Sudan, South Sudan Agree to Set Up Demilitarized Border Zone

Photo: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir

Jan. 06, 2013

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir agreed to set up a demilitarized zone along their border “without further delay” as the African states seek to resume oil flows vital to their economies.

They also agreed to consider establishing a commission to hold a referendum on the status of the disputed Abyei area at a planned meeting on Jan. 13 in Addis Ababa, according to a statement posted on the African Union’s website after the presidents met yesterday in the Ethiopian capital.

The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan will determine the dates for agreements to take effect.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, shut down its 350,000 barrel-a-day crude production last January after accusing authorities in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, of stealing $815 million of its oil.

Sudan said it took the crude to recoup unpaid transportation and processing fees. That dispute and others, including differences over border security, brought the neighbors to the brink of war in April.

Photo: African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki, left, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn address a news conference on the outcome of the Sudan-South Sudan summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, on Jan. 5, 2013. The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to set up a long-delayed demilitarized zone along their disputed border as soon as possible, a condition for the resumption of oil exports, an African Union mediator said on Saturday. (Reuters Photo/Tiksa Negeri)

The two countries face a stalemate over the disputed region of Abyei. The area is contested by the Ngok Dinka people, who are settled there and consider themselves southerners, and Misseriya nomads, who herd their cattle into the area in the dry season and are supported by Khartoum.

Sharing oversight
The presidents at their meeting next week will consider setting up an Abyei administration, council and police service, according to the statement. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council gave the two countries six weeks from Oct. 24 to consent to its mediator’s proposal for a deal on Abyei.

Sudan has had limited success boosting non-oil businesses after South Sudan seceded and took with it three-quarters of the north’s oil revenue.

Sudan’s economy shrank 11.2 percent in 2012 after contracting 4.5 percent the previous year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

South Sudan’s economy may have contracted 55 percent in 2012, the fund estimates.

The north’s inflation rate for food rose to 46.5 percent in November from 45.3 percent in October, while inflation in South Sudan almost doubled to 41 percent in November from 21.5 percent the previous month.

Oil Flows
Both states have deployed troops within 10 kilometers of their border, and each accuses the other of backing rebels in its territory. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague last week urged the two sides to “seize the opportunity” and “immediately withdraw” armed forces from the border zone.

Sudan’s government has refused to allow South Sudan to resume oil shipments through its territory, despite agreeing in September to do so. It accuses authorities in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, of continuing to support rebels in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The oil is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s ONGC Videsh.

Source: Bloomberg

Related News

Sudan Leaders Agree to Demilitarised Zone

Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan approve range of deals on oil, security and border deals after meeting in Ethiopia

Jan. 06, 2013

The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to abide by timelines to be drawn up to implement a raft of security, oil and border deals stalled for over three months, mediators said.

With the two neighbours increasingly cash-strapped after a spat led Juba to shut down its oil output a year ago, the announcement on Saturday offered fresh hope of a breakthrough in long-running talks to end the crisis.

The leaders also agreed to set up a long-delayed demilitarised zone along their disputed border as soon as possible, a condition for the resumption of oil exports.

African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki said at the end of a summit meeting in the Ethiopian capital that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir had recommitted to the key deals and agreed to enact them “unconditionally”.

“Our panel is preparing a matrix for the implementation of all of the existing agreements with timeframes,” said Mbeki, a former South African president, adding that the AU would complete the timelines by January 13.

The deals, which were signed in September but were never implemented, include the restarting of Southern oil exports through northern pipelines, as well as the reopening of border points for general trade.

They also included the withdrawal of troops back from contested border regions to create a demilitarised buffer zone hoped to ease tensions between the two armies, who came close to all-out war in March and April 2012.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who hosted and helped mediate the talks, said he was “very much satisfied” with the progress of the meeting.

“I am very happy that the bottlenecks are now released and the implementation can resume,” he told reporters.

Border tensions
On Friday, South Sudan’s chief mediator Pagan Amum accused Sudan of dropping bombs across the border four times this week.

“It is very, definitely, negative. These [air raids] are having a negative impact on the summit and discussion,” Amum told reporters in Addis Ababa.

Juba has accused Khartoum of a series of attacks – regularly dismissed by Sudan.

The US, Britain and Norway issued a joint statement ahead of the talks calling for a settlement, urging the armies of both nations to “immediately withdraw” from their frontier.

Also on the agenda was the contested Abyei region, a long-time flashpoint on the volatile border, which has proved to be one of the most contentious sticking points between the two nations.

Sudanese troops withdrew from the territory in May after a year-long occupation that forced over 100,000 people to flee towards South Sudan.

The Lebanon-sized area – where a referendum to decide its future due in January 2011 never took place – is now controlled by United Nations peacekeepers from Ethiopia.

South Sudan separated from Sudan in July 2011 under a peace agreement that ended a 1983-2005 civil war, but key issues remain unresolved.

Khartoum also accuses South Sudan of supporting rebels operating in Sudan, which has been a major obstacle to implementing the agreements.

The South, in turn, says Sudan backs insurgents on its territory, a tactic it used to deadly effect during the two decades of civil war.