Sudan and South Sudan Resume Negotiations In Ethiopia
Sudan and South Sudan on Monday started a fresh round of negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in an attempt to solve their differences about oil revenues and borders. It is the first round of talks since the flare-up in April which brought the two neighboring countries to the brink of war.
The move also comes after the United Nations threatened to apply sanctions to both states unless they sat down and worked out their differences. Previous to the talks, brokered by the African Union, South Sudan pulled its troops from Heglig oil field, and Sudan from Abyei province, the two disputed areas, rich in oil, which make for most of the Sudanese economic growth.
The conflict between the two states brought them both on the brink of economic crisis, as South Sudan stopped producing oil and send it through Sudanese pipelines since the beginning of the year, accusing the northern state of stealing, and Sudan was relying on the oil fields of Heglig to patch up its economy, which took a nosedive when the two countries separated and the South ended up with 75% of the oil fields.
The economic situation is so dire that the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir had to admit that some $4 billion were stolen from the public funds of the country since 2005, when a truce was signed between Sudan and South Sudan, ending a war that had been going on for a decade and claimed many casualties.
Reuters and Associated Press report that the president Kiir promised to keep the anonymity of those who bring the money they have stolen back to the state treasury. Corruption at the highest level, involving former and current officials of the state, is identified by Salva Kiir as the worst enemy of the state, as some of the officials in a state where schools and hospitals are in need drive expensive SUVs and are said by the president to have bought vast properties with cash.
South Sudan is warned by the World Bank that it could run the risk of remaining without cash by July, and the donors announced that they would not repair the gap created by the refusal of Juba to send oil through the Sudanese pipelines.
One of the most important investors in both Sudanese states is China, which was kind of trapped between the two of the contenders, and made a great deal of effort to bring them together and convince them to solve the conflict.
South Sudanese officials visited Beijing, where they proposed the Chinese to build another pipeline for the transport of oil, which would free South Sudan from the dependency on cooperation with Sudan.
The two states agreed upon separating from one another to benefit both from the oil production, in the sense that the South would take the money from selling the oil but would pay Sudan a fee for transporting it to the ports in Sudan where it can be shipped away.
At the beginning of the year, South Sudan accused Sudan of tie-ins to the pipelines that were carrying the oil to the purpose of stealing some of it. The Chinese oil producing company was once again cut in the middle of the scandal.
Besides this accusation of direct theft, South Sudan accused the north of imposing an impossible to pay fee, which is another reason for the conflict that followed.
In April, South Sudan occupied Heglig, a rich oil field of Sudan, and said it would not pull out because Heglig was South Sudanese territory. Facing this threat which could have brought down the entire economy, Sudan reacted in anger by bombing three northern zones of South Sudan.
President Silva Kiir said at first that South Sudan would not pull out of the region and then he said that it would but only if the African Union brought peacekeepers in the Abyei region, which is also disputed between the two countries and is rich in oil. In the end, Kiir listened to Barack Obama’s advise and diffused the conflict before it escalated beyond any possibility to have it contained.
Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese found themselves stranded in the territory of Sudan, as their Sudanese citizenship expired and were not capable of getting a South Sudanese citizenship because there is no embassy opened in Khartoum.
The South Sudanese want to relocate because they do not want to live in a country which is proclaiming the sharia law as fundamental source of the law, and is building an Arabic-speaking Muslim state.
South Sudanese are mainly English-speaking Christians, while the Sudanese are Muslims. In the aftermath of the proclamation of independence, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir promised a second republic, an Islamic one, with all the regional conflicts settled.11