By Wanjohi Kabukuru – [A special investigative journalism assignment fully supported by the Taco Kuiper Grant for Investigative Journalism]
Everyone wants a piece of the pie that is Juba, South Sudan.
Almost a year before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi Kenya intense lobbying had begun. The signing of the CPA on 9th January 2005 unleashed a frenzied scramble for Juba’s resources.
While the CPA is widely acknowledged as having initiated a new dawn in the Sudan, it also triggered off an economically hewn interest attracting both the developed and the developing nations.
The successful South Sudan secession referendum in January 2011 and eventual independence celebration cooled the frayed nerves of many who had adopted a wait-and-see attitude over South Sudan.
However it is instructive to note that since 2005 USA, China, India, Norway, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Turkey, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa and their respective private sectors have been in the forefront seeking to secure business concessions with the new nation. To make this easier and faster all these nations have embassies and consulates in both Juba and Khartoum. Southern Sudan’s massive oil boom, tourism concessions, logging, lucrative mining and infrastructure tenders, medical supplies, education, financial services, agriculture, defense contracts and commodities supplies are a glee to many triggering what is now politically referred to as “land grab”.
The Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) commissioned investigations on the alleged “land grab” in South Sudan which culminated into a 48-page dossier dubbed “The New Frontier”. The dossier reveals that in the period 2007 to 2010 “foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (6.52 million acres) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone.”
According to the report’s author David Kuol Mading “That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda,” said the report’s author, David Kuol Mading. “If domestic investments, tourism and conservation are added, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares (14.17 million acres), or nine percent of Southern Sudan’s total land area.”.
“With the nascent state of government, a society still reeling from years of conflict, and the legal ambiguity of the transitional period, there is also a danger that this influx of investment, if left unchecked, may serve to undermine livelihoods,” the report says.
Foreign interests into the South Sudan pie have managed to secure some 5.74 million hectares of land for agribusiness concerns namely agriculture, forestry, biofuels, eco-tourism and carbon trading.
Exactly two years after the signing of the CPA, the well known wildlife lobby Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) conducted an aerial survey which revealed thriving wildlife in large hordes, along the South Sudan Savannah and sudland. In comparison WCS compared the South Sudan savannah wildlife to the ones found in Tanzania’s Serengeti plains. This revelation debunked the myth that South Sudan had no wildlife and at the same gave rise to new investments interests on tourism and conservation.
Indeed the largest land deal detailed in the report is primarily hinged on wildlife conservation and tourism. It is the leasing of 2,280,000 hectares (5,631,600 acres) in Boma National Park which is situated in Jonglei state to an Emirati company Al Ain Wildlife. Under the agreement, Al Ain National Wildlife will construct high-end class hotels and tented resort camps within the park. In this stake the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is said to have a concession of only 35%. Incidentally, public consultations and local community involvement were not factored in when this deal was struck.
This is followed by US firms Nile Trading and Development and Jarch Management, which have leased 600,000 hectares (1,482,000 acres) in Central Equatoria state and 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) in oil-rich Unity state for agricultural investments. The latter scheme results from a controversial deal which was signed two years ago between Jarch, a New York-based investment house, and former warlord turned deputy commander of the SPLA General Paulino Matip. Prince Budr Bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia has been granted a 25 year lease on some 105,000ha in Gwit for agricultural purposes. According to the dossier others involved in seeking large scale land based investments in South Sudan include Central Equatoria Teak Company (UK/Finland), Madhvani (Uganda), Green Resources (Norwegian) and its South Sudan subsidiary TreeFarms, Blue Lakes (Kenyan), MAJ Foundation (Indian), Fenno Caledonian (Finnish), Citadel Group (Egyptian), and the Australian outfit Concorde Agriculture.
China National Oil Petroleum Corporation, Malaysian oil giant Petronas, Moldovian oil Company Ascom Group, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh and Sweden’s Lundin are exploring and exploiting oil in Jonglei state. According to Minority Rights Group International, French oil giant Total also holds massive oil concessions in Jonglei.
In the name of assisting the new nation come into being, the reality however showcases personal, national interest and little to do with philanthropy. Putting all these in perspective, tales of large scale bribery, underhand dealings and official malfeasance denotes the real ‘scramble for the South Sudan’. Accusations of corrupt ministers continue to dog President Salva Kiir’s new cabinet.
Widow of the liberation hero John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior has found herself on hot soup for criticizing Kiir’s government and condemning corruption in cabinet. She was first demoted from her roads and transport cabinet portfolio and appointed to a less glamorous post of Special Adviser on Gender and human rights.
In more ways than one all these factors not only affect the economies of all these countries involved but also shape their foreign policies and realign their international relations and obligations. In other words there has been a radical paradigm shift within South Sudan, largely driven by the profit motive.
Interestingly the scramble for business in Juba has seen strong African entrepreneurs pushing the limits off the savvy and more monied US, UAE, China, EU and Indian firms. Leading African nations entrenching their businesses in South Sudan include South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt.
South Sudan is Uganda’s main export market, importing goods worth $184.6 million in 2009, according to the Uganda Exports Promotions Board. Kenyan exports to South Sudan were worth $157.7 million the same year. Apart from Nairobi, Khartoum, Cairo, Kampala and Addis Ababa the other major African player in Juba is Pretoria.
South African interests in Juba kicked off in earnest in 2004 when Mechem a subsidiary of Denel (the South African arms parastatal) began its demining operations in Southern Sudan. Mechem which is known globally for its mines removal and battle grounds clearance is still undertaking its operations in Southern Sudan today. As of last year it had cleared 9050km of road removing 3237 anti personnel, unexploded ordinances (UXO), anti tank land mines. This is only a tip of the ice-berg of SA’s involvement in South Sudan. South Sudan is said to purchase much of its weaponry from Denel and even training of its key security personnel is conducted by the South African Defense Forces (SADF).
Lately South African Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have intensified their engagement with Southern Sudan paving way for an influx of South African businesses making inroads in Juba. In February 2009 a Breakfast Roundtable hosted by the DFA bringing together, South African business magnates and Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) ministers opened the floodgates of the scramble for the South Sudan pie not just by private South African firms but also government parastatals. In July 2009 under the DTI led some 20 South African public and private sector companies on a trade and investment mission to South Sudan. The 20 companies covered, telecommunications, agriculture, forestry, water purification, timber, financial services, infrastructure development, energy and minerals, SAB Miller has invested over R354 million in the South Sudan Beverages Limited. PetroSA has oil concession rights and Global Engineering Consortium SA signed a $21 million contract with Sudan Railway Corporation. New Kush Exploration Company registered in both South Africa and UK has been awarded several exploration rights for gold and uranium in South Sudan.
At the heart of these business deals is the South African-Sudanese Joint Business Council. Spoornet, Denel, Arivia, Safcol, SAB Miller, Mechem among other South African entities have all dipped their fingers on Southern Sudan’s pie of timber, technology, infrastructure and defense contracts. Intensive South African interests in the Sudan are said to have nosedived during the tenure of President Thabo Mbeki. To this day Mbeki, is deeply involved in the peace process of the Sudan. He is still the chairperson of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan.
With the emergence of a new republic, the scramble has just reached fever pitch and Pretoria, Washington, Mumbai, Beijing, Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Istanbul are upping their game. These are among the key issues that ascertain the deep involvement of foreign nations in Juba.
Some foreign entities in South Sudan
Kenya Commercial Bank – Kenya
Equity Bank – Kenya ,
UAP Insurance – South Africa
SAB Miller – South Africa
Mechem – South Africa
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia – Ethiopia
Itsalat International – Saudi Arabia
Petronas – Malaysia
Byblos Bank – Lebanon
China National Petroleum – China
RAK Ceramics – UAE
Barwa Real Estate – Qatar
Total – France
Arab Swiss Engineering Co (ASEC) – Egypt
Qatar National bank – Qatar
Delta Industries – Egypt
Emirates Bio Fertilizer – UAE
The Lundin Group – Sweden/Switzerland
ONGC-Videsh – India
ASCOM Group -Moldova