Republic of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir flew to the capital of the Republic of South Sudan on Jan. 6 in an effort to assist the Juba government in mending a split that is tearing the newly created country asunder. South Sudan broke away from its northern counterpart nearly three years ago, largely at the aegis of the U.S., after a national referendum on the future of what was then Africa’s largest geographic nation-state.
Since the partition of the vast country, which is rich in oil and other natural resources, both South Sudan and Sudan in the north have suffered from economic instability and ongoing clashes between various contending political forces. President Bashir’s visit is taking place as talks continue in neighboring Ethiopia aimed at reaching a ceasefire between soldiers loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and ousted South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar.
On Dec. 15, clashes erupted in the capital of Juba after attempts were made to disarm sections of the presidential guard. President Kiir accused his former deputy of attempting to stage a military coup, while Machar vehemently denied these allegations.
The Machar faction is claiming that Kiir was acting in a dictatorial manner by suppressing dissent within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. Eleven high-ranking officials within the SPLM/A and the government, who are aligned with Machar, have been arrested by the Kiir forces.
Machar is currently in hiding and has pledged to declare a ceasefire in the conflict only after Kiir agrees to release political prisoners. Fighting has escalated in at least four areas of the country, including Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei as well as in and around Juba in the Central Equatoria state.
Claims and counter-claims of atrocities and the seizure of territory have taken place since late December. Although President Kiir’s government has stated that it has retaken control of the capitals of Bor in Jonglei state and Bentiu in Unity state, contrary reports indicate that fighting is fierce in all these areas and an attempt to enter Juba by the Machar forces was made on Jan. 4.
In the talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, no real progress has been made as of Jan. 6. According to mediators in the Ethiopian capital, which houses the headquarters of the continental African Union (AU), representatives of the two sides have held meetings, but there has been no agreement to declare a joint cessation of hostilities.
A leading general in the government who is allied with President Kiir was killed in an ambush on Jan. 4 in Jonglei state, outside of Bor. Other high-level military officials have broken with Kiir and are fighting with the political faction supporting Machar.
Both sides are heavily armed and possess conventional military hardware, including armored tanks and other sophisticated weapons. The conflict has taken on an ethnic dimension, since President Kiir is a Dinka and Machar comes from the Nuer group. There have been reports of civilian casualties, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled the contested areas in fear of reprisals from the belligerent forces.
Central African Republic crisis reveals failure of French imperialism
France has dispatched 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic under the guise of stabilizing the situation inside the large country, which has a relatively small population of less than 5 million. Demonstrations against both France and allied Chadian soldiers, numbering at least 800, are a reflection of the confusion they are creating in an already tense situation.
The CAR is a former French colony, as is Chad. There are many Chadian citizens in the CAR, many of whom have fled the country amid the growing conflict.
Other foreign nationals have also left the CAR, including people from Nigeria, who are being airlifted out by their West African government. France has called for additional United Nations troops, since it is proving incapable of handling the current situation. The imperialist power is also facing growing opposition within its own country in response to the intervention.
These developments indicate clearly that the presence of these imperialist military troops, along with U.N. forces that often operate in league with the Western states, cannot bring peace and stability to Africa. The AU is proving incapable of mobilizing its own respective military units in a manner in which they can act independently of the imperialists.
Consequently, hostility toward military forces from other African states is escalating, since they tend to act at the behest of the former colonial and existing neocolonial powers. The United States and France both have economic interests in various African states, including South Sudan and the CAR, in regard to oil, diamonds, uranium and other strategic minerals.
An article published by the South China Morning Post points out, “The United Nations has dispatched a record number of peacekeepers to Africa in recent years, deploying soldiers to trouble spots such as the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Yet the ‘blue helmets’ and thousands of other soldiers sent by African regional groups have failed to prevent fresh violence. “(Jan. 6)
The report stresses that “the peacekeeping forces have cost billions of dollars, largely paid by the United States and European nations. But they have been hobbled by weak mandates and a shortage of manpower and equipment. Some critics also say Washington, its allies and UN officials are at fault in the peacekeeping failures, for not following through with enough political pressure to prevent crises.”
Yet the political mandate of the U.S. and France is related to the seizure and control of strategic resources as well as preventing further economic independence in Africa. The imperialist states want to secure these resources in order to stifle the burgeoning relations between AU member states and the People’s Republic of China as well as other Asian, African and Latin American states.
As a whole, Africa must break with the imperialist states in order to foster real stability and economic development. The creation of an effective African Standby Force, called for by the AU since 2002, must be a priority for the continental governments and mass organizations.