Border Security is Key for Sudan Talks

August 20, 2012 1:07 pm0 commentsViews: 7

Omar Zaki looks over the various border issues causing tension between Sudan and South Sudan, and argues that their resolution is the best way to avoid future turmoil.

A landmark agreement was made during the African Union brokered bilateral talks between Sudan & South Sudan in Addis Ababa. After a long series of threats, walkouts, heated discussions, accusations from both governments, on Friday the 3rd & 10th of August, both delegations finally agreed on a negotiated price for transiting of oil from South Sudan via Sudan. The negotiations have experienced much deadlock, setbacks and did not manage to reach an agreement before the 2nd of August deadline given by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046. The agreed terms are:

• The deal will last for three & half years after this, prices will be negotiated if both sides decide to renew the agreement.

• South Sudan will pay $3.028 billion as transitional financial assistance per year.

• Agreed fee for oil transportation is $9.48 per barrel.

• South Sudan will pay $3.03 billion to Sudan to assist with its economy.

• South Sudan will pay tariffs of $8.4 for the GNPOC and $6.5 for Petrodar pipelines to the Government of Sudan.

The oil agreement is only one agreed upon solution in the talks; there still remain many outstanding issues which will further decide the fate of relations between Sudan and South Sudan and whether they can achieve a final peaceful co-existence. The fundamental factor lies in the demarcation of borders and security along them. This means South Sudan ending rebel activity in Sudanese territory and Sudan accepting and respecting future possible referendums in Abyei and other disputed territories depending on further outcomes of the talks. The chief mediator of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel & former South African President Thabo Mebki is currently working on a draft resolution dealing with the remaining issues of Abyei and border demarcation. Consultations will resume following the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as well as a meeting between Presidents Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan & Salva Kiir of South Sudan who are expected to discuss Abyei.

Oil Transit Agreement

In total South Sudan must pay $12 billion over the three years. South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar complained saying this made his nation ‘the biggest donor on earth to a single country, Sudan’. South Sudan is seeking international assistance and the US has urged China & Arab states to pay this amount, the US cannot as it still has sanctions against Sudan which it promised to remove if it respected the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 which planned the referendum.

The shutdown of oil for 6 months has led both nations to suffer negative consequences. Widespread protests began on the 16th of June against the Government’s austerity measures that it had to implement due to the $2.4 billion budget deficit caused by the loss of its oil. The protests were seized on by youth activists and opposition parties to call for the peaceful removal of Omar Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party government. Incredibly, soon after the deal, there has been increasing confidence in the Sudanese economy, where for the first time in several months the Sudanese Pound rose against the dollar.

Roots of the Talks

Following the separation of South Sudan on July 9th 2011, South Sudan acquired 75% of the total oil revenue. As South Sudan is landlocked it had to rely on the original pipelines that go through oil refineries in Khartoum state and then port terminals in Port Sudan.

The issue began when South Sudan stopped oil production in January, after accusing Sudan of building two secret pipelines and siphoned $815 million dollars worth of oil from its transit lines. Sudan stated it siphoned oil totalling to unpaid fees that South Sudan owed. The price of oil should have been agreed upon before separation, yet it never was. The Sudanese government desired $36 per barrel while the South Sudanese government offered between 70 cents to $1, arguing that this was in line with international prices.

Unresolved Issues

All of the issues that have occurred in both Sudan and South following the independence of South Sudan in July 9th 2011; with the current discussions, territorial disputes over Abyei, rebel conflict in South Kordufan & Blue Nile State, dual citizenship, and invasion of Heglig, are a consequence of the two parties failing to fully conclude the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 which ended the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Al-Obeid Morawah, stated the oil pact would be signed soon, but only after an agreement is made on border security. According to Morawah, “Security … is the priority for the (Sudanese) government,”. Sudan’s on-going concern during the AU talks has been the rebel activity of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) – the northern branch of the former rebel movement during the civil war – which South Sudan has denied. Yet American intelligence has confirmed this support, even US President Obama stated in a speech, ‘the government of South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan’.


The disputed region of Abyei was supposed to have a separate referendum before the South’s to determine whether it would join with Sudan or South Sudan. The case was taken to the International Court Tribunal, which reduced the size of Abyei and granted most of the oil fields to Sudan and one to South Sudan. However the court failed to define who was a resident and could therefore vote in the referendum, such as the Misseriya tribe, an Arab nomadic tribe who migrate into Abyei with the seasons. Abyei was always seen by observers as a catalyst for a possible future war, according to International Crisis Group, ‘What happens in Abyei is likely to determine whether Sudan consolidates the peace or returns to war’. There was an early threat of war after the Sudan seized Abyei on the 21st of May, 2011. As Sudanese forces were withdrawing 22 were killed by South Sudanese forces. On the 20th of June, 2011 the Sudanese army were replaced by an Ethiopian AU force.

During the negotiations, the US Special envoy on Sudan, Princeton Lyman, sent a letter to Sudan’s Minister of Finance Ali Mahmoud saying that a referendum should be held in Abyei in August, coinciding with the migration of the Misseriya so that they could participate in the vote. The ruling governing part of Sudan, the National Congress Party, stated that they would conduct a referendum with all participating citizens. Whether South Sudan will accepts this remains another decisive factor in the future of the talks.

South Kordufan & Blue Nile States

The states of South Kordufan & Blue Nile, which were not clearly defined by the British colonial administration, are located in Sudan. However, a certain amount of the population, in particular within the Nuba mountains, identity with South Sudan. They also fought alongside the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (current the governing party of South Sudan) during the second civil war.

These states were supposed to have popular consultations under the CPA yet they never took place. This has been widely viewed as the leading cause of the rebellions by the SPLM-N, which in November 2011 joined with JEM (Justice Equality Movement) rebels from Darfur to form the Sudanese Liberation Front, a united force attempting to depose the central Sudanese government. This caused the Sudanese Air Force in March & April to launch aerial bombardments into South Sudanese territory. As a result, in April of this year, the oil field of Heglig located in South Kordufan, claimed by South Sudan, was invaded and occupied for 10 days until the Sudanese army recaptured it.

Further complicating this was the idea of dual citizenship for tribal & nomadic communities (for instance with Abyei) along the border, yet this was denied by President Omar Al-Bashir and could risk nomadic groups having future confrontations with border security.

The remaining question is; can there be a final concluding agreement between the two Sudan’s? The agreed price on oil transits was a major start but the keystone issue remains border security and contested territories, as Sabir Hassan, chief economic negotiator for Sudan said, ‘The whole thing hinges on a security agreement’ the concerns of Sudan have become the deciding factor leading negotiations to the point Pagan Amum, chief negotiator for the South Sudan, condemn the international community as being ‘pro-Khartoum’. It all means that if Sudan’s concerns regarding rebel activity are not addressed first, talks will be disrupted. South Sudan must in turn end the support of the SPLM-N and possibly the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, in turn Sudan must respect a possible referendum of Abyei as was agreed upon in the CPA. Both nations have no desire to return to war, the future of both Sudan’s rests with the other, borders that remain undemarcated and territories left disputed will fail to normalise relations between the two states and leave the threat of war lingering on.

Omar Zaki