The Two Sudans in Arbitration: Corruption, Militias, and China

Hergé’s caricatured arms dealer in The Broken Ear (1937) offers oil-hungry powers an unfortunate blueprint for influence building in the two Sudans. Credit: thinmanSouth Sudanese President Salva Kiir this week addressed a letterto dozens of “former and current senior government officials” pleading with them to return an estimated US$4b in “missing” government funds. The Globe and Mail reports that the US$4b reportedly stolen would add up to approximately 2 years’ worth of oil revenues for the country, which upon seceding from Sudan took about 75% of Khartoum’s oil reserves with it (amounting to some $5b worth of annual income, according to the Petroleum Economist trade publication). Some US$60m has reportedly been recovered, but continued mismanagement, graft and badly bid contracts (most notably, for food imports) means that additional funds still remain unaccounted for and may be unrecoverable.[1]

Despite the emotional plea from Kiir, in an unencouraging sign for transparency in South Sudan this past April, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Party that Kiir leads “voted against a bill seeking to make contracts and information about the young country’s oil industry more transparent by making it available to the public.”

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The Sudans on the brink of war and state collapse

While we've been fascinated with Egypt's bizarre presidential elections drama and other stories, I and many others have been oblivious to the serious worsening of the situation between the two Sudans. There are very few foreign reporters there — basically only the news agencies at most times — but considering the seriousness of the situation, the potential for many deaths, and the potential impact in East Africa and the Sahel this is worthy of attention. It's also surprising the issue is not getting more scrutiny at the UN.

Here's a quick rundown from published sources.

Omar al-Bashir is threatening to escale recent skirmishes with South Sudan into a full-scale war:

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has said his main goal is now to "liberate" the people of South Sudan from its rulers following recent border clashes.

The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement has ruled South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.

President Bashir was addressing a rally at his party's headquarters.
Fighting between the two countries has now spread to another area, further adding to fears of all-out war.

This follows an earlier statement by the North's parliament calling the south an "enemy":

(Reuters) - Sudan's parliament branded South Sudan an "enemy" on Monday and called for a swift recapture of a disputed oil-producing region, as rising border tensions pushed the old civil war foes closer to another full-blown conflict.

South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last July, seized the contested Heglig oilfield last Tuesday, prompting its northern neighbor to vow to recapture the area by "all means".

The oilfield is vital to Sudan's economy, producing about half of the 115,000 barrel-per-day output that remained in its control after South Sudan's secession.

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Meanwhile in the two Sudans

The post below, on the worsening relations between the two Sudans and the Northern regime's domestic worries, was contributed by Abdullah Ahmed. I had missed these alarming developments, which before the Arab uprisings would have been major news. 

While much attention is currently being focused on Egypt, there is much to learn from the current oil dispute between Sudan and its former territory, South Sudan. South Sudan’s oil shutoff reveals that it is not willing to bargain for permission to export oil.

With the other issues yet to be settled between the two governments, including final demarcation of the border, the SPLM-led South Sudanese government is taking the situation very seriously. The National Congress Party’s “take no prisoners” attitude in dealing with South Sudan’s government is strongly reflected in Omar al-Bashir’s actions and words. For example, the undersecretary of Sudan’s foreign ministry gave an interview just over a month ago in which he referred to the South Sudanese as “brothers” and the border issue between the two countries as a minor issue. Yet, Sudan’s actions have been much louder than the words of her paid employees, as the recent bombing of the Jau area on the border illustrates.

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