By Robert Asketill
As expected the dispute over petroleum between the North and South has reached a troublesome point when most of us are hoping for this new nation to be settling down. The South has announced that it would not negotiate on other issues unless the petroleum problem is solved. Sudan’s Foreign Minister has meanwhile stressed that the petroleum problem could not be solved as long as the Southern Government backs rebels in the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. Thus the dispute has become more complicated and the road to negotiations has become completely blocked.
It is clear that this blockage has raised regional and international worries. The regional worry was evident in the initiative proposed by the Kenyan Government in its capacity as the former chairman of IGAD which managed the Naivasha negotiations and is considered a partner in implementing the agreement that sought to establish peace between the North and South in the event of either unity or separation.
China, which prefers to act behind the curtains considers itself as “the godfather” of Northern and Southern Sudanese petroleum and believes it has a distinguished relationship with both sides allowing it a bigger opportunity to contribute in breaking the deadlock. It is doing this backstage, away from the media spotlight, especially since it is the biggest investor in petroleum in the two countries whose conflict has negative reflections on its interests despite the fact that Sudanese petroleum is limited in quantity and is not worth much in covering its needs.
There is no question, despite all this regional and international concern which involves the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), the matter ultimately depends on the political will of the Northern and Southern Governments and their awareness and acknowledgement of the necessity of strengthening constructive cooperation between them and mutual interdependence. The continuation of the logic of confrontation and conflict will greatly harm the interests of the two countries.
To prevent this logic from being just an emotional attitude, the mutual benefits between North and South must be viewed from the view of reciprocal interests and the fact that the two peoples are linked by deep-seated interests built on the basis of having lived together for generations despite the difficulties and confrontations that have hurt this coexistence, much caused by foreign interference. Unfortunately there are problems that can only be solved through joint efforts and flexibility as we are seeing with the case of Abyei, the borders, and smooth flow across the borders and need careful consideration by the western powers, not to pour more oil on the heated arguments.
However, if the latest Kenyan initiative is pursued and adopted by the AU for discussions at the joint meeting proposed by Kenya by the two Heads of State, this could lead to a framework agreement for good neighbourliness governing negotiations on the detailed problems, including the armed conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan Provinces which is one of the results of the unimplemented peace agreement clauses concerning the popular consultations and the security arrangements. Peace cannot be achieved unless these two issues are settled through joint understandings involving North and South. The Sudan needs the support and thinking of us all who read The London Evening Post.