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S. Sudan Conflict Delays Agreements with Sudan

  • Marthe van der Wolf

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers guard the airport in Malakal, Jan. 21, 2014.

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers guard the airport in Malakal, Jan. 21, 2014.

The conflict in South Sudan is also affecting relations with its northern neighbor Sudan.

Among other things, South Sudan’s conflict has delayed the implementation of economic, trade and security agreements signed with its northern neighbor, Sudan.

Negotiations on those issues took more than a year, with the help of the African Union (AU).

Liz Geare of the U.S.-based group Conflicts Dynamic International believes the outbreak of violence in South Sudan is undermining the progress of building a constructive relationship between the two nations.

“I think one of the important issues to look at is the fact that both Sudan and South Sudan need to have a reasonable degree of internal peace and stability, politically, economically, in order for the relationship between South Sudan and Sudan to thrive,“ she said.

The two neighboring countries separated in 2011, following a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of war. Disagreements between the two nations led to South Sudan shutting down its oil production, which badly affected its neighbor economically.

Negotiations between the two countries resulted in the signing of nine agreements in September 2012. The agreements dealt with trade, security and oil issues. Both countries have shown little progress in implementing the agreements and the South Sudan war is creating more difficulties.

A senior AU official says any delay should be regarded as a priority issue rather than a breakdown.

Jerome Tubiana, a senior analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says the current conflict in South Sudan is worrying Sudan.

"Sudan is worried about the oil because there’s an economic crisis in Khartoum and even if oil now is not anymore the main resource, the royalties that were agreed with Juba are still an important resource," he explained. "Even more, I think, they are rightly worried about the situation at the border because already Sudanese rebels, northern rebels against Khartoum, are controlling quite a large part of the border. And now you have another part of the border controlled by South Sudanese rebels.”

Border issues

The border situation is making it difficult for border trade to prosper. It will also create a problem for the pastoralists who cross into South Sudan during the dry season.

Further discussions between the two countries are needed to finalize such border issues. But a senior Sudanese government official who was part of the North-South talks says that everything is practically on hold as the stabilization of South Sudan is now the main priority.

Tabiana believes the agreements can survive the current conflict, and that they don’t have to be renegotiated, despite the conflict:

“They have not been agreed by the current government," he said. "They have been agreed before the reshuffle, and some of the people who made this talks - especially Pagan Amum, he was the chief negotiator, and now he’s in the opposition.”

Sudan is now part of the peace talks between the South Sudanese government and its opposition. The sides have been discussing a possible cease-fire since early January.
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