Success of Sudan Oil Deal Could Hinge on Abyei

Posted October 12th, 2012 at 7:24 pm (UTC+0)

AU Awaits Mbeki Report

The long term success of an oil and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan could depend on the much disputed Abyei border region.

That’s why Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, says Abyei’s exclusion from the agreement between presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir is “a big, big loss.”

And Lyman says it’s going to take a lot of work, by both governments, to demilitarize the border and deal with remaining issues such as Abyei and humanitarian access to the border regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“They should not let these things slip,” he warns.

Thabo Mbeki, the African Union chief mediator, is trying to keep momentum going with talks in Khartoum and Juba ahead of his October 21 report to the AU Peace and Security Council.

Lyman says that’s an opening for the international community to back AU recommendations on Abyei, a 10,000 square kilometer region straddling the still undefined border between the two nations.

“We didn’t make a lot of progress there,” Lyman says. “This has to be now a very high priority for the international community.”

The Abyei region, stradding the border region between Sudan and South Sudan, is highly contested because of its strategic location and possible mineral deposits. Map: VOA


Solution is “imperative”

John Prendergast is co-founder of the Enough Project, a Sudan advocacy group. He agrees.

“Despite Abyei’s central role as a catalyst for North-South tensions, the international community has historically dodged the difficult issue of the area’s final status,” Prendergast writes. “Determining the final status of Abyei and resolving the other outstanding issues is imperative for any sort of sustainable peace between the two countries.”

The African Union offered an Abyei solution in the September oil and security plan. But Khartoum refused a proposed referendum because it did not include Arab nomads among eligible voters. Those Messriyah nomads graze cattle several months a year in an area that is home to nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms.

Jennifer Christian, a Sudan policy analyst with the Enough Project, says Mbeki’s report should help the international community frame its response to the outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan, including the final status of Abyei.

“If history teaches us anything, it’s that a failure on the part of the international community to take a strong stance on Abyei now will very likely result in further violence on the ground in the near future,” Christian writes, calling on the AU to push for U.N. ratification of the plan “as the final resolution of the two Sudans’ dispute over the area.”


Referendum opposed

The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman, Al-Obeid Ahmed Marawah, says his government prefers a political agreement over a plebiscite because “the referendum would end by attributing Abyei to one of the two countries.

“And this will not satisfy the other party. Therefore, this could cause a new conflict between the two people [ Messriyah and Ngok Dinkas] of Abyei and it might extend to between the two countries,” Marawah says.

And that, in turn, threatens the new deal over the sharing of oil-revenue, which Ambassador Lyman says “holds tremendous potential benefits for the people of both countries, particularly in South Sudan where there has been serious rises in food prices, shortages of fuel, and insecurity on the border.”

Oil revenues account for more than 90 percent of Juba’s budget. So the suspension of exports earlier this year – to protest of higher fees for using Khartoum’s pipelines and port — set back ambitious infrastructure goals for the new nation.

“By restoring this income, the country can go back to investing heavily in development,” Lyman says. “While the production was down, all the resources were just to keep things going, keep things in place as much as possible. They couldn’t go ahead with roads.”

Lyman says Sudan benefits not only from an additional $15 a barrel surcharge over three-and-a-half years, but also from increased security along the border “where people are hurting, the economy is in difficulty, and there is too much attention to war and conflict.”


5 responses to “Success of Sudan Oil Deal Could Hinge on Abyei”

  1. It is painfully obvious to everyone in the real world of petroleum production, infrastructure and resource development that all the amateurs running around pretending they understand how to negotiate ceasefires, boundary disputes, petroleum production agreements, and stabilizing the world’s youngest country have no clue what they are talking about.

    If a signed CPA, five years of post-conflict and zero progress can convince anyone you should disappear, quietly take note and leave the petroleum negotiations to those who understand them: petroleum companies and people whose business it is to plumb the earth and produce the oil. Diplomats, NGO’s and ambulance chasers with nothing better to do are not qualified to suggest they can accomplish any of this, just as we would not invade your tennis courts, cocktail parties or diplomatic corridors pretending we know how to waffle along in la-la land standing in front of TV cameras and saying nothing. We have our jobs. You have yours. Let’s just call it a separation of Labour and be done with it.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, had a great fall, and can’t put anything together again. Stand back and let us complete our own work. We thank you for your interest.

  2. […] VOA: The long term success of an oil and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan could depend on the much disputed Abyei border region. […]

  3. Dan Edepi says:

    This is a matter of self-determination and unfortunately those directly affected, i.e., the Dinka-Ngor are neither involved nor consulted. It is a well-known historical fact that the whole of Sudan was black country and the Arabs kept pushing them south and enslaving them over the centuries. Therefore to allow the same slavers to again take what they stole when blacks were weak is the cruelest injustice almost tantamount to crimes against humanity.
    Britain, which was the colonial master when Arabs ran roughshod and enslaved blacks must redeem itself by helping to ensure that Abyei and all territories inhabited by blacks such as Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Southern Kordofan achieve self-determination. The only current superpower, the USA must use its historical role in helping other colonies gain self-determination in Sudan also. President Obama should not shy away from resolving this problem for fear that he will be deemed a racist in helping his fellow blacks. This is a moral and not a racist issue.
    The only concession for the Messriyah to graze should be given by the Ngok Dinka chieftains who should control access and duration of the grazing period. This should also have a time limit of maximum of five years to allow the Arabs to find grazing areas in their country or change lifestyle altogether.

  4. david says:

    Are they telling us everything?

    Three trillion barrels of oil in shale and sands.
    Orinoco reserves are 235 billion.
    Ghawar still has 70 billion.
    Global consumption down since 2008.

    Yet the US is having a conniption about South Sudan’s/Sudan’s million barrels a day off the market. A couple of months ago Secretary Clinton was positively shrill about Khartoum and Juba reaching an agreement.

    Something doesn’t add up.

  5. Gene says:

    Nobody mentions China’s role in this, they are working many areas in Africa, including sudan, to satisfy thier energy needs.

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns

Scott Stearns is VOA’s State Department correspondent. He has worked as VOA’s Dakar Bureau Chief, White House correspondent, and Nairobi Bureau Chief since beginning his career as a freelance reporter in the Liberian civil war. He has written for the BBC, UPI, the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, and The Economist. Scott has a Bachelors and Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University.



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