On Thursday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir issued a press statement outlining the reasons why the government of the Republic of South Sudan, or RSS, recently rejected a deal ostensibly designed to avoid the complete shutdown of oil production in South Sudan. Kiir further stressed that lasting peace between Sudan and South Sudan will not be found in an agreement concerning oil alone, but, rather, must be built atop resolutions to outstanding issues related to the disputed Abyei area and the North-South border, in addition to the economic and oil concerns that have recently stalled negotiations between Sudan and the RSS.
Negotiations between Khartoum and Juba on oil-related issues crumbled last week in Addis Ababa, with the RSS declining to sign a temporary agreement proposed by the negotiation’s facilitators, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, or AUHIP. The AUHIP tabled the agreement following Juba’s initiation of a complete shutdown of oil production in South Sudan, a response to Khartoum’s earlier seizure of southern oil.
In his remarks, Kiir explains that the RSS’s failed to sign the AUHIP’s agreement because the text would have required South Sudan to continue to use infrastructure in Sudan to export oil from certain blocks in the South. For Kiir and the RSS, such a commitment would explicitly limit South Sudan’s options to manage its national resources and economic interests.
In a strong statement against the international community’s emphasis on inter-state institutions and mechanisms to manage South Sudan’s oil reserves and exports, Kiir went onto say:
We reject the assumption that mutual dependency of our two nations is the path to peace. It is not. Dependency only brought us continued confrontation and human suffering. This cycle must be broke.
Despite this strong rhetoric, Kiir committed the RSS to future negotiations under the facilitation of the AUHIP. In doing so, he stressed that Juba would only consider signing a comprehensive agreement, inclusive of oil- and economic-related issues, as well as those issues related to the disputed Abyei area and the North-South border. At the same time, Kiir noted that South Sudan, for now, would “be wise to pursue efforts to enhance [its] economic self sufficiency, prosperity, and national security,” should Juba find no “common ground with Khartoum.”
Kiir’s latter comments are, no doubt, a reference to Juba’s recent decision to shut down oil production in South Sudan, thereby denying Khartoum, at least in the short term, the opportunity to benefit economically from seized southern oil or a negotiated transit fee for Juba’s use of pipelines traversing Sudan. In recent days, Juba has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya regarding the construction of a pipeline from South Sudan to Lamu, on the Kenyan coast. If ever completed, such a pipeline would provide South Sudan an alternative to Port Sudan for the export of its oil, but optimistic estimates suggest the project could take three years and several billion dollars to complete.
Observers expect negotiations between Khartoum and Juba to resume again this month. When they do, the AUHIP would do well to heed Kiir’s emphasis on a comprehensive approach to the negotiation process, a policy approach Enough has long advocated. Moving forward, the AUHIP, with the diplomatic support of the international community, should not allow oil related issues to be negotiated in isolation of Abyei and the North-South border. A sustainable peace between Sudan and South Sudan, a peace Kiir described as far greater in value than the crude that divides the two countries, will only be founded on an agreement that resolves outstanding issues related to financial transitional arrangements, inclusive of oil, the Abyei area, and the North-South border, the implementation of which the international community must commit to undertake.
Photo: South Sudan President Salva Kiir (AP)