CPGB-ML » Page 'Escalating tension between North and South Sudan'

Escalating tension between North and South Sudan

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.

As was widely expected, the two Sudans have been unable to reach agreement on sharing the profits arising from the sale of oil now that the south has seceded.

Seventy percent of Sudan’s oil is in the south, but none of it can reach the market without going through the north’s pipelines. The south has been refusing to pay the north’s charges for use of its pipelines, claiming that they are excessive. Currently some $1bn remain outstanding and unpaid.

The north retaliated by arresting tankers carrying south Sudanese oil. The south has now responded by closing down its oil wells altogether so that neither north nor south can benefit from them at all. As the south’s government derives 98 percent of its income from oil sales, this is an action that hurts the south even more than it hurts its intended target, ie, the Khartoum government.

What the south apparently wants to do is to keep its oil wells closed until a pipeline can be built enabling it to ship out its oil via Kenya, thus avoiding north Sudanese territory altogether. However, such pipelines would have to run uphill for much of the way, necessitating prohibitively expensive pumping – assuming that it would at present be possible to build them at all, since they would have to cross an area of southern Sudan, the Jonglei, which is still effectively a war zone.

There is a strong possibility of a renewed outbreak of war, since northern Sudan desperately needs the oil income of which the southern shut-down is now depriving it. Since the south can afford the closure even less than can the north, it is to be hoped that, notwithstanding its hatred of the north, the South Sudan government can be persuaded to resolve the issue by negotiation.

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