive interview in Juba and accused his former vice president, Dr Rieck Machar of conspiracy with Americans to overthrow him. Dr Machar might have assured Americans that if they help him become president, he would drive out the Chinese and other Asian oil companies from South Sudan and handle everything over to the Americans.

This is an unfortunate reality for South Sudanese people who are mostly young. They should now be enjoying “the freedom” their ancestors fought for. I wonder how the new economic war between the US, Europe against China and other Asian countries in Africa would leave us the youth of this great continent. Recently the US invited African head of states to the 2014 US – Africa Leaders summit and before that China, Japan, India did the same.

All this can be summed by the well-known aphorism of an American politician: “It`s the Economy stupid!”. Why can`t our leaders be united behind a common purpose and shield this continent from incessant conflicts?

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