South Sudan’s Tragic Civil War – Part 1

I’ve discussed Qatar, the world’s richest country if gauged by GDP per capita.   By those same measures, South Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries.  It is also the world’s newest country, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011, following a referendum on independence.  South Sudan is totally dependent on oil for it’s income, accounting for  98% of the government revenue.   It has many natural resources and  productive agricultural land.

The creation of South Sudan was likely considered to create some stability in the region.  It hasn’t happened.   Sudan was once home to Osama bin Laden’s training camp, and the US under President Clinton bombed bin Laden’s  camp and the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in 1986, believing it was producing VX gas.  There is considerable evidence to the contrary, see link below.

Sudan has a violent history, with two civil wars, the first from 1955 to 1972 and the second from 1983  to 2005.    The  war was a result of  the Sudanese government, a strict Islamic regime and adherents to Sharia rule, extending their control to other populations, many to the south of Sudan.   It is described  an ethno-religious clash as the northern part of Sudan, was primarily Arab speaking and adherent to Islamic rule, while the south (now South Sudan) was more like it’s neighbors, Kenya and Uganda, where 82% of its population are non-Muslim.   It was also a clash between the Dinka and Nuer tribes.

The human toll of the civil war in the Sudan  is staggering.  According to Wikipedia:

Roughly two million people died as a result of war, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people in southern Sudan were displaced at least once (and normally repeatedly) during the war. The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II and was marked by a large number of human rights violations. These include slavery and mass killings.

Sudan was one of the countries in President Trump’s travel ban.    Interestingly, South Sudan were there is an active civil war, was not included in the ban.

  • South Sudan Political Situation:

South Sudan gain independence in two steps, first as an autonomous region (2005 to 2011) then as a fully independent country in 2011.  The government main support came from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/movement (SPLA/M).  It was likely that the “two country” solution with a democratic government in the south would end the hostilities.   The SPLA/M was supposedly multi-ethnic party, but the ethnic divisions were very strong and soon surfaced.    John Garang was a Dinka leader and part of SPLA/M who died in a helicopter crash in 2005. He was succeeded by Salva Kirr, now president of South Sudan.   The opposing leader is Riek Machar, representing the Nuer ethnic group.  The civil war between Dinka and Nuer tribes continues to this day.

It is clear that the President Kirr objective is to unite the country by force, and frequently using starvation of civilian population as one of the weapons of war.  Under Kirr, the country is a Kleptocracy,  paid for by the oil revenues.   Wikipedia describes the horrendous violations of human rights as follows:

Campaigns of atrocities against civilians have been attributed to the SPLA.  In the SPLA/M’s attempt to disarm rebellions among the Shilluk and Murle, they burned scores of villages, raped hundreds of women and girls and killed an untold number of civilians.  Civilians alleging torture claim fingernails being torn out, burning plastic bags dripped on children to make their parents hand over weapons and villagers burned alive in their huts if rebels were suspected of spending the night there. In May 2011, the SPLA allegedly set fire to over 7,000 homes in Unity State.

Further in the Wikipedia article, it is stated:

The United Nations rights office has described the situation in the country as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.” It accused the army and allied militias as allowing fighters to rape women as form of payment, as well as raid cattle in an agreement of “do what you can, take what you can.” Amnesty International claimed the army suffocated to death in a shipping container more than 60 people accused of supporting the opposition.

More on the horrific actions by the military against women has been reported by the Boston Globe, as provided in the links at the end of this blog.

This brief blog simply highlights some parts of the  conflict. More information on the ethnic groups involved and the support given by outside countries is provided in the links.   A recent article posted on July 9, 2017 in the Washington Post, by Sophia Dawkins,  provides excellent summary of the most essential details on the current conflict.   Sadly,  based on research as cited in her article, the prospects of reconciliation appear poor as neither Kirr (Dinka)  or Machar (Nuer)  factions appear willing to compromise.

  • Oil Economy:

I particular like the statement in Dawkins article, “South Sudan was born rich” as it clearly defines a petrostate.  However, it is an oil curse rather than a blessing, as the oil revenues go to fuel the civil war, and make any hope of reconciliation less likely.   It did not make the Sudanese people any wealthier.  The oil revenue has gone  to pay the military and various militias, who committed the atrocities against the people of  opposition tribes, such as the Nuer tribe.

The 2005 agreement allowing South Sudan to become an autonomous region.

While famine and disease  persists in much of the country,  the government party leaders bathe in the wealth created by  oil revenues.

The other sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture, are ignored as all investment goes to oil development.  According to Wikipedia:

The economy of South Sudan is one of the world’s weakest and most underdeveloped, with South Sudan having little existing infrastructure and the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates in the world as of 2011.[2]

South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most villages in the country have no electricity or running water, and the country’s overall infrastructure is lacking, with few paved roads. South Sudan exports timber to the international market. Some of the states with the best known teaks and natural trees for timber are Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria.

One of the major natural features of South Sudan is the River Nile whose many tributaries have sources in the country. The region also contains many natural resources such as petroleum, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold, and hydropower.[3] The country’s economy, as in many other developing countries, is heavily dependent on agriculture. Some of the agricultural produce include cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, cassava (tapioca), mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sesame.

Part 2 will examine the role of the US and other countries in South Sudan.

Stay tuned

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

Boston Globe: Sexual violence reaches ‘epic proportions’ in South Sudan’s civil war

Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan

US Sanctions: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/07/08/534465639/for-sudan-a-looming-deadline-on-possible-lifting-of-u-s-sanctions

 

 

South Sudan – Part 2: Relations to other countries

  • Climate Change and the US Withdrawal from the Paris Accords

Disease, famine and war have ravaged South Sudan.  Add the effects of climate change, for which the developed countries, including the US, EU, India and China bear responsibility for this.   The government revenues come from oil.  It is estimated that 95% of the population rely on subsistence farming.  Climate change is resulting in deforestation, destroying the timber industry.   The decline in timber resources is also due to illegal exports by other countries.

See links:  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/war-torn-south-sudan-grave-risk-climate-change-48695857

(video is about Somalia, while the article is on South Sudan)

UN Report: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/6/29/Confronting-climate-change-in-South-Sudan.html

According to the ABC news report:

At its climate change conference last month, South Sudan reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and criticized the U.S. withdrawal under President Donald Trump.  “Trump thinks climate change isn’t a reality,” says Lutana, South Sudan’s climate change director. “He should know that his pulling out won’t stop people from continuing to work on it.”

  • US and South Sudan 

The human rights violations by the South Sudanese government, as they terrorize the Nuer ethnic group are staggering and include the torture and  killing of children and women.   South Sudan has also purchased weapons from North Korea according to the UN.  For this reason, the US maintains trade sanctions against South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan  (this is pretty horrific)

Also:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

In January 2017,  in a goodwill gesture,  President Obama partially lifted some trade sanctions.  The partial lifting ended on July 12, 2017,  and was conditioned on South Sudan government showed progress in certain areas, including maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.   If there wasn’t significant progress, President Trump would be able to re-instate the sanctions.   However,  the White House simply delayed a decision on sanctions for another 3 months.

The Special Envoy to South Sudan resigned in January 2017, and the Trump administration has yet to nominate a replacement.  Also the Trump adminstration has yet to nominate an Assistant to the Secretary of State for African Affairs.  The Secretary of State stated his intent to cut US foreign assistance programs (USAID) by 40%.

Links:  https://www.voanews.com/a/white-house-stance-on-south-sudan-unclear/3936540.html

The US is providing 199 million dollars in famine relief to South Sudan and neighboring counties.   Given that South Sudan is surrounded by six countries,  I am not sure how much will be spent on South Sudan.

Meanwhile other countries seem more interested in dealing with the government in making oil deals, than helping with the problems of disease and famine.   To export the oil, the oil flows through a pipeline to Port Sudan in the country of Sudan.  Sudan receives a cut of any South Sudanese oil which is exported.  Since Sudan is considered a state sponsor of terrorism, US oil companies are prohibited from participating in the oil development deals of South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Sudan

  • Recent Events

The President of South Sudan has threaten to kill journalists who write stories, that he considers “against the country.”  Thus the press is limited by intimidation and in some cases imprisonment.   Access to certain websites has been shut down.

Links: http://www.dw.com/en/south-sudan-blocks-access-to-independent-websites/a-39786961

I wish I could be more positive about South Sudan.  The crisis in the country should be a great concern to the developed world.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News and Views 1

The range of topics which I cover is incredible.  However,  there are numerous topics which I have not discussed because they have been reviewed thoroughly in the mainstream media.   Or perhaps because it’s too early to judge the final results.  The health care bills are a good example.   I’m waiting for the final result.

Recent blogs have been international events.  I have discussed quite a bit about Libya and Qatar, as I see thee events in these countries are very significant, while perhaps most US populace is unaware of what is going on. South Sudan’s problems need more attention- and I’m working on this topic right now.

I hope to add more on the US under President Trump.   The Russia interference investigation interests me, but too much is being made of too little.  I’ll wait my time on this one.    I have commented on the Mexican wall and immigration policy,  but only as Trump’s campaign policy.  I am working on a more comprehensive discussion.  Similarly,  a blog will be posted on energy policy, and the prospects of fossil fuels going forward.

Gossipy stuff is not my cup of tea.   I don’t care what the First Lady is wearing or what Trump’s children are doing.  Sorry,  if that is what interests you.

There are sites which rave on what they like  and rant on everything they don’t like.  I prefer to do neither.   It will always be news first, views second.

I always invite comments on any blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

The next Syria

Today’s headlines should be 2″ tall:   ISIL is gone from Iraq!   The  US efforts have paid off.  The war for Raqqa in Syria is underway.

Questions remain for both Iraq and its allies:  How to rebuild Iraq so militants will never again be able to seize a city?   More importantly, how the leaders in Iraq can build unity within the country, which overcomes cultural and religious differences.

When ISIL is defeated in Syria, the same questions will remain.   The human toll for both the civil war within Syria and the war with ISIL will be tragic.

No one believes that this will be the end of jhadists.    ISIL has shown to other extremists a new way to extend their extremist philosophy.    The mode of operation are:  (1)   Develop an army capable of surprise attacks and control of targeted cities (2) Profit in any way possible from the occupation and (3) Recruit others to join the movement.  In Syria, ISIL was operating oil fields and selling the oil.

Libya has the potential to be as bad as Syria.   The big prize is the oil.  We have already seen the violence in the Philippines due to extremists.  Indonesia and Malaysia are likely next targets.   In Africa, the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the al Shabaab  in Kenya and Somalia, are very much along the lines of ISIL.

Countries in central Africa, such as the Sudan and South Sudan have terrorist organization and a high potential to be the next Syria.   From extremists point of view, an ideal target is where they can obtain local support or minimal resistance,  control large regions of the country and profit from their occupation.   The last thing we need in the world, is a terrorist base located in central Africa.

In the next week, I will be posting information on South Sudan, one of the newest and poorest countries in central Africa.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Freshly brewed morning news on trade

Front page of today’s  New York Times.   “As US Steps back on Trade, Allies Move on,” Peter Goodman, correspondent from London, writes:

In the master plan advanced by President Trump, an unabashedly aggressive United States is supposed to retain its rightful perch as the center of the commercial universe, wielding its economic dominance to dictate the rules to the rest of global trade.

As it turns out, the rest of the planet has its own ideas.

Gee, what a wonderful way to say we don’t all think the same.  And what sounds good, sometimes isn’t!  Two  beautifully written sentences in the morning goes well with coffee and toast.

The rest of the article adds more details on the collaboration between the European Union and Japan on trade. It certainly adds to other stories of the day, such as the Qatar crisis,  where unintended consequences can be completely contrary to the original intent of a strategy.

Madeleine Albright got it right when she said international relationships should be considered more like a game of billiards rather than a game of chess.    The balls in billiards are all clustered together, but when hit, they go in different directions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Qatar Stalemate

After the deadline ended, there was not  sufficient agreement among the Saudi coalition  to ratchet up the sanctions against Qatar. Food is being supplied by Turkey.   Military conflict appears off the table.   Tough talk comes mainly from the Saudi’s and foreign minister of the UAE.   Thus,  the softer partners in this conflict might be Egypt and Bahrain.    A settlement to restore relations with these countries might be a first step.   There has to be some concession from Qatar.  Germany is trying to be work with Qatar and other countries in finding a diplomatic solution.  I’m certain they do not want Russia to become involved, perhaps any more than they are already.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

UAE refuses shipments of condensates from Qatar

In an effort to ratchet up the economic sanctions,  the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company  (ADNOC) refused to accept tanker shipments of condensates (light crude oil) from Qatar.   The UAE has stated that they have invoked a Force Majeure clause in their contract, as their legal basis.

Qatar has stated they will take legal actions presumably for breach of contract.   Usually,  suppliers invoke Force Majeure when certain events  beyond their control make it impossible to fulfill a contract.   It is an odd application of Force Majeure since the halt was done strictly for political purposes.   However,  ADNOC may counter that this refusal was at the direction of the Emir of the UAE, and  beyond their control.

Gas will continue to flow from Qatar to the UAE through Dolphin pipeline.  It is estimated that 40% of the UAE electrical generation depends on this gas.

I don’t know how many barrels of condensate are presently being shipped to the UAE.   The UAE has two refineries, which can each process up to 140,000 barrels of fuel per day and ultimately produce gasoline and diesel.   I will update this blog as information is received.

News Link:  http://www.worldoil.com/news/2017/7/4/qatar-says-fellow-opec-state-uae-halts-oil-imports-in-row

Qatar has stated that the boycott impacts both their country and the other GCC countries involved in the blockage.  It certainly appears this is the case.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Happy Fourth of July

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the American revolution had been ongoing for over a year.   It is really a masterpiece of brevity, clarity and restraint.  Although legislative and judicial branches of government existed in England, through various means, the King had usurped their authorities.  There is restraint in the document- the King is never mentioned by name (it was King George) nor is anyone else named.  It is the actions  of the King, rather than the person under attack.

The Preamble is famous for the single sentence:

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence does not require faith in a God or Creator, but a faith in equality of mankind.  If there is a single word that stand out,  it is “self-evident.”   It just says, that this is something we know to be true.     The liberties are not  particular benefits given to the people. Rather they are  something government can not take away from people.  They are “inalienable rights.”    Liberty as a fundamental right would extend from the emancipation of slaves to our participation in  World Wars I and II.

The Declaration is not a working document to define liberties.  Instead it  identifies the various actions  taken by the King in abusing his powers and usurping the power of the legislature and judiciary.  The document simply states the King, by his actions, did not respect the rights of the people.  The Bill of Rights as enacted 15 years after the Declaration, would specify the rights of Americans.  The Constitution has been amended many times in the 200 year history, to extend the rights of citizens.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Further rights as given in the amendments to the constitution are the right to a fair trial, right to be compensated when government confiscates personal properties, right against unreasonable searches and the right of all Americans to vote.   These are citizens’ civil rights.

As decided by the Supreme Court, each of these rights is binding on every law and regulation  at every level of government.   The powers of  the executive branch are kept in check by  the independence of the judiciary branch and the freedom of the press. The Supreme Court hears cases today regarding First Amendment rights- see post script at the end of this blog.

A well informed public is the best way basic liberties can be maintained.  I want to end this Fourth of July blog on a very positive note.   Freedom of the speech,  the independence of the courts and legislature,  and the concept of equality of mankind, irregardless of race, color or religion, are still our core values.    Democratic process is not the easiest way to get things done, nor are some of the results to everyone’s satisfaction, but the overall  system  is working quite well.

Enjoy the day!

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS: I will forgo adding links, but you may check out the latest Supreme Court ruling involving First Amendment Rights in the Trinity Lutheran Church case.   I hope to add more on religious freedom in future blogs.

You can find the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence at Wikipedia- happy searching.

Qatar crisis and the deadline extension

The 48 hour extension should be up beginning Wednesday.   The extension was not offered for Qatar or the Saudi led coalition time to reconsider the list of  demands.   It had nothing to do with negotiations, because there really are none.

The blockade isn’t going as the Saudi’s thought it would.  This is the real reason for the 48 hour delay.   The Saudi’s and allies need more time in considering their next step.   How far do they push the blockade before other friendly countries condemn it?

The US is not backing the Saudi’s actions, nor condemning it.  Trump is still talking about how the Arab countries need to stop funding terrorism, while Tillerson’s position is to  urge all parties to negotiate.

The three blocks have emerged.  The Saudi group, includes Egypt,  Yemen, Bahrain and the UAE.   Also, the Tobruk government of Libya and a number of other states support the Saudi’s.   Then there’s the opposition group, which includes including Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Russia.   Finally, the neutral group of the GCC,  Oman and Kuwait.

This isn’t beneficial to any group.  It certainly weakens an concerted effort to combat terrorist groups.   Iran and Turkey may eventually  emerge as the winners in the conflict, for standing up for little Qatar, unfairly isolated by the Saudi’s and GCC allies.

Stay tuned,

Dave

News Snob

This blog is in defense of people, news snobs, who still read newspapers and subscribe to Newsweek or Time magazine.   I can not think of my cell phone as a news information source.  I have a hard time with anyone else who thinks this way.   Besides the print media, there is television news reporting and  current topic shows and internet sources.

There’s a program called, Morning Joe.  It has guests to comment on various current  topics.  I have included a Wikipedia links, on the show and on the host Mika Brzenzinski.   Her father,  Zbigniew Brzezinski, was admired as a worldwide expert in foreign affairs (see information at end), with outstanding accomplishments including  nuclear arms reduction in Russia and the US recognition of China.

Donald Trump made an extremely crude remark through Twitter on one of the show’s hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzinski.   I don’t tweet or receive tweets.  People are saying tweets  reveal character.  In Trump’s case, it is more of a confirmation.    The Morning Joe show has certainly had its share of controversies,  But the list of both liberal and conservative guests is very impressive.   Trump’s comments have piqued my interest and I’ll probably start watching the show.

I believe the slew of 24/7 “news” network, has resulted in a number of shows with an particular political agenda.  Probably the worst is Fox News.  Their reporting of the news is usually well done.  But,  I generally don’t listen to the conservative commentary from “news shows.”   I don’t know what is gained from listening to five people on a couch all agreeing with one another.

Perhaps what turns me off the most, is when the show’s host cut off the responses of their guests, use sarcasm and “righteous indignation” to make their point.  Worst offender of this is Lou Dobbs of Fox News.  He poses long leading questions, which are not answered in the manner he likes, are quickly cut off, with the comment, “Well we are just about out of time.”

I like BBC, and some of the shows on CNN.  Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program is far too short, but I think the focus is generally good.  I always go for content over commentary.   The recent firing of Greta Van Susteren at MSNBC for falling ratings is troubling.  I always admired her ability to ask questions of her  hosts in a concise and impartial manner.    She had a great interview with Scott Pruit, administrator of the EPA.   I know declining ratings means declining revenue.  Shows like hers are needed at times of crisis as viewers want to hear intelligent and impartial interviews from people at the top.

Then there’s the highly biased radio programs, and internet sites.   Because it is so easy, they can generate a ton of sensationalism.  Usually, there is a product for sale, or contributions solicited.

One which came to light at a White House briefing was “Project Veritas”  with a great name, but also 100% biased cut-and-paste videos.  Veritas is the goddess of truth, who  hid at the bottom of a well because she was so elusive.  I don’t think she would appreciate Mr. O’Keefe’s videos –  I think an appropriate title would be “Project Dolos.”   I would call Dolos the god of marketing and social engineering.  Dolos has found his Garden of Eden on the internet.

I really worry that the future generations of Americans are not going to be able to discern the difference between real news and the YouTube variety of cut and paste sensationalism.

Finally, my opinion of the print media.

Warren Buffet, the richest man in the US, reads six newspapers a day.    I suspect he’s always has an ear to hear from experts in select areas and use his own head for information processing.   The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, always put accurate content first, despite everything Trump has said.  There’s a digital version of the Financial Times, which I might subscribe to in the future.   Some of the greatest news reporters work for these newspapers.    Time and Newsweek are excellent.

However, print media in the content first style of the Financial Times or the New York Times  is a tough business.  I am very glad that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon bought the Washington Post, which will ensure its ability to provide honest investigative reporting for decades to come.  It is what the subscribers paid for and he won’t change this.    The commentaries might not suit Donald Trump or any other president, Republican or Democrat.   But, they will come from the best experts in their field.

I am not against the internet.  I have written before that the internet is an incredible resource- if you go to the right places   It’s all free.  Wikipedia and  Scotusblog are two of my favorites.   I use the fact checking sites generally after a major speech.  Politifact.com and factcheck.org are my favorites.

I confess to being a news snob.   My filters are up as it is all content over commentary.  And the New York Times has the Qatar crisis on the front page.  It’s about time!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Her father,  Zbigniew Brzezinski, was admired as a worldwide expert in foreign affairs, serving as National Security Advisor under  President Carter, and then later asked to stay on in the role when Ronald Reagan became President.  He declined.

Wikipedia:  Zbigniew Brzezinski

Wikipedia:  Mika Brzezinski

Wikipedia:  Morning Joe

Wikipedia:  Jim O’Keefe  (founder of Project Veritas)

A reference is made to the  god Dolos (representing trickery and deceit) and goddess Veritas (representing truth) comes from Greek Mythology.   In one of Aesop’s fables,  two statues are created, one of Veritas, and another an imitation.  When life is given to the two statues, only Veritas can walk with measured steps.  The imitation had no feet.  Thus, in the long run, truth overcomes falsehoods or deceit.  Please click on the link below, to fully enjoy how Aesop told his fable, in the 6th year, BC:

Link on Aesop’s fables