Khartoum decries South Sudan oil shutdown turns from suicide into murder-suicide

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Apr 17th, 2012

By Steve Paterno

Early this year in a confrontation over oil dispute with the Republic of Sudan, the government of South Sudan decided to shut down its oil production, which accounts for about 98% of its revenue. As a result, many analysts and observers concluded that the unexpected drastic measures of the oil shutdown amounted into committing economic suicide by South Sudan. In justifying the move, South Sudan characterized the dire situation as a zero sum game, where the country could either continue to produce its oil, which will be stolen by Khartoum or completely shut down the production so that both sides get nothing out of it. In response, Sudan fears that South Sudan is out to harm the interest of the regime in Khartoum. That the behavior of South Sudanese is of a murder-suicide personality, where given the options between incentives that could help the two countries and the one that can harm both countries; South Sudan decided to opt for the later, just as to see Khartoum endure the suffering. According to Khartoum’s propaganda, the sentiments of the South Sudanese is driven by the agenda of some foreign political powers, which “do not want Sudan and China to profit from the resources” in the country.

Members of the Khartoum regime are ignoring the negative dominant role it has been playing in shaping the sentiments and driving the actions of the South Sudanese toward its relationship with the North as they are tending to cast the blames somewhere else. For over the years, the interactions between North and South Sudan have been bitter—a relationship which has been at best, characterized by master-slave domination. Even with its fully fledged independence, the regime in Khartoum still thinks it can bully South Sudan into fiddle role of submission by supporting instability and rebellion in South Sudan; bombing and invading the country at will; and refusing to negotiate in good faith on pending post referendum issues between Sudan and South Sudan.

To prove its violations of South Sudanese territorial integrity, neglect the dignity of its people, and downplay its economic values, when the oil was first discovered in the country, in late 1970s, the regime in Khartoum even ignored to acknowledge that the actual location of the oil discovery is in fact in the Southern Sudan, Upper Nile province. Instead of telling the truth upon the discovery of the oil in Southern Sudan, the Khartoum regime announced that the oil was discovered “450 miles south of Khartoum,” without any mention by name of the exact location of the discovery. Ever since, Khartoum is relentlessly pursuing efforts in trying to annex the oil reserves located in Southern Sudan to be within the territorial Northern Sudan. The war happens to provide a perfect pretext for Khartoum to employ cruel methods that involve scotch earth policy as a means to forcefully annex Southern Sudanese oilfields into North. The forceful occupation of Abyei area by the regime in Khartoum and the current military confrontation to occupy Paanthou, (also infamously known as Heglig), are just few examples of Khartoum’s regime cruel modus operandi.

However, the South Sudan insistence to stand its ground in Paanthou through all means possible and to reclaim other disputed areas that include Abyei even by military means will change Khartoum’s strategy of belligerence forever. The current military confrontation in the disputed borders already cast some things under clear light and provided strategic shift for South Sudan in restoring the territorial integrity and ensuring the stability of the newly emerged country.

First, South Sudan restoration of Paanthou into its territory starves Khartoum of about half of its oil production. Sudanese economy is already feeling the pinch as the country’s currency shows dramatic decline against the dollar, selling at a double rate than the normal. In the capital Khartoum, people are experiencing long queues in petrol stations to fill up. The prices of commodities are on the rise. No matter what the outcome will be as to who will eventually control Paanthou, its economic impact can never be ignored, especially in short term. Early report is already indicating that Paanthou is reduced into rubble by Sudanese bombardments. Oil installations cannot escape from such damages, hence, even if oil flow is to start soon, it will not run into its full capacity.

Second, for South Sudanese to have full control of Paanthou, it deals Khartoum strategic blow as the country loses its important military base, which it uses as a launching pad in destabilizing South Sudan. Over the years, Khartoum upgraded Paanthou into a military base that offers a gateway into South Sudan, where South Sudanese militias are stationed, trained and supplied with intention of infiltrating South Sudan.

Third, by establishing full control over Paanthou and its vicinity, South Sudanese armed forces can easily link up with its natural military allies in the North, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), which is fighting to oust the regime in Khartoum. Liberation of border region by the SFR can shield South Sudan from Khartoum’s invasion. Therefore, it is natural for South Sudan to lend their full support to the SRF in liberation of Sudan from the dictatorial regime in Khartoum.

Fourth, securing strategic border points by South Sudanese will ensure stability of the country as that will push far away the threats of invasion by Khartoum armed forces.

Fifth, perhaps only through military confrontation will Khartoum relent in agreeing for a negotiable process, but what will be the point of signing an agreement with Khartoum, which it will not honor anyways.

In conclusions, South Sudan is not committing suicide. After all, it has nothing to lose to begin with as a result of years of subjugation under successive Khartoum regimes. If any thing, the country is freeing itself. The newly emerged country is not also committing any aggression as it is only acting in self defense in protection of its territorial integrity, dignity of its people, and economic worth. So, Khartoum must start to view South Sudan as an independent state, which deserves full respect, and if military confrontation is the means to exact that from Khartoum, so be it.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at

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