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Economy rather than politics seems to be forcing Sudan and South Sudan to bury their enmity and embrace peace. In a sign of increasing rapprochement between the two neighbours, the presidents of both countries have agreed to abide by timelines to be set for the implementation of a number of deals on security, oil and border. The implementation was stalled for over three months.
The going has been extremely tough since its birth for South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and its parent country Sudan, as both became locked in a bitter dispute over sharing income from oil most of which remains in South Sudan,
while the pipeline for transport the same snakes through Sudan. Juba accused Khartoum of demanding an extraordinarily huge fee for the pipeline and shut its production facilities in protest a year ago, thus delivering lethal blows to the economies of both countries. Both countries have been cash-strapped since then, and found themselves in a financial cul-de-sac, unable to find money for governance and development.
The latest deal on expediting the implementation of agreements was struck in Addis Ababa under the mediation of African Union leader Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki said that Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir and his counterpart Salva Kiir had recommitted to the deals and agreed to enact them ‘unconditionally’. The agreements cover three key issues: the restarting of Southern oil exports through northern pipelines; secondly, the reopening of border points for general trade, and third, withdrawal of troops from contested border areas to pave the way for a negotiated settlement of border disputes.
Both the Sudans are too impoverished to settle their disputes militarily and the thaw in their relations is the result of the realisation of this fact. Both have enough internal problems to tackle than waste their energies on fighting each other, something which their neighbours and the African Union loathe as it will plunge the entire region into crisis.
Domestic imperatives and intense external pressure have forced Bashir and Kiir to step back from the brink, and both need to further enhance the current reconciliation for peace and prosperity. The Middle East is going through a period of awakening and Bashir himself is under pressure to loosen his grip on power to make way for democracy. Economic hardship can only ignite the democratic aspirations of people and the dispute with the South has been one of the reasons for the country’s penury.
As for the South, it’s a nation in its infancy. Having inherited nothing at birth, it has to build everything from the scratch. And nothing can be built without peace.