South Sudan/Sudan: Oil exports to resume

A historic step towards peace is made but the two sides fail to strike a deal on the flashpoint region of Abyei as well as other contested border areas.

World leaders  have welcomed the security and oil deals between Sudan and South Sudan that eased tensions between the two neighbouring countries and paved the way for the resumption of suspended oil production in South Sudan.

Expressing a combination of relief and praise, Britain, the United States and the European Union (EU) all lined up to praise the deal.

“This agreement breaks new ground in support of the international vision of two viable states at peace with each other,” US President Barack Obama said, calling for continued dialogue as the deal is implemented.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was a “significant stride” to help establish peace between the neighbours.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton congratulated both sides in a statement. “This represents a historic step for both countries,” she said.

The African Union (AU)’s chief mediator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, also praised the deal. “We are convinced that what has happened constitutes a giant step forward for both Sudan and South Sudan,” he said. “What this agreement says is that the governments are committed for no more war.”

Earlier, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said the agreement “brings to an end the long conflict between our two countries”. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said he would “seize the historic opportunity and journey towards building peace.”

The leaders signed a cooperation agreement after marathon talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, that began on September 23rd, a day after the rivals had missed a UN Security Council deadline to reach an accord.

However, the former civil war enemies – who came close to renewed all-out war earlier in 2012 – failed to strike a deal on the flashpoint region of Abyei as well as other contested border areas.

But the deal does include agreements that build on a preliminary oil arrangement in August and should ensure the resumption of oil exports after a stoppage that crippled the economies of both nations. It includes progress on a financial package of some $3bn that Juba has offered Khartoum, in recompense for Sudan’s loss of key oil fields when the South broke free in 2011. The details however, were not immediately released.

The two sides agreed on a demilitarised border buffer zone, where troops must withdraw 10 km from the de facto line of control along the disputed frontier. The buffer zone is also designed to cut support for rebel forces in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which Khartoum accuses Juba of backing, just as the South accuses Sudan of arming rebels in its territory.

Kiir blamed his “brother Bashir” for the failure to reach a deal on Abyei, saying he had rejected an African Union (AU) proposal on the area “in its totality,” but Bashir said he was committed to finding a solution.

Outstanding issues will be addressed during future rounds of talks, officials said. These include the violence and growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The two states are a source of bitterness between Khartoum and Juba, with Sudan claiming the South still backs its former civil war comrades who are rebelling there.

Oxfam said that while the agreements were “encouraging steps forward,” the lack of a solution for these crisis regions remained a major concern. The aid organisation also warned that paper agreements must be followed up by implementation on the ground.

“The two nations will continue to face an uncertain future until there is agreement on Abyei and the other contested areas, and efforts stepped up to resolve the conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile,” it said in a statement.

President al-Bashir on October 7th ordered land and river border crossings with South Sudan reopened, the official radio said. It reported that  Bashir made the request after a meeting with Sudan’s new ambassador to South Sudan.

The nine agreements signed between the Khartoum and Juba governments will throw the focus back on to the appalling living conditions in both states said Africa Confidential. Economic conditions in both countries worsened sharply after Juba halted oil production in January in protest at what it said was massive cheating by the Khartoum regime on arrangements to share oil revenue and the charges that Juba paid to export its oil via Port Sudan

Expectations are high that restarting oil production in South Sudan will provide an economic boost to both Sudans. How much of a boost depends on how far governance standards are improved, especially those related to grand corruption on contracts and diversion of oil revenues for personal gain. It also depends on security…

Sudanese government radio reported on October 8th that insurgents had shelled Kadugli, the main city in oil-producing South Kordofan state near the border with South Sudan, in their first assault there since 2011. Five people were killed and at least 23 wounded.

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