What prospects for peace after Heglig?
Posted Thursday, May 3 2012 at 18:07
While the Sudanese Government’s negotiation team was poised to take off for Addis Ababa to continue negotiation with the South Sudan Government, the SPLA marched into Heglig.
They captured and occupied the city for ten days, during which large numbers of human lives were lost and oil processing facilities damaged, hospitals destroyed, oil companies’ offices and cars looted, and a nearby village set ablaze.
All this damage has been witnessed by several international news agencies, as well as diplomats accredited to Sudan.
As a result, the Sudan Government has lost 40 per cent of its oil production, an equivalent of 55,000 barrels a day for the 10 days the occupation lasted. The damage to the oil facilities was perpetrated by experts in the industry.
Some machines were vandalised by highly-skilled technicians, particularly the power station and the processing facilities. Large storage facilities (300,000-barrel tanks and the main pipeline were blown up using RPG rockets). The neighbouring village was set ablaze. Who committed this crime and who should be held responsible?
Sudan has been engaged in negotiations with South Sudan since 2003 to reach the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. It continued to engage in a series of negotiations with South Sudan to solve pending issues until it was taken by surprise at Heglig. After heavy fighting, Heglig is now in Sudanese hands.
The lessons drawn from such an incident is that occupation of land is part of last century’s culture and is no longer valid policy. All previous aggressors and invaders of Sudanese land found it very difficult to stay there.
The occupation of Heglig has provoked all Sudanese citizens who have rallied behind their leadership to defend their country. The disruption of Heglig oil production has dealt the Sudanese economy a great loss.
However, the diversified nature of the economy, the spirit of nationalism and heroism flared across the country in addition to political will by the leadership, and Sudan managed to absorb the shock.
The participation of rebel movements in the invasion against their own country changed them from freedom fighters to mercenaries in the eyes of Sudanese citizens. What is the way forward? After the battle is over, what is next?
The first lesson is that nothing legitimises the violation of other countries’ territorial integrity. The meagre resources available in developing countries should be spent on construction, not destruction. Political leaders should think of their citizens’ needs instead of wasting resources on such adventures.
In the last two decades, Sudan has been attacked by several neighbours, whether individually or jointly, but such ventures have turned into a fiasco, and it is very unwise to repeat the mistake. Sudan has repulsed several attackers and conquered various invaders before and it will continue doing so.
To conclude, a country can choose its friends but cannot choose its neighbours, and ultimately, the two countries should cooperate once the occupation and aggression mentality of the leadership of the nascent nation is changed.
Mr Saeed is Sudan’s Ambassador to Kenya.