South Sudan raises a stink over oil and the disputed areas as representatives of Juba and Khartoum meet in Addis Ababa for peace talks -- but Clinton clinches a deal, contends Gamal Nkrumah
Two blacks do not make a white, as United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have us believe. Sudan and South Sudan have been at loggerheads since the latter gained independence in July 2011. There have been flare-ups that have sometimes threatened to spread to neighbouring states. In April, Sudan and South Sudan came close to full-scale war over the oil-rich enclave of Abyei.
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Sudanese government representative Suleiman Abdel-Rahman (l), Arab League Ambassador Salah Halima (c) and United Nations Envoy Haile Menkerios sign a joint agreement to deliver aid to South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states in Khartoum, Sunday
Now, however, the flames are licking closer to a full crisis once again. It is also ineluctable that the two countries will eventually merge into one country, whether on a federal or a confederate basis because they do have an awful lot in common.
A new broom sweeps clean, but an old one knows where the dirt is, or so contends Khartoum. Juba vehemently objects to such a synopsis. Still, Juba and Khartoum reached a deal on Sunday over the long-running dispute over oil payments, but have yet to iron out differences as to when they can resume southern oil exports through Sudan's Red Sea ports. Landlocked South Sudan produced 75 per cent of the total oil production of the former united Sudan. South Sudan's lifeline is oil, and Khartoum eyes the oil wealth of South Sudan enviously. And, it is against this backdrop that the two states reluctantly signed an accord, presumably to share the oil riches more equitably.
Clinton decided to ignore the delusional prophets of doom and put on a brave face when she visited Juba this week. "This agreement reflects leadership and a new spirit of compromise," she pontificated, like a preacher patting a pitiful parishioner on his or her back. But her hosts were grateful for her words of encouragement. "I am particularly proud of South Sudan," she praised the SPLM authorities in Juba, irrespective of the fact that the Addis Ababa deal has not actually been officially signed.
The Sudanese authorities have indicated that if they do not have security guarantees, they will not sign the deal. The government of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir wants to make sure that South Sudan President Silva Kiir determines precisely and without prevarication how much the South should pay Khartoum. The payment Sudan demands is levied to permit the petroleum exports of South Sudan to pass through Sudanese territory to reach refineries and ports on the Red Sea.
The Sudanese government is also conducting parallel talks with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) which is affiliated to the ruling party in Juba, the SPLM.
The Sudanese government's successive failures have proved fertile ground for insurrectionists in the sprawling country's backwaters. There are many in Khartoum who believe that Juba waits in the wings for the disintegration of Sudan, ready to step in. there are many in Sudan who also yearn for the unification of the country on a secular, non-religious and democratic basis. They desire a country where Arab and non-Arab have equal citizenship rights. The people of Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and other marginalised regions of Sudan also dream of a true democracy in the multi-ethnic country.
The new accord weighs yet another palliative instead of a cure for Sudan's ills. South Sudan's economic prosperity will intensify political instability in Sudan, an impoverished country that can ill-afford any further aggravation from its southern neighbour.
The SPLM, and its northern counterpart, the SPLM-N, understand Khartoum's agenda. Sudan wants to guarantee that the South will not instigate insurgency in the North in exchange for safe passage of its petroleum exports to the world through Sudanese Red Sea ports. Khartoum also insists on a hefty charge for services rendered landlocked South Sudan.
Heading Khartoum's delegation to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa peace talks is Sudan's Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, a tough negotiator, and a military man who looks every inch the uncompromising general. South Sudan's amiable Chief Negotiator Pagan Amum, in sharp contrast to Khartoum's stubborn soldier, led Juba's team to the talks in Addis Ababa.
"It is an agreement about all the matters, The issues that were outstanding were charges for transportation, for processing, transit," explained former South African president and African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki. The Sudan-South Sudan talks took place under the auspices of the AU.
"The parties have agreed on all the financial arrangements regarding oil," Mbeki noted. The South agreed in principle to pay the North some $3 billion in compensation for the loss of oil revenues. Juba likewise acceded to pay $9 per barrel of oil pumped through one pipeline. It obviously took quite a bit of arm-twisting from Clinton to ensure that the South concedes to the North's demands.
The Sudanese government on Sunday announced a temporary cease-fire with the insurgents in the restive provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Both of these regions are politically sympathetic to the SPLM-N and are furious about the political hegemony of the Arabised tribes of northern Sudan and their monopolisation of power and decision-making in the corridors of power in Khartoum.
The ethnic composition of the two states differs dramatically from the rest of Sudan. Non-Arab peoples of the Nuba Mountains inhabit South Kordofan, some of them are Muslim and others Christian, but they are looked upon derisively by the Arabised tribes of Sudan. Similarly, the Ingessanna people of Blue Nile are a distinctive non-Arab group with their own Gaam language and unique culture.
Perhaps the Sudanese people, North and South, see political pessimism as a pathological condition? It is viewed as a contagious sickness and insurrection like clinical depression is in danger of spreading to the impoverished, underdeveloped and economically deprived and politically disfranchised backwater regions of Sudan.
Khartoum sees the SPLM, SPLM-N as the main instrument of contagion of this transmittable disease. Juba and SPLM, on the other hand, believe the intransigence of the Islamist government in Khartoum as the major source of contamination.