There’s bad news and then there’s South Sudan, the world’s newest state. Less than six months after peacefully seceding from Sudan in the wake of an internally supervised plebiscite, South Sudan, potentially one of Africa’s richest petro-states, is descending into rising tribal violence.
The interethnic clashes have killed more than 3,000 and displaced thousands in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, with the UN reporting that tens of thousands of people displaced by the violence are in urgent need of food, water, health care and shelter.
But not to worry, Washington is now engaged, sending…
No, on 10 January the Pentagon said that the five officers are expected to depart for South Sudan later this week to join the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS.) The same day South Sudan's Oil Minister said that north Sudan was siphoning off his country's oil and threatened to instigate legal proceedings against any country or company involved in buying the allegedly stolen crude. The South Sudanese government also threatened to sue Khartoum over its decision to unilaterally impose monthly charges on its crude oil transported through its pipelines.
South Sudan’s Minister of Petroleum and Mining Stephen Dhieu Dau told journalists in the capital Juba, "Rather than view the New Year as an opportunity for renewed cooperation, the government of Sudan unilaterally decided to impose economic sanctions by blocking exporting our crude and stealing our oil," gravely adding, "The Government of Sudan and all those that benefit from such illegal acquisitions will find no refuge from South Sudan's legal authorities and will enjoy no future business with the Government of South Sudan."
South Sudan is considering building a pipeline to Kenya to bypass having to use north Sudan's infrastructure, but the project is years away from being implemented. As for the importance of oil to the new government’s economy, South Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries, with oil export revenues currently accounting for around 98 percent of the government's annual budget.
Why should the West care?
Because after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, it took with it 75 percent of the Sudan's known oil wealth. South Sudan is also claiming that Khartoum is arming South Sudanese rebel groups in order to destabilize the new country and retake control of its oil fields.
Ever optimistic, on 12 January South Sudan issued a tender to sell 4.7 million barrels of Dar Blend and 1.6 million barrels of Nile Blend crude for loading in February despite concerns its shipments were being blocked by Sudan at the Bashayer oil export terminal.
Just to make sure that no untoward incidents occur, the quintet of American soldiers would not engage in combat operation but would be armed for personal protection and oh, President Obama issued a memorandum noting, “I hereby certify that members of the U.S. Armed Forces participating in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan are without risk of criminal prosecution or other assertion of jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the Republic of South Sudan is not a party to the ICC and has not invoked the jurisdiction of the ICC pursuant to Article 12 of the Rome Statute.”
Coincidentally, but hardly as an afterthought, the Obama administration also authorized U.S. companies to operate in South Sudan's oil sector.
And last but not least, Washington last week added South Sudan to the list of countries eligible to receive U.S. weapons and defense assistance, a gesture certain to enthrall the South Sudan's northern neighbors in Khartoum.
And oh, that humanitarian crisis? The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, currently visiting Juba said, "This country is facing at the present moment, six months after independence a number of huge humanitarian challenges that needs massive solidarity from the international community."
As for the intrepid U.S. military personnel boldly going where no U.S. servicemen have gone before, what is the Dinka word for “incoming?”
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com