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.

It is quite evident that Sudan’s government policies aren’t exactly encouraging. Bashir has taken the textbook Arab government approach to civil strife: distract and deny. Bashir knows he is in a difficult place, and losing 75% of Sudan’s oil reserves during South Sudan’s independence has definitely been on his mind. He’s followed in the footsteps of countless others; just as Qadhafi and Mubarak gave defiant speeches hoping to instill fear in their opponents before they were forced from office, Bashir has threatened war against South Sudan in a move that illustrates just how desperate things are at NCP headquarters. Bashir himself must understand that this is an empty threat; morale in his army hasn’t been this low since he came to power, and counting his allies will prove to be a sad effort (the article is from 2006, but one of few published writings on Sudan’s army).

From within, Sudan’s struggle to pay its employees on time is no secret. Even before South Sudan’s independence, a doctor’s strike over the government’s failure to pay their salaries resulted in empty promises of pay raises and better working conditions. Recent protests at Khartoum University went largely unnoticed by the international community, but it is important to note that December’s protest was the largest case of unrest in Khartoum since the 2007 attack by Darfurian rebels. Thus, the Sudanese people are watching Egypt’s events closely, and they are more interested in Egyptian events than the lack of media attention would suggest.