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South Sudan-India: Diplomatic Relations and Economic Partnership Potential

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During the Sudan civil wars in fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties India maintained some kind of unofficial diplomatic relations with the Southern Sudan region; when His Excellency President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed the President of Republic of India visited in 1975 what was then the regional and the current capital of Republic of South Sudan, President Fakruddin was welcomed by the entire population of Juba city whom turn up in thousands for his reception. The Indian President addressed then Southern Sudanese citizen, Southern Sudan regional’s government officials, communities’ leaders, non-state actors and the members of People’s Regional Assembly based in Juba.

Although India did not take a side in supporting anyone from the warring parties of Sudan civil wars and despite not having any formal diplomatic presence in then Sudan’s southern region; but there was unofficial diplomatic communication between India and then Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Movement in eighties and nineties during the civil war era, through its diplomatic missions in D.R. Congo, Kenya, Uganda and other African’s countries India manage to establish a good impression among South Sudanese leaders and citizens which currently led to a very smooth ties with no any kind of  political and  ideological differences from the past.

As one of the world new emerging powers India showed its interest on developing diplomatic and economic ties with South Sudan long time ago; in 2005 Honorable Edappakath Ahamed the Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs attended the signing ceremony of peace agreement between the Sudan warring parties in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, two years later in October 2007 the Indian government opened its Consulate in Juba which making it one of the first foreign diplomatic missions in the regional government capital. India welcomed South Sudan referendum results and recognized the independence of Republic of South Sudan and sends to Juba a very high level delegation led by His Excellency Mohammad Hamid Ansari the Vice President of India to attend the 9th July Independence celebrations and followed by the upgrading of Indian Consulate in Juba to the Embassy level after seven month of the Africa and world’s newest independent state.

South Sudan, Indian relations did not only end in their bilateral ties; but India extended its bilateral engagement with South Sudan to its role within the international community and the United Nations in particular where its participated in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) by the biggest and largest contingent plus civilian officials, police officers and personnel and other civilian contractors.

With India willing to have a positive influence role in South Sudan; the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs been providing a good number of fully sponsored scholarships for South Sudanese undergraduate and postgraduate students in Indian universities and other higher learning institutions for the past years offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations; the commitment of India in helping and enhancing the specialized profession skills for South Sudanese staffs and employees both in government, independent public and private sectors through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) which is also a government  fully funded training programs under the Indian’s Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with the Indian Embassies around the world, and the program aims is to provide capacity building and enhancing skills for developing  and under developing countries around the globe in different Indian higher learning, institutes, training centers and government institutions, hundreds of South Sudanese benefited from Indian’s ITEC training program and I myself am one of the beneficiaries of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation program where I was offered a diploma of Development Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication sponsored by Indian’s Ministry of External Affairs and facilitated by the Indian Embassy in the Republic of South Sudan.

There is no clear statistics and records on trade exchange and economic partnership between South Sudan and India. India is investing limitedly in South Sudan oil sector through India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission and it’s largely involving in importing oil, teak and timber from South Sudan which is also exporting consuming stuffs, food items, household goods, medical and pharmaceuticals, electronics and other needs from India. Some Indian bossiness persons and private sector are operating different size companies involving in printing, internet providing, construction, borehole drilling, oil sector consultancy and services, own hotels and supermarkets and other form of bossiness; despite the trade and economic engagement between the two countries, but bilateral commercial exchange between them can be describe as a poor comparing to other countries investments including some Asian nations.

More recently in the international order and relations between nations the diplomatic and political influence on commercial relations, trade exchange, economic partnership and international trade in general is gaining more acceptance in direct foreign investments as an impact of diplomatic, bilateral and multilateral relations. With the two countries developing a deeper diplomatic ties and seem to be moving slowly to some level of diplomatic and political cooperation for more economic strength which could have a positive impact on South Sudan and India bilateral trade; Indian companies in the ICT, pharmaceuticals and medical serveries, oil and gas, finance and banking, housing and construction sectors like Reliance Industries, Tata Group, Bajaj Group, Bharti Airtel Communications and other investment corporates, the mentioned Indian companies, corporate and sectors has the potential and good investments opportunities in South Sudan as a result of strong diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Therefore South Sudan and India should use their good ties on boosting and strengthens economics of the two countries for more common economic benefits through exploring new economic partnership potentials.

Journalist, Blogger, TV Producer, Cultural, Political and Youth Activist, postgraduate student of Diplomacy and International Relation at the Institute of Peace, Development and Security Studies- University of Juba; and working currently with South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation and be contacted through E-mail : telar.abra[at]gmail.com or tell No : +211912577222

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Africa

‘Full scale’ humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in the country's northern Tigray region, rest and cook meals near UNHCR's Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan. © UNHCR/Hazim Elhag

A “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday. 

More than 27,000 have now crossed into Sudan through crossing points in Kassala and Gedaref states, as well as a new location further south at Aderafi, where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend, according to UNHCR

The scale of the influx is the worst that part of the country has seen in over 20 years, according to the agency. 

“Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since 10 November, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground,” said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, briefing reporters in Geneva. 

“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings”, he added. 

According to news reports, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has indicated the military operation that was launched in response to the reported occupation of a Government military base by Tigrayan forces nearly two weeks ago, would continue, although he said it was now in its “final phase”.  

‘Needs continue to grow’ 

UN agencies, along with relief partners have ramped up assistance – delivering food rations, hot meals and clean water, as well as setting up latrines and temporary shelters. They are also supporting the Sudanese Government in its response. But the needs continue to grow.  

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also supporting other humanitarian workers in its response, providing fuel for vehicles and generators in remote locations. The UN Humanitarian Air Service, managed by WFP, has also increased flights from three times per week to daily flights for aid workers. 

Since Saturday, UNHCR has relocated 2,500 refugees from the border to Um Raquba settlement site, in eastern Sudan. There is however, a “critical need” to identify more sites so that refugees can be relocated away from the border and can access assistance and services, said Mr. Baloch. 

UNHCR has also issued an emergency fundraising appeal, through which people can help provide urgent, lifesaving assistance to refugees. Click here to make a donation

‘On standby’ in Tigray 

Meanwhile in the Tigray region of Ethiopia itself, lack of electricity, telecommunications, fuel and cash, continue to severely hamper any humanitarian response, the UNHCR spokesperson said.  

“After nearly two weeks of conflict, reports of larger numbers of internally displaced grow daily, while the lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move in goods to the region, remain major impediments to providing assistance,” he said. 

UNHCR and partners are on standby to provide assistance to the displaced in Tigray, including basic items, when access and security allow. 

The conflict is also a major ongoing concern for the Eritrean refugee population of nearly 100,000 in Tigray, who are reliant on assistance from UNHCR and partners.  

“Potential for further displacement of refugees inside the country is increasingly a real possibility … The humanitarian situation as result of this crisis is growing rapidly” he warned, reiterating UNCHR’s call for peace and urge all parties to respect the safety and security for all civilians in Tigray.

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Russia to Build Naval Facility in Sudan

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Emerging from the first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi a year ago, Russia will make one huge stride by establishing a naval facility in Sudan. This marks its maritime security presence in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea region. Sharing a northern border with Egypt, Sudan is located on the same strategic coastline along the Red Sea.

According to the executive order, the published document says “the proposal from the government of the Russian Federation to sign an agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Sudan on creating a facility of the Navy of the Russian Federation in the territory of the Republic of Sudan be adopted.”

It also authorizes “the Defense Ministry of Russia to sign the aforementioned agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation.” The document stipulates that a maximum of four warships may stay at the naval logistics base, including “naval ships with the nuclear propulsion system on condition of observing nuclear and environmental safety norms.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved the draft agreement on establishing a naval logistics base in Sudan and gave instructions to submit the proposal to the president for signing. The draft agreement on the naval logistics facility was submitted by Russia’s Defense Ministry, approved by the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee of Russia and preliminary agreed with the Sudanese side.

As the draft agreement says, the Russian Navy’s logistics facility in Sudan “meets the goals of maintaining peace and stability in the region, is defensive and is not aimed against other countries.”

The signing of the document by the Russia president shows the positive results of negotiations, the possibility of constructing a naval base in the region, over the years with African countries along the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

During a visit by then-President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir to Moscow in November 2017, agreements were reached on Russia’s assistance in modernizing the Sudanese armed forces. Khartoum also said at the time it was interested in discussing the issue of using Red Sea bases with Moscow.

On the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Russia had a naval base in Somalia during the Soviet days. Currently, Djibouti hosts Chinese and American naval bases. China’s military base in Djibouti was set up to support five mission areas. India is another Asian nation that has increased its naval presence in Africa. In order to protect its commercial sea-lanes from piracy, it has established a network of military facilities across the Indian Ocean.

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Will South Sudan follow its northern neighbour’s lead?

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As the world watches to see whether President Trump accepts the US election results, few have noticed thatcivil war is looming in Ethiopia, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he was sending troops to the Tigray province. This imperils not only Africa’s second most populous state but its neighbours, Sudan and South Sudan, as well.

Sudan has had a good run recently and is in a better position to weather any regional conflict. In a surprise movelast month, President Trump announced Sudan’s removal from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SST)in exchange for normalising relations with Israel. The US is understood to have sweetened the deal with a raft of economic and political incentives, including humanitarian assistance and high-level trade delegations. It would also support Sudan in its discussions with international finance institutions on economic and debt relief.

Since the toppling of President Bashir in 2019, the new transitional government, led by Prime Minister Hamdok, has focused on reviving Sudan’s economy and managing its $60bn debt burden. Hamdok faces a severe economic crisis, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, high inflation and the worst flooding in decades, that has affected more than 800,000 people and destroyed homes and large tracts of farmland just before the harvest. Food, bread and medicine are in short supply.

Thesanctions removal means that Sudan can now expect substantial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bankand unlock investment into its fledgling economy.

This is good news for Sudan. But where does it leave its neighbour, South Sudan?

The international community had high hopes for South Sudan when it announced independence in 2011. But its optimism was misplaced. It never understood the Sudanese conflict that began with British colonialism and erupted after the British left in 1956. It wasn’t just a war between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudanese rebels. Nor was it a fight between the Islamic North and the Christian South. It was a fight over resources and power.

South Sudan continues to fight. After its first post-independence civil war in 2013 and its endless cycle of violence and retribution, South Sudan is now as unstable as it was before it seceded from Sudan. To accommodate the different factions and keep old military men in power, the South Sudanese government and bureaucracy is peopled with those loyal to the former rebels.

Few have the skills needed to manage the country properly. They have squandered their oil opportunity, through mismanagement and corruption. With falling oil growth demand, oil is unlikely to remaina sustainable revenue source. This will challenge the South Sudanese economy which is 90% reliant on oil.

South Sudan is also facing multiple sanctions. In 2014, the international communityimposed travel bans and asset freezes, as well as an arms embargo. In 2018, the EU designated sanctions against individuals involved in serious human rights violations, alarmed  by “the outbreak of a destructive conflict between the Government of South Sudan and opposition forces in December 2013.” Most recently, the US added First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai to its Global Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in the disappearance and deaths of human rights lawyer Samuel Dong Luak and SPLM-IO member Aggrey Idry.

If US foreign policy towards Sudan was driven by religious and ideological interests in the 1990s and 2000s, what we are now seeing is a shift to transactional diplomacy. There is no reason to think that President Biden would change course.

South Sudan is watching closely. It may be why it has instructed a US lobbying  firm to allegedly lobby for their own sanctions removal. It is also why it welcomed a peace deal between Sudan and five rebel groups in September, paving the way for increased oil export cooperation with its neighbour. 

But stability in the youngest African state is fragile. Even with a recently signed peace agreement between former foes, President Kiir and Vice-President Machar, violence is always lurking. South Sudan is plagued with the same environmental challenges of flooding and poor harvests.  The fighting in Ethiopia will not help. 

As South Sudan looks to the North, it will see a New Sudan, unshackled by the weight of its history and benefitting from international goodwill. Will this encourage South Sudan to look forward instead of back? Or will it unleash demons from the past? 

Let’s hope that the international community pulls itself away from Trump’s horror show and starts paying attention to East Africa. It may be a long winter.

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