Sudan’s Bashir makes moral case for intervention in South Sudan

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's president

Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir has claimed the moral right and responsibility to intervene in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war, without elaborating on what that intervention might look like.

He made the claim on Sunday during a speech at the closing session of the 4th general conference of the ruling National Congress Party, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Looking visibly outraged as he described the current situation in South Sudan he said, “We gave them their country, gave them their rights, gave them resources, and oil, and services.” Now, he said, the country is devastated by “war, famine, conflicts and indiscriminate killing.”

“We have an ethical responsibility toward the citizens South Sudan. Those are our citizens. We in the government and in the National Congress Party, we made the (2005) agreement. So we have an ethical responsibility to intervene to stop the war, to intervene to stop the hunger.”

We have an ethical responsibility to intervene to stop the war.

Bashir has previously portrayed himself as the patron and protector of South Sudanese fleeing conflict in their own country even after the independence in 2011, the result of a 2005 peace deal between Bashir’s government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

This is how he cast himself Sunday as well, describing the role of his government in hosting South Sudanese refugees: “We received them when they came in their thousands fleeing war and we gave them safety.”

The idea that the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan are actually still just one people divided by politics is a recurring theme in north Sudanese politics. Bashir emphasized, “We have an ethical responsibility toward them because we are one people in two countries.”

It was not immediately clear from Bashir’s speech whether he was simply using the occasion to reinforce the portrayal of himself as patron and protector of the South Sudanese – or he was laying the ideological groundwork for potential policy changes.

Sudan intervened diplomatically in the conflict in 2014-2015 as one of three main participants alongside Ethiopia and Kenya in a regional mediation effort. This led to the August 2015 peace deal, which has since collapsed. Sudan also opened humanitarian corridors to allow relief aid to flow across its borders into South Sudan.

But Sudan has not intervened militarily in the South Sudanese civil war since giving some limited support to SPLM-IO rebels during the first year or so of the conflict. It also dispatched rebel leader Riek Machar into exile in South Africa rather than offering him a safe haven when he arrived in Khartoum during a stopover last year following his retreat from Juba.

Last week, however, the Sudanese foreign intelligence service publicly warned South Sudan to stop supporting SPLM-North rebels – a sign of possibly rising tensions between Juba and Khartoum.

The Messenger (@messengerafrica) is dedicated to expository and investigative journalism throughout East Africa. To support us and our journalistic mission sign up for our newsletter (free) or support us financially through Patreon.