Egypt is supporting Juba’s membership of the Arab League

In its rivalry with Khartoum, Cairo is  pushing Juba admitted to the Arab League

Why Egypt is supporting Juba’s membership of the Arab League

South Sudan-Arab League

South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin attends the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting at the league’s headquarters in Cairo March 9, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

March 16, 2018 (ION) – In its rivalry with Khartoum, Cairo is using all its influence to have Juba admitted to the Arab League. The Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Choukri travelled to South Sudan on 12 March for talks with Salva Kiir and signed a ‘political consultation memorandum’ confirming his country’s support for Juba’s application for membership of the Arab League. Since then, he has been actively trying to drum up a majority of votes in favour of Juba. However, Khartoum is not taking this sitting down and has reacted to Egyptian pressure by seeking to block Salva Kiir’s application. It has already found one ally, Qatar, willing to oppose the secretary-general of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who is known to be close to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In justifying its position, Khartoum has denounced attempts to isolate Sudan, and it found it relatively easy to secure the support of Qatar since Doha is an ally of Ethiopia, having signed cooperation accords with Addis Ababa at the start of the year, and Ethiopia is in turn very close to Sudan. Khartoum is also highlighting Sisi’s ulterior economic motives in relation to South Sudan, including the chance to exploit the country’s land and water resources and its energy production. Ultimately, not many Arab states are keen on the idea of Juba joining the League, and South Sudan may therefore become an observer member, if Egyptian diplomatic efforts are sufficiently persuasive…
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South Sudan application for Arab League seat is opposed

March 17, 2018 – South Sudan’s dalliance with the Arab League has divided public opinion, with the government saying it will just enjoy observer status while critics accuse Juba of using this tack to ease the West’s pressure over the continuing civil war.

After media reports a week ago that Juba was seeking membership of the Arab League, South Sudanese in the diaspora took to social media condemning President Salva Kiir’s move, pointing out that the Arab bloc did little to help them during the struggle for Independence from Khartoum.

Even after Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mawien Makol clarified that Juba was only applying for observer status in the 22-member League, the idea did not sit well with most South Sudanese who spent 21 years fighting to free themselves from the Arab North.

Mr Makol said that South Sudan — which ceased to be a member of the Arab League when it separated from Sudan in July 2011 — was simply seeking the observer status because the organisation discusses issues affecting it, such as the use of the Nile waters.

He said Juba will not pay fees to the League and would not commit to other resolutions but that its ambassador should be present when issues affecting the country are under discussion.

But civil society and the opposition said Juba was seeking soft loans from rich Arab countries after the United States and the European Union threatened an aid freeze and arms embargo should the political talks to be held later this month in Ethiopia collapse.

The US and the EU have already slapped sanctions on some top government and military officials for allegedly perpetuating the war that is in its fifth year.

Eyeing oil wells?

“They are eyeing financial support but in return these countries are likely to ask to exploit some oil wells, which is not a good idea for South Sudan because all these countries never supported our struggle for independence after being influenced by Khartoum,” said Biel Boutros Biel, a member of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy.

Besides financial support and possible armaments supplies, probably through Egypt, Mr Biel says Juba could also be looking to increase its bargaining power at the UN General Assembly at a time that the US is preparing to draft a third resolution at the Security Council calling for an arms embargo against President Kiir’s government.

For the past two years, Russia and China — two permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power — have stood in the way of approving a US-sponsored arms embargo on South Sudan at the Council.

Sudan’s membership of the Arab League and the introduction of Sharia Law by then president Gaafar Numeiry in May 1983 are some of the reasons that led the late Dr John Garang to launch a civil war, which ultimately led to the independence of the South in 2011.

Gabriael Dak, a member of the Senior Youth of South Sudan lobby, said that the idea of joining the Arab League emanated from the recent unilateral arms embargo by the US and threats by the EU to follow suit.

“It is against this background that Juba decided to shift allegiance to the Arab world because they are increasingly being isolated by their Western allies that pressured Khartoum to let the South go,” said Mr Dak.

President Kiir has been unable to stop the war and inspire the entire country. In November 2017 while visiting Khartoum, the president said that he regretted his country’s breaking away, saying most of his people were forced to follow the decisions of the majority.

Dr Lam Akol, a former Agriculture minister and the leader of the National Democratic Movement said that President Kiir’s government is bankrupt and would do anything to ensure the regime’s survival.

But South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia, James Morgan said that the issue of observer status in the Arab League was being blown out of proportion by the rebel groups.

The Arab League, founded in 1945 and headquartered in Cairo, is a voluntary association of 22 countries — including Palestine — whose peoples are mainly Arabic speakers or where Arabic is the official language.

The league’s objective to strengthen ties among member and harmonise some polities for a common good. In March 2015, the Arab League agreed to create joint military force, but that is yet to be formalised.

Although English is the official language in South Sudan, a good number of its citizens speak what is commonly known as “Juba Arabic”.
Source: by Fred Oluoch, The East African, March 17, 2018
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Applying to the Arab League as the observer is recommendable but wrong time

On 5 March 2018, a report from the Egyptian official news agency, MENA has flooded the media and captured a sharp attention of wider South Sudanese people that the Republic of South Sudan has tendered an application to join Arab league, an organization which consists of twenty-two(22) member states and five(5) observers. It is for and/or by Arab people, people of Arab descent, and almost the larger Arabic speaking population, where the Arabic language is an official working language in the resident country. The news of the application was reportedly said to have been communicated by a senior Egyptian diplomat that has quickly painted a belief of credibility on the issue among South Sudanese and the people of Arab League member states.

But before I can go straight towards the focus of this opinion paper, I want to highlight a quick review of the implications that have been brought in by the news of joining the Arab League.

This has, anyway, set a blame on the regime in Juba and it is responsible.

  • From the psychological point of view, the news of application that was later denied by South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs official has, however, inflicted some mental stress on South Sudanese people which have neither been to an Arabic speaking country nor speaking the Arabic language. This category of people believes that joining the Arab League will create the chance of declaring the Arabic language as the official working language in South Sudan, which will subsequently foster limit access to the labour market. Because they cannot even greet in Arabic. This, in turn, will draw considerable setbacks in the nation-state building. Afterwards once the Arabic language became officially spoken in public offices, perhaps Sharia law would take roots in South Sudan. There are Muslims in South Sudan! Arabic language and Sharia law are by far the key preconditions in the framework of Arab league’s working paper, although a different interpretation will always exist.

  • From the discursive conflict narrative, the news of application has re-branded the fact that those(the elites) in Juba who represent and manage state affairs in public institutions of our country are just a cling of self-interest attachés who does not in any way respect the rights and democratic values of South Sudanese people. I thought the best manner to garner for applying to an organization such as Arab League that can lead to a grand statement of disapproval would have been through a referendum to seek and assess the opinion of the people.

South Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs official spokesperson has on several accounts denied the allegation of joining AL organization instead, the spokesperson has declared to the public the correct application letter to the AL. It is an application for the observer status and said no, it is hard-far reaching to a full membership. As I bolded from the title of this paper, tendering an application as an observer is highly recommendable for South Sudan but the time of the application is not matching due to the conflict situation of South Sudan and many more political upheavals against the ethnocentric regime of president Salva Kiir (I will elaborate on this in the coming paragraphs). I wish to justify this recommendation to the reader in series of points because I believe the observer status, if granted to South Sudan in the AL, would strengthen better diplomatic environment, commercial trade, education, science, and technology, among others, for the benefit of our people. Our people have been lagged behind in many modern-age aspects.

First, on the ground of diplomatic environment and commercial trade, the presence of South Sudan at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo as an observer will cascade smooth and better diplomatic ties between the entity and the Republic of South Sudan, though efficiency will have to be enacted by the individual state. But this will generate a firm-mutual understanding between South Sudan and each of the member state.

If it’s time to apply but not at all, the observer status will allow free trade between each member state and South Sudan with yellow-to-green light influence from the AL secretariat in Cairo. It will also help the government of the Republic of South Sudan (if legitimate!) to exchange opinion, especially on the issues of terrorism and counterterrorism because as the matter of fact, most of the terrorists are and/or originate from the AL member states. This is to ensure trans-border security and safety management. Via Sudan, for instance. Again, the observer status will capacitate moderate Muslims of South Sudan to advise fellow Muslims in the AL member states to at least reduce the course of extreme radicalization which has been leading to series of atrocities and terror acts in many of the AL nations, even against fellow Muslims. They will also give their opinions on matters of concern in the larger Muslim community, of course through the AL.

Second, the observer status of South Sudan in the AL will help our government (if legitimate!) to lobby for more extensive cooperation and assistance in transforming our education, science, and technology system.

This is due to the very reason that the standard of the education system of our country is at NO standard in the world’s contemporary history. School buildings are at NO stake comparison. When exist, classes are given under trees and pupils sit on the bare ground in the current age of rapid technology and renovation. From the historical perspective, the evolution of Science and the best system of education originated from the Middle East, where many of the AL nations comes from. Therefore, I believe a closer association with AL nations will add if not much but at least little to South Sudan nation-state building once the ongoing brutal conflict is resolved, especially in the ‘service delivery cluster’.

Third, as a nation, having an observer status in the AL like the Americas. i.e. Brazil, Venezuela, and India will, for example, create social and intercultural linkages with our friends in the AL nations in the areas of arts, sports, and recreation. This can help South Sudan to promptly prosper and renovate in a faster rate in order to catch the tail of development like the rest of the developing world although corruption, tribalism, and lack of commitment, if not vigorously combated, will always eat us on the road.

Fourth, the timing of applying to the AL as the observer is inappropriate. South Sudan is currently and deeply plunged into the unpredictable conflict of interest. There are millions of refugees in the neighbouring countries and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people are internally displaced. Every effort by the peace brokers to reach a binding agreement is almost paralysed by the ethnic-elitist groups. Specifically, those in Juba’s regime thinks once having peace and peaceful South Sudan will detach them from looting spree of the state resources and the enrichment-on-blood paradigm at the expense of innocent people will fade away. Thus, I believe we first need to have peace in our country and heart before applying to such grand organizations. One of the preconditions of the AL is a peace which our country is lacking!

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Source: by Gatdiet Peter, Sudan Tribune, March 13, 2018

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