The Prospects of the Relations between Sudan and South Sudan

The Prospects of the Relations between Sudan and South Sudan

The 2011 self-determination referendum that was the last chapter of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) resulted in the secession or independence of South Sudan. But rather than bothering about the varied terms, a group of experts and politicians taking part in the fourth forum that was organized by the University of Khartoum's Faculty of Arts examined the future relations between the two Sudans in search of a hope rather than despair for a formula in their common interest through future coexistence between Khartoum and Juba.

Sponsored by the Faculty of Arts, the forum was superintended by Dr. Sara al-Beely, Director of the Faculty's Center for Diplomatic Studies, who invited Dr. Mansour Khalid, the former Presidential Assistant, to speak to the gathering in this capacity rather than his capacity a leading figure in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) or advisor to late SPLM leader John Garang.

At the outset, Dr. Khalid thanked the Faculty of Arts and Ms. Beely indicating as the motive for his participation in the forum his close relationship with the Beely family since he and Dr. Osman Sidahmed al-Beely were together in the University of Khartoum and in France.

He said another reason for his participation was my intellectual affection to the Faculty of Arts although he shifted from it to the Faculty of Law.

Dr. Khalid said the topic of the forum made me think of "what led us to this situation?" although he pointed out this was not the proper place to raise this notion.

"The 'Addiction of Failure' phrase I used was in reference to the political elite during conclusion of an agreement by a group of Sudanese jurists, economists and diplomats which motivated me to write: The Paradox of 2 Sudans, the CPA and the Road to Peace which I concluded by the motto I believe in, 'the Failure of the Agreement in achieving its Aims', implying that the Sudanese politicians have addicted failure and they are sensitive against success. This disease cannot be cured even by the world's greatest psychologists. Much of the Sudanese politicians’ failure is due to stupidity which is part of human nature. Einstein was once quoted as saying there were two things without bounds –Universe and Human Stupidity which is a property of many people. The CPA has failed to achieve its objectives the most important of which was maintenance of the unity of Sudan. Why has it failed, notwithstanding its being worked out by distinguished groups? Despite what some people circulate that the CPA was a Western-American plot, there are two features that characterize the Sudanese- one is jealousy. Once Makky Shibaikah, addressing conferees, said: "I notice unjustified hostility and hatred amongst you whereas you must concentrate on one goal, the liberation of Sudan."  He said this was the viewpoint on the agreement which he said was made plain in a book he wrote in English. He said in his view this agreement was characterized by not only the satisfaction of a number of Sudanese but also by the fact that it has made precautions to any development. It ended up with a referendum that might lead either to unity or secession, which was obvious now. The CPA contained a provision on what would happen in the case of secession (Article 67). He said the consideration of this matter was evidence of the wisdom of the two parties and while the unity as a wished goal, something might happen to lead to secession. The law spoke about options in the case of secession and indicated what should be taken by the two parties.

He went further to name things that have created and could create problems; the first of those was the division of oil proceeds which have become the sole source of revenues to the government of South Sudan and relatively to the government of Sudan. The failure of the objective in the oil production has drawn back the economy for Sudanese failure in identifying the priorities of employing its proceeds. The state relied by 98% on the oil proceeds in the South and it would have been acceptable if this agreement concentrated on agricultural and agro-industrial expansion and on development of the agricultural resources or on education or health. He said on the contrary all the money was spent on bureaucratic matters and oil became a curse rather than a blessing, taking into account that most of the production is in the South while the infrastructure is in the North. There is a need for addressing the oil issue and this was what was meant by the referendum act for South Sudan. The other issue is related to the trade between the two countries but it is sad that this activity was relied in the South on importation from East African countries, particularly Uganda, although the population density in the South is on the country's northern borders with Sudan. It would have been wiser that the trade would be with the North but this question could not be resolved without solving other suspended challenges the most important of which was the Abyei dispute. He told the audience that trade depends on the economy but interference of politics in the trade has barred the development of the trade exchange between the two countries.

Yet another issue is the rights of the pasture straddling the common borderline between latitude 7 – 13 north of the Equator, an area covering northern and southern states, the two countries' richest states in pasture and farming. This region should be an interblending area and this was why foreign organizations have shown more concern with it than the peoples of the two countries.  

Something else; the referendum act has determined the future of South Sudan which was a joint effort but there are regional and international institutions that play roles in the two countries, including the East African group which was established to achieve negative goals as a necessity for boosting cooperation among the African nations to the point of fusion.

Everything that was said about the transfer of the capital and manpower was mentioned in the declaration of this group and we must work bilaterally for the success of this relationship.

As scheduled by the organizers of the forum, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour was planned to be the main speaker at this gathering but he could not take part due to his travel abroad as part of the delegation accompanying the President of the Republic on a tour of the Arab Gulf States. He was represented by the Director of the Neighboring States Administration, Ambassador Bukhary Ghanim, representing the official side in the forum. Ghanim gave a briefing on the role of his new administration, indicating that there are several instruments agreed upon for cooperation between Khartoum and Juba. He pointed out that there are many pending issues, wondering about the role of the two countries in resolving those issues so as to move ahead for tackling the issues of bilateral cooperation.

The Foreign Minister's representative underlined the importance of the economic issue besides the importance of direct communication between the two countries in the political and social spheres, bearing in mind that Sudan is neighbor to four land-locked nations. He argued that if the Sudan can build infrastructures, it would beneficial to Chad, for instance, which depends by 80% of its trade on Cameroon and seeks to use Sudanese Red Sea ports.

He added that the cooperation with South Sudan is cheaper with the presence of the railway line, the river transport and the land roads which together help in the economic cooperation.

Ghanim reiterated his Ministry's support to all initiatives taken in this regard and in other areas that contribute to achieving stability in South Sudan. Ghanim said there was a joint political-security committee which he hopes will reach solutions to the pending issues in the upcoming years, particularly as the chances of cooperation are abundant,

The forum was also addressed by Professor Al-Tayeb Zain Al-Abdin, the Director of the Afro-Asian Studies Institute, who reviewed the existing problems and the scenarios for future relations. He said the problem of the Sudan lies in the domination of the ruling party, the weak institutions of the state and the continued war. He added that the problem of South Sudan, on the other hand, lies in an erroneous ethnic war that began between the two tribes of Dinka and Nuer. There are now waves of displacement of thousands of southerners, the start of a famine and epidemics, Abdin said, adding that, besides the pending issues, the two countries trade accusations, each one accuses the other of hosting rebel movements. However, the communal movement in the form of trade and grazing, continues without interference.

The Professor went on to say that in the North, Khartoum is sincerely and honestly busy implementing the recommendations of the national dialogue conference- though incomplete- that include achievement of peace, writing a constitution and organizing free elections.

He added that more than 900 recommendations were approved in consensus while only 12 other recommendations were faced with disagreement, implying that the problem lies in the implementation.

Dr. Abdin said the problem facing the North is the short sight of the ruling clique besides fighting corruption while the conflict in the South between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar blocks the path to a lasting peace there as the government wants a military victory while the opposition wants a new peace agreement.

As regards the relations between the Sudan and South Sudan, the Professor said there are nine framework agreements by the two presidents and there is no reason that prevents their implementation, only some measure of peace is needed for establishing bilateral relations.

Concerning the scenarios of the future, Prof. Abdin said in connexion with Sudan things will be clear in 2020, the elections' year in which all political parties may participate and a change in the country's leadership may occur and a relative progress towards democracy may take place. Those parties may not participate and boycott the elections; in this case a scenario may arise in which an upheaval may erupt and will likely succeed under the pressing economic and living condition.

As for the South, it is likely that Kiir will defeat the opposition, a situation that may persuade big tribes to participate in the regime leading to the rise of some measure of peace but the situation will be quite calm and some disturbances may occur, said the professor.

Another scenario for South Sudan, according to the scholar, will be placing the state under an international mandate just like what happened for Iraq and Afghanistan and now for Syria, although there are some successful cases e.g Kosovo and East Timor. But this requires a local support and regional participation with considerable military forces to help achieve peace and demilitarization in the South, Prof. Abdin said.

He added that the last and final scenario is that the present situation will remain unchanged and in this case the South will turn into another Somalia.

Dr luaL Deng, was optimistic about the relations between Juba and Khartoum, saying there are some important elements that should not be forgotten including the fact that the two are geographically adjacent , they have common history and common interests as well as deeply rooted societal relations. He said he considers the social relations as the key to building strong bilateral relations between the two countries who have over 1500 kms of joint borders. The former Petroleum minister prior to the secession, said the areas of 

 Dr. Lula Deng, a leading figure of the SPLM, former Minister of Petroleum and presently a professor at The University of Juba and Director of Ebony Center for Strategic Studies in Juba said he prefers to use the areas of interaction.

He stressed that the two countries need to have peace each within itself, a priori, before embarking into restoring peace between the two states 

Ambassador Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, a prominent figure in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), said in an interposition in the forum that the secession was a southern tendency that existed since the first peace agreement of 1972. That agreement, he recollected, was faced with an opposition because it did not include a provision on self-determination. He cautioned against counting on the failure of the secession of the South, opining that Darfur, the Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains will not demand secession so long as development and justice are provided.

The Ambassador advised the Government in Sudan to be concerned with the urgent issues and to accord top priority to the issues pending with the South over concern with the Arab Gulf.

He also advised the government to oppose any international mandate on the state of South Sudan because he believes this will aggravate the conflict and the Sudan will not be safe from it.



Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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