The moment of truth for the Kenyan role in negotiating an end to Sudan’s catastrophic conflict has arrived, though it remains unclear how President Moi will respond. Will he allow for the importing of crude oil from Sudan, thereby signaling Kenyan indifference to the terrible human destruction associated with oil revenues and development in Sudan? Or will he forgo Sudan’s cheap but deadly oil and preserve some integrity for a Kenyan role in the IGAD peace process? His Energy Minister wants a crude oil tanker from Sudan, now anchored off Mombassa, to be allowed to unload its cargo; Moi’s Finance Minister says a decision about whether to import Sudanese crude hasn’t been made. Given the high profile that this issue has quickly achieved, we can be sure that whatever the outcome, it will reflect Moi’s presidential decision—and this will surely determine Kenya’s future role in the IGAD peace process.
Eric Reeves [July 24, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
The consortium of East African nations that make up the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) has hardly been a robust or effective peace forum. Indeed, it has made remarkably little progress in the four years since the Khartoum regime agreed to negotiate under IGAD auspices a just peace for Sudan on the basis of the Declaration of Principles (including southern self-determination and separation of religion and state). Kenya has chaired the Secretariat working on the IGAD peace process for Sudan, and must therefore take much of the responsibility for this lack of progress. Criticism of Kenya on this score has come both from African countries and from the Western nations that have supported the IGAD process (the “IGAD Partners Forum”).
Much of the criticism has been directed at Daniel Mboya, Ambassador for the IGAD Secretariat for peace in Sudan—and some has been deserved. But it has also been clear that Ambassador Mboya has been operating without sufficient freedom and authority in his critical position; it is also clear that he has not enjoyed sufficient backing from either the Foreign Ministry or President Moi. Ambassador Mboya’s inability last summer to secure permission for the northern Sudanese opposition (the National Democratic Alliance) to travel to Nairobi was a serious failure; but this reflects not his own decision but that of the Foreign Ministry—or of President Moi himself. In any event, the decision was clearly made at the behest of Khartoum, and this in itself was a deeply disturbing sign.
But Ambassador Mboya’s job won’t simply be difficult if Kenya starts to import oil from Sudan; it will have become impossible. It is not tenable for Kenya to chair the IGAD Secretariat for peace in Sudan if it has made a decision to become complicit in all that is represented by oil development, extraction, and revenue distribution in Sudan. Kenya, the supposed arbiter in this brutally destructive conflict, will have taken sides with Khartoum if it imports oil and thus sends all Sudanese oil revenues to the regime that remains the recalcitrant party in the negotiations. Even more consequentially, it will have become complicit in the scorched-earth warfare that has provided security for the multinational oil companies extracting oil in southern Sudan.
Fighting in Sudan remains most intense in western Upper Nile Province, site of the oil concessions. Oil is extracted from the concessions only because innocent southern Sudanese blood is shed. Oil revenues flow to Khartoum only because of the unspeakably savage military conduct by the regime and its allied militias, most of it directed against the indigenous civilian populations.
There should never have been a decision for Kenya to make on oil imports from Sudan. But now that there is, and since it will reflect an arbitrating decision by President Moi, it becomes the definitive measure of Kenya’s resolve to participate in, or obstruct, peace for Sudan.