The agreement negotiated between Sudan and South Sudan this week is positive news. As was highlighted in the NCF’s previous blog, the issue of oil is one that fuels disagreement between these two neighbours, often exacerbating religious and ethnic tensions. The agreement sets out how much South Sudan will have to pay to transport its crude oil through pipelines in Sudan (the figure is not entirely clear but some sources put it at $25.80 per barrel). Earlier in the year South Sudan had to shut off oil exports because of disagreement over what the transport rate should be. US Barak Obama has said, “This agreement opens the door to a future of greater prosperity for the people of both countries.”
At the same time the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) signed up to the Tripartite Memoranda of Understanding. The Tripartite Memoranda of Understanding includes the African Union, the League of Arab States and the UN. Its role is to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the war torn areas of Sudan, on the border with South Sudan, where aid has previously struggled to arrive. The SPLM-N is an offshoot of the SPLM, which fought for South Sudan’s independence. It’s a group which resists Sudanese control of the two provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, on the border with South Sudan. The group’s military wing is referred to as the SPLA-N as opposed to the political wing which is the SPLM-N. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended this development and said he hoped Sudan would quickly enable the delivery of aid to the people concerned.
The Secretary General is, however, disappointed that Sudan and South Sudan have not yet signed up to ‘The Roadmap’ which aims to ease tensions and start the resumption of negotiations on post-secession relations. This is contained in Security Council resolution 2046, which was unanimously adopted on 2nd May 2012. Indeed, there are other problems afoot. The agreement on oil has led to a substantial loss in revenue for the South Sudanese government. In a meeting on Tuesday with the Ambassador of the Netherlands, the South Sudanese Vice President, Riek Machar, said that they will lose a total of $12 billion dollars to Khartoum because of the deal. He also added that the agreement has forced the South Sudan to become “the biggest donor on earth to a single country, Sudan.” The resumption of oil production also takes time and it will take up to a year for South Sudan to be back at full capacity.
There are still many issues to be resolved between the two countries, mainly border issues and specifically in the Abyei region. As well as this, violence continues in Darfur, which has created a desperate situation for thousands of people forced to flee their homes and move into areas of South Sudan. However, the recent agreement should be used as a stepping stone for stability. If South Sudan is able to return to large scale oil exportation this will bring much needed revenue to the country (specifically from China which buys a lot of South Sudan’s oil). South Sudan will then have ‘something to lose’. If it feels as though it has the potential to develop and grow its government will not want to risk undermining this (for example by further supporting the SPLM – N, the claim that Sudan constantly levels at it). This in turn will make the Tripartite Memoranda of Understanding more likely to succeed because Sudan cannot accuse South Sudan of meddling in it. Moreover, if South Sudan sticks to the agreement and keeps paying Sudan the agreed rate for the transportation of oil, it will show the Sudan that peaceful coexistence with their southern neighbour is far better for them than conflict. The two countries must now make sure that this progress leads to something better for their people and that petty squabbling does not make it fall apart and lead the countries back to war.