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A Critical Six Months for South Sudan
A Critical Six Months for South Sudan
Report 186 / Africa

中国在南苏丹争取政治友谊

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在南北苏丹分离之后,北京加快了步伐,重新定位与新产生的两个国家的交往接触,最显著的即是通过与朱巴争取建立新的政治友谊。中国给予喀土穆的历来支持留给了南苏丹辛酸的过往,但双方经济利益的潜力意味着双边关系正在书写新的篇章。然而,平衡朱巴的新朋友和喀土穆的老朋友确实需要巧妙的周旋。中国已经被卷入了南北苏丹间风险极高的石油危机,其结果可能会破坏与朱巴在其他方面快速扩展的关系。解决危机的可持续方案不可能孤立地达成;南北稳定、互利的经济活力和中国的利益安全也将取决于对其他悬而未决的政治和安全问题的解决,其中包括苏丹被边缘化的外围地区。北京与南北苏丹同时进行接触的未来走势以及与南苏丹之后的双边关系,将部分取决于如何处理石油对峙——以及更广泛的改革议程。

南苏丹为其2011年自决公投做出准备时,中国认识到其独立与日俱增的必然性。急于保持稳定的关系以及持续目前主要位于南苏丹的石油投资,中国的立场随着政局变化而演变。北京渴望维护和扩大其在南苏丹石油行业的足迹,但中国企业也正在涌向其他领域,尤其是在一个几乎什么也没有的国家进行基础设施建设。

中国对于新的政治和经济关系的培养最明显地体现在去年与朱巴之间猛增的双边交流。总统萨尔瓦·基尔将于未来几周内作为国家元首首次访华,预期双边交流将由此达到顶峰。由于寻求与南苏丹建立联系,中国人渴望拿自己在经济转型和快速发展农村方面的经验加以比较,同时强调两国都曾沦为帝国主义列强殖民地的共同历史经历。

南苏丹非常“欢迎商业往来”,积极寻求来自西方、东方以及这两者之间任何地方的直接外资投入。朱巴与西方的历史纽带或许最强,但它明确表示如果中国首先进驻并成为发展这个新国家的合作伙伴,那么南苏丹将毫不犹豫地欢迎他们。此外,中国“无附加条件”的政治方法和经济合作模式也吸引着朱巴以外的非洲大陆国家,不仅仅是那些资源丰富急于迅速发展的国家。由于朱巴对新投资敞开大门,它应该将两个关键因素考虑在内。首先是其打造的经济合作伙伴之间的相互关系、新兴国家的特点及其外交政策。尽管它希望与西方保持政治一致,但是时间将证明与中国或是其他国家扩展经济伙伴关系是否更有吸引力。目前来看,南苏丹希望欢迎并充分利用所有参与者的利益。

其次,在日益增剧的预算危机中,朱巴必须考虑如何确保和进行投资,以最好地服务于其发展规划,平息国内不安全因素并防止国家愈加脆弱。它必须积极塑造新的经济关系,而不是成为一个被动的外国授权投资的接受者。考虑到政府能力有限,立法框架未经考验,南苏丹的经济规划者必须小心利用这些投资以服务于自身利益,以免资源争夺遍及这个非洲最新成立的国家。

自独立以来的九个月中,在朱巴的中国公民及商人的数量已经大幅飙升。除了石油,中国企业最感兴趣的是基础设施建设,并且,南苏丹也什么都缺:路、桥梁、通讯设施、发电厂、医院、市政大楼、污水处理设施、水坝以及灌溉系统和新的石油基础设施。公司正在进行注册和可行性研究,并起草建议,但主体交易还有待落实。虽然中国的中央政府经常起着协助确保市场准入的作用,但中国与南苏丹的接触并非整体式。民营企业和小型企业正推动着新投资,与国家层面的投资量不相上下。

不仅一些朱巴的精英仍然犹豫不决,认为不该把所有赌注下在某一个合作伙伴上,就连那些最渴望取得重大经济合作的人也认为不该有中国垄断。北京在2012年1月肯定了提供经济方案的意图,包括发展赠款和可能达10亿美元的基础设施贷款,细节正在谈判中。但笼罩朱巴石油行业的新的不确定性和仍将继续的南北不稳定性已经改变了平衡,并可能减少最终提供的资金总额。考虑到北京的政府“政策”银行目前有多重融资机会,所以使得贷款更加敏感?贷款规模可能与发放给其它资源丰富的非洲国家的规模并不匹配。不管怎样,中国企业将积极寻求合作,虽然大部分企业更青睐贷款融资,给中国公司和合作项目牵线搭桥。刚刚萌芽的双边关系近来有些紧张,因为北京已被令人不安地卷入南北苏丹的石油争端。联合国和其他伙伴支持的非洲联盟(AU)小组继续推动着双方谈判。有关安全、边界、公民、财政安排和石油出口的紧张谈判尚未达成具体协议,并且因为苏丹边境州持续不断的冲突复杂化。僵局导致石油行业在2012年初被关闭,这危及了经济并激发了新的战争言论。大部分剩余的石油现在位于南苏丹,但由中国主要承建的石油开采基础设施——管道、炼油厂和输出端——则在北苏丹。考虑到相对适中的已探明储量,无论从北苏丹还是南苏丹进口石油都不再像曾经那样占据中国全球能源战略的重要地位。但考虑到在开发和运营石油行业上的巨额投资,南北苏丹对于中国国有石油巨头中国石油天然气集团公司(CNPC)仍然重要,也因此成为中国政府的焦点。

由于2011年底针对南北石油协议的谈判濒临沉没,中国站到了舞台中央,国际社会(和两个苏丹的)许多人认为北京将被迫进行干预。朱巴希望在向喀土穆施压以达成合理交易上得到帮助,而当北苏丹开始没收南苏丹石油时,朱巴将中国的无所作为解释为被动共谋并转而利用中国日益尴尬的处境。

与此同时,在之前由喀土穆牵头的石油合同移交中,中国领导的石油财团参与到他们自己与朱巴的一系列谈判中。财务条款维持不变,但其他方面做了重大改变,以加强以前忽略的社会、环境和雇佣标准。根据与喀土穆的激烈争论,朱巴也与中方极力讨价还价,以包含能够将石油公司利益与自身利益保持一致的措施,以及保证在石油行业被关闭的情况下具备相当大的法律权利和代偿性保护的措施。朱巴还确保了在公司协助解决与喀土穆的僵局以及其他方面基础之上,对合同在石油行业关闭期过后进行延期的任意决定权。并行谈判之间的相互作用为中国日益复杂的处境添加了又一个维度。

双方以及众多国际行动者以为中国会更加坚定地进行权衡,虽然对北京的影响力的看法以及准备运用其影响力是不现实的。关闭油田,绑架在南科尔多凡州的中国建筑工人,以及驱逐一个中国领导的石油财团都加重了北京棘手的政治问题,并在身处南苏丹和北苏丹的中国公民中引发焦虑。两个苏丹都仍在试图将中国拉入各自阵营,但北京拒绝偏袒任意一方,因为其主要目标仍是平衡南北关系。

这就是说,许多人——包括北京方面的人——都认为中国可以并应该采取更多行动以确保和平解决争端,并且不妥协其利益或坚持一贯坚持的不干涉原则。最近南北谈判中的一个转变为国际社会提供了一个可能的新切入点,包括让中国有机会协助打破僵局,缓和自身立场并加强两个国家内部和之间的稳定。北京在最近几周已经表明新的参与迹象,但国内局势相对脆弱和向外交部提供的资源有限也必须考虑在内。中国的外交能力并不总与其在国际舞台上所占据的强国地位相匹配。

石油僵局可能影响中国与苏丹接触的节奏,但不太可能令其停滞。由于朱巴觉得中国仍然“把它当做一个省而不是一个独立的国家”而有所不满,所以将继续提出要求,特别是就其石油行业的管理。但如果务实地进行管理,为双方经济利益带来的机会应该胜过时不时的紧张局势。中国在南苏丹新的征程和其试图平衡与两个苏丹的关系已被证明是棘手的任务,然而,这将继续挑战其外交政策的界限。

朱巴/北京/内罗毕/布鲁塞尔,2012年4月4日

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit (R) and opposition leader Riek Machar (L) attend a signing ceremony of agreement between South Sudanese government and armed oppositions on sharing power and security regulations in Sudan on 5 August 2018. Anadolu Agency / Mahmoud Hjaj
Statement / Africa

A Critical Six Months for South Sudan

South Sudan’s rival parties have temporarily salvaged prospects for peace, agreeing a six-month deadline extension to allow for the formation of a unity government. But the country’s external partners must sustain pressure on both sides to preserve a ceasefire and maintain consensus on a path forward.

On 3 May at a summit in Addis Ababa, South Sudan’s rival parties agreed to a six-month extension of the deadline to form a unity government. A consensual delay had become the best available option to salvage South Sudan’s peace deal, which has produced the first sustained ceasefire in the five-year conflict pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir against an alliance led by former Vice President Riek Machar. But the next six months should not be wasted as the last eight were. The two sides need to make difficult decisions and South Sudan’s foreign partners should both encourage and pressure them to do so in order to prevent a return to war.

For the first extended period since the civil war broke out in December 2013, the news out of South Sudan is not uniformly bleak: after the parties reached a peace deal in September 2018, a nationwide ceasefire between the signatories has been holding, even though fighting continues between the government and smaller groups clustered in South Sudan’s Equatoria region who remain outside the peace deal. This is a noteworthy achievement after years of empty commitments by the parties to silence their guns. Thousands of lives have been saved. But the gain is tenuous. The agreement, brokered by the regional body IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, long chaired by Ethiopia), gave the parties eight months to complete two main tasks: unifying a national army and resolving internal boundaries. Little, if any, progress has been made on either.

By extending the deadline it avoided a riskier alternative: unilateral formation of a new government by Kiir without the main opposition party’s participation.

This lack of movement is hardly surprising, as the status quo is convenient for both sides. The government has little incentive to execute a power-sharing arrangement that, by definition, will dilute its authority. Benefitting from its military strength, it has invested few resources to help finance implementation of the accord; this extension, or even one after that, is no hardship. Riek Machar, who in theory would have every reason to return to Juba to take up the post of vice president as provided by the accord, has also been content to procrastinate; he was the one insisting on a six-month delay. He appears to view the period prior to implementation – and notably the so-called cantonment process, under which both sides’ armed groups are to be assembled as a prelude to forming a new, unified army – as an opportunity to regroup and bankroll his fighting force, which has largely demobilised after years of attrition and a lack of external support. He will also want to wait for developments in neighbouring Sudan to settle down, given the role Khartoum has played as his historic patron. Meanwhile, regional and international interest in South Sudan has drifted and waned. With neither internal momentum nor external pressure, paralysis was virtually preordained.

The peace deal’s security provisions in particular have remained a dead letter. Kiir’s army ignored provisions to demilitarise cities. There was no advance toward cantonment: Machar did not send his soldiers to camps, claiming a lack of funds, which only confirmed to wary donors that this exercise is about subsidising armed forces that someday could revert to war.

Under the circumstances, the 3 May agreement is welcome news. By extending the deadline it avoided a riskier alternative: unilateral formation of a new government by Kiir without the main opposition party’s participation. When the government opted for that approach in 2016 and replaced Machar with a senior defector from his own party, two years of widening conflict ensued. There was another positive outcome: government representatives pledged $100 million to the implementation process, which – should Kiir carry out this commitment – will help assuage external donors increasingly impatient with Juba’s unwillingness to spend any of its own money.

But for the next six months not to mimic the inaction of the past eight, several steps will be crucial:

  • Breaking the impasse over implementation, especially regarding security provisions. As Crisis Group has previously underscored, the priority is to ensure the peace process does not stall and preserve its principal achievement, the ceasefire. So far, Machar has insisted that his return, and thus the formation of a unity government, can only happen after completion of the cantonment process. But this fraught, complicated endeavour will be time-consuming; South Sudan is entering its annual rainy season, which will last for most of the next six months, making the task even more challenging. In short, a unity government preconditioned on a broader reform of the army and the integration of Machar’s disparate armed groups – many of which are likely to resist such a move – might never be formed. Likewise, Machar’s public insistence that he can only return if accompanied by a large force that includes thousands of his own fighters is a recipe for conflict: both of South Sudan’s two major eruptions of violence, in 2013 and 2016, were sparked by fighting between Kiir’s and Machar’s bodyguards.

    One possible solution, previously mooted by Crisis Group, would be for a third-party force to provide protection for Machar to enable his safe and dignified return. Machar would need to request it – which could help convince outsiders that he is serious about returning – and implementation would be a heavy lift for exhausted donors and a distracted region. But it could be the most practical way of getting the deal moving and affording time and space for the peace deal to progress without holding it hostage to wider security reform process.
     
  • Improving relations between the two sides. Suspicion between the two sides runs deep, and each one doubts the other’s commitment to the deal. That is unlikely to change, but some steps could be taken to mitigate the damage. To begin with, irrespective of how unpleasant for them, Kiir and Machar should agree to regular face-to-face meetings. Kiir also should quickly outlay the financial commitments he has pledged as a sign of good faith.
     
  • Ensure better coordination among outside actors. Several factors have combined to weaken the role of external mediators. Most significantly, the long overdue ouster from power of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has brought a diplomatic vacuum of sorts; along with Bashir went the other main broker of the peace deal, his security strongman Salah Gosh. This has both visibly rattled Machar and left the process leaderless; for as long as uncertainty reigns in Khartoum, Sudan will not be in a position to mediate between Kiir and Machar.

    There are no other obvious candidates to help guide the process. The likeliest alternative, Ethiopia, stepped up last week in Addis Ababa. But Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s willingness to devote the necessary energy to the task is questionable: he promptly handed the file to Sudan after he took office, preferring to focus on other critical priorities, including his own domestic transition and the peace deal with Eritrea. Ugandan President Museveni helped Bashir broker the accord, but he is closer to Kiir and enjoys little influence over Machar.

    For lack of a better alternative, the burden likely will fall on the collection of regional countries represented in IGAD as well as Western donors, led by the Troika (the U.S., UK, and Norway) and the EU. Although these countries did not engage at a senior level, they performed relatively well in the run-up to Addis Ababa, articulating the clear message to the parties that the most important goal was for them to maintain consensus on a path forward. Their message now should be equally straightforward: the priority is protecting the ceasefire, which will require the parties to seek consensus and strike common ground. There is a lesson to be learned from past attempts to force through contentious solutions: in 2016, heavy outside pressure led to Machar’s return to Juba, with over a thousand well-armed fighters. The government immediately deadlocked over key decisions on how to implement the remainder of the accord, clashes between the two sides’ respective bodyguards led to days of bloody fighting in the capital, and Machar was forced to flee hundreds of miles on foot.
For now, the focus should be on using this reprieve wisely in order to preserve the ceasefire and help South Sudan move toward a more comprehensive and longer-lasting peace.

The Horn of Africa is undergoing seismic shifts, with a historic albeit risky transition in Ethiopia, a long-sought agreement between Addis Ababa and Asmara, the fall of Bashir, and South Sudan’s peace deal. Instability in any of these areas affects them all. The decision to extend the deadline for government formation in Juba is hardly a breakthrough. It represents a palliative at best, and a temporary one at that. It addresses neither the problem of the many localised rebel groups that Machar will struggle to accommodate, nor the ongoing power struggle between him and Kiir. But it is an achievement nonetheless. For now, the focus should be on using this reprieve wisely in order to preserve the ceasefire and, step by step, help South Sudan move toward a more comprehensive and longer-lasting peace.

The peace deal in South Sudan was signed in September 2018, not December 2018, as originally said in this statement. Correction made on 8 May 2019.