South Sudan should revisit its ties with Egypt to seal mutual relationship with Ethiopia 

By Clement Maring Samuel

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, left, meeting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, right, in Cairo in 2018 [Photo via Middle East Monitor]

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, left, meeting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, right, in Cairo in 2018 [Photo via Middle East Monitor]

OPINION – The picture above (embedded below) reveals the 2nd African Great Lakes Region Petroleum and Mineral Resources Conference and Exhibition at Royale Imperial Hotel in Kampala in 2017. The African Great Lakes region comprises Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. At that great conference, an Egyptian discussed the Jonglei Canal project, but not South Sudanese.

The organizing chairman invited me into the conference in my competence as an independent writer but not serving as the South Sudan government. What puzzled me was Egypt’s presence at the conference to discuss the Jonglei Canal project, while South Sudan was not called to the symposium. Even South Sudan’s ambassador in Kampala did not show up.

Writer By Clement Maring Samuel at a symposium in Uganda's capital Kampala in 2018 [Photo courtesy of the author]

Writer By Clement Maring Samuel at a symposium in Uganda’s capital Kampala in 2018 [Photo courtesy of the author]

I became sceptical of this discount against South Sudan. Egypt and Uganda have a common geopolitical influence in South Sudan’s natural resources, oil and gas. The presentation embittered me to inquire why the Jonglei Canal was debated without a representative of South Sudan. When Jonglei Canal was dug, I was a child in Juba, but the digging of the canal affected all localities along the River Nile.

In Terekeka County the distributaries and tributaries drained, the areas became dry, besides the exact localities in Jonglei where the canal was drilled. I warned the Egyptians that if Egypt continues to renew the Jonglei Canal project, we (South Sudanese) will ignore our domestic wars to attack Egypt.

Why did I begin with this history material? I read roaming messages on social media blaming the Minister of defence Angelina Teny, of speaking, “The country’s foreign relations cannot be decided by a foreign country”. This appears after circulating notes on social media that South Sudan has granted a military-based preference to Egypt and not Ethiopia.

As a proceeding, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia allegedly warned president Kiir of providing a military base to Egypt in the eastern part of the region which Ethiopia sees as an open base for an assault against Grand Ethiopia’s Renaissance project.

If this is authentic, the world’s youngest country needs to revisit its bilateral arrangement with Egypt over the means to seal its relationship with Ethiopia. What South Sudan’s leaders should ask is, when did Ethiopia become an enemy? Ethiopia has supported South Sudan for many outstanding things since the era of Mengistu Haile Mariam to the present leadership, including her contribution in the fight for the Republic of South Sudan. It would be a grave mistake to dash Ethiopia in favour of Egypt, which has been fighting South Sudan, including the killing of South Sudanese students in Egypt.

South Sudan has no borders with Egypt, but it has borders with Ethiopia. Egypt is not a member of the IGAD, but both South Sudan and Ethiopia are. Ethiopia plays a central role in promoting regional integration in the IGAD region not only through its policies and strategies in the sustainable management of natural resources but also in infrastructure development and in achieving peace in the region.

South Sudan as a young country should distance from deals that bring the war to its peripheries and concentrate on plans to utilize its natural resources for infrastructural development and in achieving a comprehensive peace in the region. It would be fatal if South Sudan allowed Ethiopians to turn this role against her if it proves the deal with Egypt is true.

Egypt’s interest in Nile waters is to the detriment of South Sudan. There is nothing better coming from Egypt than to achieve its goal through South Sudan. A foreign country cannot decide a country’s foreign policy, but it is imprudent to allow a military base in the country that threatens regional integration and peace.

The author is a concerned citizen of South Sudan. He can be reached via:

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