Early this week, Hillary Clinton visited South Sudan with the sole purpose of pressuring the new nation to restart oil production in an attempt to combat rising oil prices. South Sudan recently stopped producing oil after a deadlock between the South and its northern rival Sudan. The two nations have been involved in an ongoing civil war for years as religious and economic tensions have boiled over with the more prosperous Muslim north and the underdeveloped Christian south. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan declared its independence and became the world’s newest nation.
Tensions are still strong between the nations, especially concerning oil revenues. South Sudan contains the vast majority of oil wells but is landlocked. In the past, oil drilled in the south was shipped to the northern ports and sold on the international market. This allowed the north to reap all the benefits and left the south in a state of disrepair lacking infrastructure and investment. Now that the two regions have separated, South Sudan has all the oil but no means of getting its oil to the international markets. The north has lost the majority of its revenue but still maintains all the pipelines. To use these pipelines, the north is demanding that the South pay 50% or more of its oil revenues. South Sudan refuses to pay so much, especially after years of bloodshed and oppression, and is eager to build relationships with its more friendly neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya, who have offered to help build pipelines to South Sudan to lesson its dependence on the north.
Unpleased with the timetable, the current US Administration has pressured the South to accept the north’s demands so that more oil can be available to foreign markets. Hillary Clinton claimed, “A percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing.” I strongly disagree with the approach that was taken towards the south. It is both short sited and detrimental. If the end result is all about oil, the US should have partnered with South Sudan and invested in this fledgling nation. It should have offered to help build pipelines and vowed to support the nation in its independence. This could have fostered a strong friendship with a large oil-producing nation that in the long term would provide a stable, friendly source of oil.
Even if the south had no oil, the US should have partnered with them in solidarity for a nation yearning to breath free from oppression and choosing democracy and a free government in a region of corruption. The south has no infrastructure and is practically building a nation from scratch, what a wonderful opportunity for America to influence a nation through training, partnership and investment. Instead, the US chose to make the decision that would have the quickest result and in turn, damaged our reputation and relationship with South Sudan in the long run. The way I see it, Hillary Clinton should have rather said, “A friend with no oil is better than an enemy with lots of it.” But instead, South Sudan is probably thinking that with friends like the current US Administration, who needs enemies.