Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell

by Ann Garrison

Fighting has continued in South Sudan’s oil rich Upper Nile State despite the peace agreement signed on Aug. 26. Since December 2013, South Sudan’s brutal civil war has cost more thousands of lives than anyone can accurately estimate and displaced 2.25 million people.

South-Sudanese-refugee-child-fleeing-conflict-stands-at-Sudanese-border-checkpoint-Joda-011714-by-Ashraf-Shazly-AFP-300x150, Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell, World News & Views
A little South Sudanese girl, part of an exodus in January 2014 fleeing the battles between rebel and government forces, stands at a Sudanese border checkpoint in Joda. – Photo: Ashraf Shazly, AFP

On Sept. 5, the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors at the request of the United States, which is calling for an arms embargo and for sanctions to be imposed on individuals violating the agreement. The U.N. Security Council has already imposed sanctions, meaning travel bans and asset freezes, on six South Sudanese generals – three from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and three from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in Opposition.

I spoke to Syracuse University Professor Dr. Horace Campbell about what it would take to demilitarize South Sudan and give peace a chance after so many years of war. An excerpt of this interview was published in the Bay View last week.

Ann Garrison: Professor Campbell, one thing everyone seems to agree on about South Sudan, is that it’s awash in guns. What would it take to demilitarize South Sudan after so many years of war?

Dr. Horace Campbell: The South Sudan situation is that we must demilitarize the situation by going to the African Union Commission of Inquiry into South Sudan and implementing the agreement that was put forward by the Commission about a transition period of four years, where all the parties are disarmed, and the African Union Peace and Security Council sets up a transitional period for five years in the country. It is well spelled out and documented by the African Union report.

AG: But how does that compare to what’s in the peace agreement?

HC: The way that compares to the peace agreement is that the United Nations and the troika do not want to go all of the way that has been recommended by the African Union Commission of Inquiry into South Sudan. And in fact, one of the things about the Commission of Inquiry is that it is very critical of the troika; the troika is the United States, Norway and Britain. And in fact, the African Union said that they, the U.S., Norway and Britain, are themselves partly responsible for the crisis.

South-Sudan-map, Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell, World News & Views So the African Union is calling for troops from Africa, under the United Nations mandate, without those governments neighboring South Sudan being part of it, and calling for the African Union to set up a transitional authority for five years to demilitarize the country because there are too many military personnel. There are over 700 generals in South Sudan and the society has been so militarized that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was marked by a military stalemate, and that the assumption was that the military would be able to determine the peace.

We have to turn it around. The peace must be in the interests of the people of South Sudan. The visit of Obama to Ethiopia and Kenya advanced the process forward, but now we must press for publication and implementation of the African Union Commission of Inquiry’s report and plan for peace.

AG: When you were speaking on Democracy Now, you referred to the report that you just spoke of again, the African Union Commission of Inquiry into South Sudan’s report, and you said that it had been produced by the best minds in Africa, but that Ethiopia had blocked its publication and presentation to the African Union. Why did Ethiopia block this report?

HC: Ethiopia has vested interests in the hotel industry. Ethiopian entrepreneurs are heavily invested and they did not want a situation where the Ethiopians will not have the major say in what is going on in the region. This South Sudan matter is very complicated in terms of the relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia on one side, between Eritrea and Sudan on the other side, between Sudan and South Sudan, and between Uganda and South Sudan.

So it is all complicated in relationship to the regional politics of IGAD, all of whose members are implicated in the situation in South Sudan.

AG: Would it be accurate to say that Ethiopia has been defending its sub-imperial interests?

Dr.-Horace-Campbell-300x200, Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell, World News & Views
Dr. Horace Campbell

HC: I wouldn’t use the term sub-imperialism. I would say that Ethiopia is defending its authoritarianism, militarism and lack of accountability in its own society, so it is quite willing to go ahead with lack of accountability and impunity in South Sudan.

As you know, the Ethiopians had a mockery of elections earlier this year, where they said that 100 percent of the people voted for them. So the challenge in all of these parts of Africa is how do we have accountable political participation.

And the struggle for peace in Sudan is tied up with the struggle for democracy in countries like Uganda and in Ethiopia.

AG: On Aug. 27, when President Obama sat down to talk about bringing peace to South Sudan with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union, you said on Democracy Now that everyone at the table except Mrs. Zuma was compromised. Can you explain what you meant by that?

HC: What I meant by that is that the looting of South Sudan has gone on since independence, in the past four years. When the economy of South Sudan was part of the Sudan, the oil revenues were about $50 billion to $100 billion per year.

The reporting we have from South Sudan is that the economy is now based on $5 billion. That $5 billion from the oil – and 90 percent of the economy is based on petroleum resources – is not being used in South Sudan for the health, welfare, water supply and education of the people. It is being looted in collaboration with the regional leaders from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and members of the Sudanese elite. Ethiopia is heavily invested in hotels, Uganda in food, Kenya in banking and telecommunications.

And so the situation in South Sudan is one where the leaders have no accountability to the people of the South Sudan and they have money and property in Uganda, in Nairobi and in Addis Ababa. And the resources for the South Sudan should be used for the people of South Sudan so that they can have a better quality of life.

South-Sudanese-school-children-300x245, Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell, World News & Views
South Sudanese school children

AG: This is what I’ve noticed from the very beginning. When I first started reporting on this in December 2013, I tried to figure out what was going on and I spoke to Mabior Garang de Mabior, the son of John Garang, and he said that the conflict had turned attention to the suffering of the South Sudanese, but that they had been suffering like refugees before the conflict, because decades of war had destroyed their indigenous agriculture and the oil revenues were not reaching them.

HC: And it will not reach them now, because the institutions in the South Sudan are not organized for the well-being of the people. South Sudan is run by the military; it is run by international NGOs and a Parliament that does not have real power.

And that is why I am in agreement with the African Union Commission of Inquiry that recommended a transitional period with three distinctive features:

  1. a high level oversight panel to guide the period of transition,
  2. a transitional government that excludes those politically accountable for the crisis and
  3. a transitional government that addresses the questions of justice in different forms. And one of the key areas they spoke about in terms of justice in different forms was oversight of the resources from the African Development Bank, so that the infrastructure, the health and the well-being of the people of South Sudan is taken care of.

AG: What did you mean when you referred to a false dichotomy between sanctions and military action, again on Democracy Now?

HC: Well, the African Union Commission of Inquiry into South Sudan recommended a transitional period with an army from the African Union, under the mandate of the United Nations, without troops from any of the neighboring countries, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea or Sudan. Now the question of sanctions, according to President Obama and the United States, would mean freezing the assets.

I do not believe that freezing the assets should exclude the implementation of the African Union Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations. The African Union should be strengthened, so that the African Union can carry out the mandate of the Peace and Security Council.

And what we need from organizations like your organization is for the State Department, the White House, the National Security Council and the NGOs from the United States, who operate in the South Sudan, to know that there are institutions and journalists in the United States who are following this situation, who know how NGOs assist in the looting of the country.

So we should not have the difference between sanctions and African Union peacekeeping. There are many international organizations like the Norwegians, the British and the United States who are afraid of the African Union developing the political, diplomatic and economic strength to intervene in these situations.

South-Sudanese-cattle-herders-in-Rumbek-300x225, Give peace a chance in South Sudan: An interview with Dr. Horace Campbell, World News & Views
South Sudanese cattle herders in Rumbek

That is why they are wanting to have their external forces go into Africa as they did in Libya, where they destroyed the country. They’re doing the same thing in Somalia, and the external forces are also creating mischief in Nigeria.

We are in a situation now where those of us who live in the relative peace and freedom of North America should not be complimenting or assisting those forces who are assisting in the destabilization of Africa.

AG: With regard to the international NGOs running South Sudan in a way that deprives the South Sudanese people, I imagine you’re speaking particularly of the ENOUGH Project to “End Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity” founded by security state professional John Prendergast and USAID chair nominee Gayle Smith. You’ve identified them as part of the problem in Pambazuka News and on Democracy Now!, where you said, “One of the tragedies of the South Sudan situation has been the way in which the international organizations, NGOs and people around Barack Obama himself, like Gayle Smith, people from the Enough Project, Susan Rice, have been involved in this disaster from the beginning.”

HC: Yes, I said that and I think that the Enough Project should end its involvements in South Sudan.

AG: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

HC: I would like to say that I respected the fact that you took time to do the research for this interview and that we need to elevate the voices of those Africans who are involved in the African Union’s Commission of Inquiry into South Sudan and its Peace and Security Council, who can shed light on what is going on in South Sudan and Africa beyond the sound bites that we get in North America about the situation in Africa.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.