RT: A small contingency of US troops are already in Sudan and marines are on stand-by, is a larger American military involvement possible?
Abayomi Azikiwe: It could very well lead to a larger US and UN presence in the Republic of South Sudan. It’s a very volatile situation, we are right now analyzing reports about the possibility of the discovery of two mass graves, one in the capital Juba and the other in Bor, in the capital of Jonglei state, there also has been fighting in Unity state which are all the producing area. The US has a lot invested politically in the Republic of South Sudan and they were the main forces behind encouraging the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to break away from the Republic of Sudan in the north of the country. Therefore, they have a lot to say about developments that are going on right now in this troubled nation.
RT: Washington was one of the main champions of South Sudan's secession. Could it have foreseen these problems that it faced just a couple of years around?
AA: I think they were more interested in weakening the Republic of Sudan. Prior to the partition Sudan was the largest geographic nation-state in Africa, it was also an emerging oil-producing state, it was producing over 500,000 oil barrels per day. 80 per cent of the oil concessions with the Republic of Sudan in Khartoum were held by the People’s Republic of China, who state-owned oil farms there. So it was a concerted move on the part of US to weaken the government in Khartoum and also to lessen the influence of the People’s Republic of China in Sudan.
RT: When it was one country Sudan was under American sanctions, so US oil giants couldn't do business there. Has this changed?
AA: Yes, in the south the US is trying to develop mechanisms for exploring the oil. The problem is the US doesn’t have a lot of resources to invest in the oil industry inside the country. President Salva Kiir of the Republic of South Sudan went to China several months ago to try to get them to assist in a building of a pipeline where they could circumvent the flow of oil from the south into the north. However, the Chinese refused to finance such a project, although they did pledge to provide some aid. It’s a very difficult situation as far as the US is concerned because the country deteriorates into a civil war between the followers of Riek Machar, the ousted Vice President, and President Salva Kiir. This of course will damage US interest in region, and it can also spread to other countries throughout Central and East Africa.
RT: How big is American oil companies’ presence in South Sudan?
AA: In the past during the period of the civil war in early 1980s Chevron oil had interest there. There is a tremendous amount of potential in terms of the extraction of petroleum resources from South Sudan. But the problem they have is that the oil has to flow to the north, and that’s in fact has been a source for a lot of problems between Khartoum and Juba because they have to agree on the terms of under which this oil is extracted, the fees related to it and also the export of the oil from the south into the north and out of the country to other areas, which are the customers of the Sudanese oil. Both nations have suffered tremendously as a result of the partition and ongoing instability. Oil production now, even in the north, is down to less than 200,000 barrels per day. So the partition has actually crippled the economies of both the North as well as South Sudan.
RT: Is it possible to prevent the possible civil war? Is the international help needed?
AA: I think they can pull back from a full-blown civil war, but it is going to take an intervention of the African Union, as well as other regional organizations, particularly the intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is the East African organization composed of several states.
They have to sit down with both Riek Machar and Salva Kiir to try to resolve this conflict. We have to also keep in mind that fighting has been going on over the last two years even within the South Sudan itself. There is a dissident group called the South Sudanese Liberation Army which recently reached an agreement with government in Juba to lay down their arms. They are very well organized and armed forces, there are other rebel and dissident groups that have been operating in various areas of South Sudan. It is a vast country and there is still no uniformity politically inside South Sudan itself. So it’s going to take international intervention, but intervention in order to negotiate a viable settlement between the various fractions inside of the Republic of South Sudan.
RT: Do you think the situation in the country could be stabilized? And how it would develop in case of US military intervention?
AA: I think it can be stabilized. The problem is South Sudan is a young country, they have very limited infrastructure, they are really not a viable state in regard to its facilities, its capacity of providing services to people. I think it was an extreme tragedy that Sudan was broken up. It would have possibly been better to have South Sudan as an autonomous region, as a part of a broader Republic of Sudan. But the US as well as Israel encouraged the Republic of South Sudan to break away, thinking that they would be able to provide assistance to the government in Juba, but US isn’t in a position this time to provide any substantial economic assistance to the Republic of South Sudan.
At the same time they have a burdening military presence on the African continent. So their first choice would be some type of limited military intervention in Republic of South Sudan, but the problem is this could fuel tensions to even a higher degree, and if this happens then US can be in fact bogged down into a quagmire in the Republic of South Sudan. And they are not going to have any support from the government in Khartoum under President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who now is facing possible charges before the International Criminal Court. And the sanctions imposed by the US against the Republic of South Sudan and the economy in the Republic of Sudan in the north – they are also in a very dire state. It’s a very complex situation, but the US has to be very careful because if they enter on a broader level, they could be very well bogged down in a guerilla, in a civil war and lose a substantial amount of troops as well of military equipment in the fighting.