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EDITORIAL: Sudan racing to safeguard the break-up

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Sudan racing to safeguard the break-up

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Last July we expressed some reservations about the splitting of Sudan into two regions. Our scepticism was based on the ethnic and religious divisions within the country and their shared history of acrimony and bloodshed.
There were also the unresolved issues of delineating the borders, sharing of oil revenues and the fate of other disputed territories. There are now growing fears within North and South Sudan about saving the union.
These thorny matters include the disputed Abyei region, national debt, and citizenship for southerners and northerners caught in either part of the nation when it finally splits in July. There is still no agreement in these matters.
In early December, the government of South Sudan proclaimed the beginning of the final phase to full independence on July 9. It pledged commitment to a viable, prosperous and democratic republic at peace with itself and its new neighbours.
The acceptance of the referendum results by President Omar Hassan al Bashir appears to be a final capitulation by the Northern Sudan to the reality of the break-up of Africa’s largest nation.
A greater worry, however, was that on the eve of the vote, hard-line Islamist groups demanded postponement of the referendum and instead called for promulgation of Islamic law across Sudan as outstanding issues were being resolved.
Some writers in the North blame abuse of Sudan’s diversity as the primary cause of the split, but also accuse the United States of fanning separatism in Sudan to assuage its bad fortunes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Other analysts predict that, with President al-Bashir’s facing indictment in the International Criminal Court, hardliners within his National Congress Party may see the split as a perfect excuse to depose him. But we shall see.
Suspicions still linger and could lead to a stalemate over how to share the country’s vast reserves of oil, most of which is produced in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity States, which are landlocked.
The problem escalated last Friday when South Sudan shut down its oil pipeline that runs through Sudan to the export terminal along the Red Sea coast, accusing the North of confiscating its oil, thereby worsening tensions between the two states.
North Sudan has accused the South of not paying transport fees and said it is taking the revenues in lieu of payment.
 The two sides are currently holding talks in Ethiopia to try and reach a deal. China, a major buyer of oil from both countries, has urged them to resolve their differences.
Kenya also has strategic interests in South Sudan and has played a critical role in the peace accord between the states. Prime Minister Raila Odinga was recently there to mediate in the oil row with the North.
Though Sudan’s economy has been hit by the loss of two-thirds of oil production to the South, it is in everyone’s interest to avoid a return to the ravages of war.

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