From the Bundeswehr's Areas of Operation (II)

BERLIN/JUBA (Own report) - Seven years after its secession - with Berlin's resolute support - South Sudan is sinking deeper into one of the most murderous wars of our time. Since the end of 2013, the South Sudanese Civil War has cost the lives of nearly 400,000 people, almost as many as in the war in Syria, according to a recent study published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Observers had already warned that this could develop from a secession of this territory from Sudan. The secession will "end up like in Somalia," one oppositional politician in Juba had predicted. In 2011, Berlin, along with other western powers, had coerced the secession - for geostrategic reasons. The intention was to weaken the central government in Khartoum through the deprivation of the resources-rich south of the country, because it was uncooperative with the West. Initially, the Bundeswehr was stationed in South Sudan as part of a UN force to accompany the secession of the region. Today, it is tasked with protecting the civilian population. Berlin has dispatched 14 soldiers for this task.

Geostrategic Motives

The development of South Sudan was to become a masterpiece of western - particularly German - foreign policy. Whereas the Federal Republic of Germany had been trading with Sudan in the 1980s, including furnishing weapons, because during the cold war, that country was considered a useful ally,[1] by the mid-'90s Germany - along with the USA - had changed course. Khartoum, which had joined sides with Baghdad during the Iraq war, already in 1991, was unwilling to support western policies as desired. Thus, Bonn and Washington changed course, and to weaken Khartoum, they aimed at the secession of the south of the country, rich in resources. Already for decades, a war of secession had been raging with innumerable casualties. Even at that time, observers were noting that more people had been killed in combat between the various secessionist South Sudanese militia factions than in combat between the separatists and the troops of the central government in Khartoum. Regardless of the brutal repression by the northern Sudanese forces, the enormous potential for brutality in the south, already then had made interference in the civil war seem a tricky business.

"Support in State Building"

Still the Federal Republic of Germany and other western powers initiated comprehensive and open support for South Sudanese secessionists. This can be seen in the many details of Germany's promotion of South Sudan. In 1998, for example, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg began to upgrade the expertise of judiciary personnel from southern Sudan. At the same time, it sought to formulate a constitution for the secessionist territory. Later, the government's German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) development agency became active in the South Sudanese capital Juba. In 2007, it initiated a ten-year "Program for Support in State Building."[2] There were also other development measures, such as infrastructural ties to Uganda, to build strong ties between the seceded South Sudan and the East African Community (EAC). This international alliance, which alongside Uganda, is comprised of Kenya, Tanzania; Rwanda and Burundi, is considered reliably pro-western. Using strong political pressure, the western powers ultimately coerced the secession of South Sudan. Among the measures brought to bear were war threats against Khartoum,[3] allegedly because of its brutal repression of the Darfur uprising. South Sudan officially seceded in July 2011, also with intensive German assistance. At the time, given the mortal western failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, this new nation was supposed to serve as a beacon of hope demonstrating successful western nation building.

"Like in Somalia"

Just as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali and other countries, Berlin and the other western powers' efforts have been a total failure. There had been enough voices, warning this would happen. More than 2,500 members of the various south Sudanese linguistic groups were killed in 2009 alone, and around 300,000 were forced to flee. Employees of aid organizations reported in 2010 from Juba, on the "enormous" hostility toward the local rulers, for whom Berlin and the West had helped establish their own nation. Observers characterized the South Sudanese government as "profoundly undemocratic" and warned of its "brutal repression of its critics." A South Sudanese opposition politician predicted, "this will end like in Somalia." Because of this statement, he was banned from all political activity in South Sudan.[4] In fact, the period of relative peace, subsequent to the official secession of the region, did not hold for two and half years. Already in December 2013, tensions escalated into a new bloody civil war between the various factions of the South Sudanese rulers. This persists to this day - interrupted from time to time with cease-fires and peace agreements that last but a few days.

383,000 Casualties

In late September, the renowned London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine published a comprehensive study on the number of people killed since the end of 2013 in the South Sudan Civil War.[5] The authors of the study have not only tabulated the number of people killed in combat, but, using complex statistical methods, calculated the number of those who died from the various consequences of the war - ranging from death from combat wounds, death through war-related illness, and to starvation due to war-related malnutrition. The scholars in London have drawn the conclusion that the civil war has ultimately cost the lives of 383,000 people. At the same time, they consider this figure conservative - and probably far too underestimated. The study finds that over the past four and a half years, there have been nearly as many people killed in South Sudan as in the Syrian war - with the former having two thirds the total population of the latter.

Tanks for Juba

Several dozen Bundeswehr soldiers have been stationed in South Sudan since 2005. Initially, German troops had participated in the UN Mission Sudan (UNMIS), which was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the 2005 peace agreement, as well as assisting in preparations for the referendum on secession. They did not prevent the arms buildup by the South Sudanese separatists, including with such weapons as bazookas, rocket launchers, battle tanks and munitions from Ukrainian stocks, even though this was in violation of the peace agreement. At the time in question, the pro-western government under President Viktor Yushchenko was in power. ( reported.[6]) With South Sudan's independence, the UN forces were renamed the UN Mission South Sudan (UNMISS). The Bundeswehr continued its participation with up to 50 soldiers, to protect the civilian population, secure access to humanitarian aid and monitor human rights conditions. Fourteen German soldiers are currently stationed in South Sudan. Their limited number, as well as the scant German public awareness of the catastrophic situation in that country, corresponds to Germany's official interests. As long as the resources of South Sudan do not fall into the hands of an undesirable country, the situation of the population is of no particular importance for Berlin's policy.

Asylum for Six

The 4.5 million South Sudanese refugees also have no impact on this policy. Around 2 million are stuck inside the country, while 2.5 million have fled as far as Uganda and Ethiopia. For the majority, a trip to Europe is impossible. According to information from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), in the first eight months of this year, South Sudanese had made 34 applications for asylum in Germany. Decisions were taken on another 77 previous applications. Twenty-nine have been rejected as unfounded and 28, rejected for other reasons. Fourteen South Sudanese have been provided subsidiary protection or may not be deported. In Germany, the country that bears a special responsibility for the secession of South Sudan, only 6 South Sudanese have been granted asylum this year. From Berlin's perspective, that is of no magnitude calling for a political corrective.


[1] See also English Rather than Arabic.

[2] See also Smash and Rebuild and Forced to Flee (III).

[3] See also Platzhalter.

[4] See also Nächstes Jahr ein neuer Staat.

[5] Francesco Checchi, Adrienne Testa, Abdihamid Warsame, Le Quach, Rachel Burns: South Sudan: Estimates of crisis-attributable mortality. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, September 2018.

[6] See also Establishing a State.