by TJ Coles and The Grayzone
Like most countries, the Republic of South Sudan is a complex nation of shifting alliances and external influences.
Recently, President Salva Kiir, who sports a Stetson hat gifted him by George W. Bush, signed a peace agreement with old enemies, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition. Around the same time, the so-called Embassy Troika consisting of the US, Britain, and Norway facilitated International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs for South Sudan.
When China proposes investment schemes, US politicians call it “debt-trap diplomacy.” As has been seen in South Sudan, whenWestern corporations seek to plunder poor, resource-rich nations, they call it “development.”
The West’s interest in South Sudan is oil. Invoking the colonial-era “white man’s burden” of 19th century imperialists, the US government-backed Voice of America recently justified foreign interference in South Sudan by pointing out that the country’s 3.5 billion proven barrels of crude cannot be easily exported due to the lack of pipeline infrastructure and financial mismanagement. The Embassy Troika and its IMF programs insist “that fiscal data – including on oil and non-oil revenues – should be published … regularly and without delay.”
Today, the US has lost control of the proxy it created and South Sudan is descending into a humanitarian crisis. Alan Boswell, a South Sudan specialist at the International Crisis Group, has acknowledged, “US efforts in South Sudan seemed like a final spasm of naive American nation-building, which has all collapsed in epic fashion.”
So what role did the US play in splitting Sudan and driving the country’s south into crisis?
“Tell them Muslims are responsible”
In 1899, Britain created the Condominium of Anglo-Egyptian of Sudan. The “Egyptian” eponym was a misnomer because Britain also ruled Egypt as a so-called “veiled protectorate,” so Sudan and its capital Khartoum were basically placed under British control until independence in 1956.
According to a CIA Intelligence Assessment, a “profitable slave trade was developed by European traders and their Arab cohorts in Khartoum … [T]he violence and cruelty that it fostered have not been forgotten in the South.”
Britain adopted its typical divide and rule strategy. “Christian missionaries kept the slavery issue alive by telling southerners that northern Muslims were responsible.” After independence, the southern region was “barely integrated” with the north.
In 1955, secessionist southern rebels, the Anya-Nya (“snake venom”), initiated the decades-long civil war. The CIA’s Current Intelligence Country Handbook noted that religion was not the only — or even main — point of division. The majority of southerners were black and the ruling officials in the north were overwhelmingly Arab. Resource concentration was a major problem. Heavily dependent on revenue from cotton, Khartoum absorbed Sudan’s wealth to the detriment of the rest of the nation.
CIA analysts were hopeful that the first post-independence dictator, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Abboud, would follow a pro-Washington course. An Intelligence Bulletin states: “The regime has accepted the American aid program … [and] has moved to curb pro-Communist …. publications.” Gains made by communist politicians a decade later were crushed after the elected government banned left-wing parties and disenfranchised southerners.
As the north’s war against southern secession continued, a reported one million people had died by 1970 and hundreds of thousands had fled to neighboring countries. The US tolerated Soviet arms to Khartoum as it effectively let the USSR fight a proxy war against the south. Israel poured weapons into the south, reportedly to worsen the war in the hope of diverting the attention of the northern government from the Arab-Israeli conflicts.