Opinion: Buying peace with oil? Why not?
First of all, in my opinion about the proposed governance structure that is being discussed while being publicly criticized by South Sudanese, I would like to say that, before you criticize and conclude that South Sudan is going to be making a world record with 5 Vice Presidents, know that:
1. Iran has 12 Vice Presidents
2. Cuba has 7 VPs
3. Guyana has 4 VPs
4. Comoros has 3 VPs
5. Honduras has 3
6. North Korea 4
10. Afghanistan 2
So Iran holds the world record that South Sudan is not even close to it. Circumstances determine what people adopt in order to live in peace and harmony. The violent quest for power by many politicians and warlords in South Sudan has left peace mediators with no more options but to create as many vacancies as they can to accommodate everybody into the government so we the citizens of South Sudan can live in peace and harmony.
I am looking forward to peace in any form as long as it will be anything that silences the guns, gives our poor citizens living in the horrible conditions in the internally displaced camps and refugee centres in neighbouring countries an opportunity to return to their villages, be able to till their fertile soils and produce food for themselves.
The peace agreement might not come easy, it might lead to us losing our dignity to foreign interests, our resources, territorial integrity and even our lands to countries of high suspicions like Sudan, but I would beat my chest as a young man that in the next 10 to 20 years to come, I will go and bring back what belong to South Sudan from her enemies who took advantage of the fight between my greedy fathers.
As negotiations go on in Khartoum, we seem to be thinking too much about oil. If we are going to buy peace with it, so be it. This will not be the first time it happened, Dr Riek Machar and late Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial handed it over to Bashir the first time in 1997. Even with such a violent displacement of their poor innocent people to vacate oilfields on which their huts sat on - having their villages being shelled with heavy artilleries, aerial bombardments with jet fighters and Antonov bombers and with close-range targeting with gunships, Riek and Matip drank and dined with Bashir in Khartoum. The only two heroes to boycott the deal were Taban Deng Gai and Peter Gatdet. Taban Deng Gai ran for his dear life to Nairobi after Bashir tried to kill him when he complained against the bombing and burning down of civilians villages while he was the governor of Western Upper Nile. Peter Gatdet went to the bush and fought. It was such a tragic moment that both Dinkas and Nuer came under serious suffering which united them to fight together. Unfortunately, they couldn’t manage the fight with Sudan using the oil proceeds to buy new and sophisticated weapons from China and Iran.
By that time, we were languishing in the Equatoria jungles, struggling to maintain the small pieces of land still controlled by SPLA while Khartoum almost won by pushing us out of our country into Uganda and Kenya. We were fighting to have a country and didn’t even think of oil as a major resource but our fertile arable lands which Dr John Garang kept on telling us to till and produce food. But this country which came over so expensively with lives of two and half million souls has been hijacked as predicted by our late father Dr John Garang de Mabior - by people who cut a big chunk of land and sell it for a bottle of beer. As long as at any moment they feel their stomachs are empty, they will continue to cut more big chunks of land and we will end up losing it altogether. The country will be gone. So why not let oil go to these devils and their father Bashir and we have our country?
The former Venezuelan oil Minister who also helped in the founding of OPEC, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo once warned his country in 1976 that, and I quote, "Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see, oil will bring us to ruin... It is the devil’s excrement”. Unquote, oil is indeed a devil’s waste product. If in any case, you might have followed developments in Venezuela, then they have the worst inflation rate in the world now. A Venezuelan now goes to bed with an empty stomach. A Venezuelan has starved to death. But why when Venezuela was reported in 2012 to be holding 263 billion barrels of oil in reserve (20% of the world’s total oil reserves) while pumping over 3 million barrels a day? Can you now believe it’s a devil’s excrement?
Oil has destroyed other great nations like Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Oil wealth is accumulated within a short time but destroys a nation also within a short time. Libya was such a rich African nation with wealth from oil, but we all know what happened afterwards.
Look at countries with no oil resources like Rwanda, thriving from agricultural resources and maximizing collections of its tax revenues. They are doing well and nobody minds them. Oil attracts all world agents of the devil in form of oil companies to come and destroy a nation.
So we are buying peace from Sudan because there will be no single day that Bashir’s government can be happy to see us live in peace. He is the reason why there have been so many rebellions in South Sudan even before December 2013, because he provides free weapons to anybody who announces opposition to the government of South Sudan. But now with a collapsing economy that was very much dependent on oil, Bashir would want to see peace in South Sudan so that oil can be peacefully pumped to the world market and he gets a bigger share in form of transit fees, port taxes, the recently agreed compensation for destructions done in Heglig during the 2012 military confrontations between Sudan and South Sudan as well as payments for security service to be provided by SAF.
When all these will be happening, Bashir will be pro-peace in South Sudan for the next five years. When guns are silent, can’t we use such an opportunity as South Sudanese to sit, dialogue, reconcile and heal? Thereby renegotiating meaningfully, brotherly and constructively to redefine the status quo and replace it with the one that respects the rule of law and provide all of us with equal opportunities to participate in developing our nascent nation?
The writer is a former journalist in South Sudan, a political commentator and a current postgraduate student at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.