At the Brink of War


KHARTOUM/JUBA/BERLIN (Own report) - South Sudan, which, with German support, seceded from Sudan, is provoking a new war. A few days ago, troops from the South Sudanese regime in Juba occupied an oil field, belonging, according to a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, to Khartoum. The oil field accounting for about half of Sudan's total oil production is vital, because the country has already lost approx. three-quarters of its oil reserves to secessionist South Sudan. Khartoum is counter-attacking to retake control of the oilfield. The fighting threatens to escalate into full-scale warfare. This is significant for Germany, not only because German soldiers are stationed in South Sudan, but also because Berlin, for years, has been pushing to establish a functioning South Sudanese state. The objective is to also link South Sudan, with its enormous deposits of oil and other natural resources, to Kenya and Uganda, which, unlike Sudan, are considered fundamentally pro-western and easier to control.

Bloody Battles

The military conflict between Sudan and South Sudan has been escalating for the past few days. Tensions had already been extremely high even before South Sudan's formal secession, because of the controversy over the national status of several border regions. Immediately following the South Sudanese secession, the UN had to deploy approx. 4,000 soldiers in the Abyei region, because Khartoum and Juba were unable to reach an agreement. In addition, bloody battles are being waged between numerous militia and population groups even within South Sudan. Last January, according to reports, approx. 3,000 people lost their lives in battles between warring tribes in South Sudan, in just a few days.[1] The recent escalation has now brought Sudan and South Sudan to the brink of war. Sudan's president has threatened to overthrow the South Sudanese regime.

The Heglig Oil Field

The Heglig oil field, the largest in Sudan, located in the Sudanese state of South-Kordofan, is at the center of the conflict. It produces half of Sudan's oil, a fact of particular importance, since Sudan has lost about three-quarters of its oil reserves, which are located on the territory of secessionist South Sudan. If Sudan loses control of the Heglig oil field, it will be left with little more than one tenth of the volume of its original oil reserves, placing its very existence in jeopardy. A few days ago, South Sudanese troops occupied this oil field, and because of its importance, Khartoum has responded with a counteroffensive. It can refer to a ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Even though the national status of various regions along the Sudanese border with South Sudan are highly contested, the ICJ had already ruled in 2009 that Heglig is in South-Kordofan and therefore under Khartoum's authority and does not belong to the contested Abyei region. The South Sudanese troops' occupation of the oil field clearly constitutes, therefore, a military aggression with the obvious aim of weakening Sudan and threatening its existence.


Berlin is involved in several ways in this Sudanese / South Sudanese conflict. On the one hand, German soldiers participate in the UN Mission (UNMISS), to secure "peace and security" in South Sudan. Sudanese forces attacked an UNMISS camp just last week. But Germany has also contact to the South Sudanese military within the framework of bilateral projects. Already last year the International Center for Conversion (BICC) in Bonn began to instruct South Sudanese authorities, on behalf of the German Foreign Ministry, in techniques for properly storing arms and ammunition. After decades of civil war, a large number of weapons are in circulation in South Sudan. This project is therefore aimed at arms control, while simultaneously securing access to stockpiles for the military and militia, in the event of a war.

The Pipeline Controversy

With numerous measures ranging from the creation of draft constitutions to the establishment of an infrastructure, ( reported [2]) Germany has even been promoting the 2011 division of Sudan, since the 1990s - bringing about two countries that are now standing at the brink of war. The objective of this policy - in close collaboration with the USA - has always been to weaken Arab-dominated, Khartoum, which is uncooperative with the West. Last year, this plan successfully resulted in the secession of South Sudan, which snatched away from Khartoum the control over more than three-fourths of Sudan's petroleum and enormous deposits of other raw materials. However, the operation is in no way terminated. On the one hand, all oil pipelines cross Sudanese territory from South Sudan, which Sudan uses transit tariffs to siphon off the highest fees possible. In late January, South Sudan ceased its oil deliveries out of protest. Constructing alternative pipelines takes time - and needs a functioning administration, which - a second serious deficit - is not to be found in Juba, along with nearly all other aspects of official or construction infrastructure.

Establishment of a State

For years, Berlin has been forging ahead with "state establishment" in South Sudan - particularly with the aid of the German government's German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ formerly GTZ) and, since 2005, also with official development aid. ( reported.[3]) Whereas Juba invests a substantial portion of its means in the military, which has now invaded Sudan and occupied its largest oil field, Berlin finances emergency and transitional aid programs and focuses mainly on securing water supply but, above all, on the establishment of basic state structures ("administrative reform"). German Minister of Development, Dirk Niebel visited Juba and held consultations on future German projects, already in April 2011 - before the official secession of South Sudan. The EU is also supporting South Sudan with substantial means and, in late 2011, promised 80 million Euros in agricultural investments. Development cooperation with Sudan has accordingly, remained frozen, because of Berlin's special geostrategic interests in South Sudan.

A New Transport Corridor

According to current planning, promoted by Germany for the past ten years,[4] following its secession from Sudan, South Sudan will orient itself closely on the English-speaking East African Community (EAC), particularly on its two members, Kenya and Uganda. Kenya recently began construction on a deep-sea port at the small coastal city of Lamu, which will be the point of culmination for a transport corridor comprising a railroad link and an oil pipeline originating in South Sudan. This is deemed to provide transport for South Sudanese raw materials to world markets, without having to cross Sudanese territory. Arab Sudan would thereby lose still more if its significance. The EAC, particularly Kenya and Uganda, are considered to be basically pro-western and controllable. Even though the transport corridor is under construction, Germany still sees problems. Originally, the project aimed at the disempowerment of Sudan was aimed also at weakening China, which had been closely cooperating with Khartoum. However, Chinese companies now have also a strong presence in South Sudan and will also benefit from the construction of the corridor to Lamu, whereas German companies have not been able to land any significant business deals. During her visit to Kenya, last July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated more significant German participation - but until now without tangible results.

[1] 3000 Tote bei Massaker in Südsudan; 06.01.2012. See also The Day After (II)
[2] see also Smash and Rebuild, The Benefit of Secession and English rather than Arabic
[3] see also Establishing a State and Nächstes Jahr ein neuer Staat
[4] see also Die Bahn zur Unabhängigkeit and The Train to Independence (II)