INTERVIEW-S. Sudan rulers must trim "huge" government-opposition
Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:47am GMT
* Opposition chief says country unprepared for oil revenue decline
* New nation faces armed rebellions, "stagnant" economy
* Western powers have not put enough pressure on SPLM -opposition
By Alexander Dziadosz and Hereward Holland
JUBA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - South Sudan's main opposition leader called for the
dominant ruling party to pare down the country's "huge" government and said
it had not done enough to plan for a rapid decline of oil revenues in coming
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended
decades of civil war with the north, and the new nation now faces a raft of
challenges including multiple armed insurgencies and an economy battered by
The ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) dominates government,
and analysts say power is overwhelmingly concentrated in the executive
branch . Some are concerned South Sudan will follow regional examples of
Lam Akol, head of the main opposition party Sudan People's Liberation
Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), said the SPLM should allow a
"national dialogue" that gives church leaders, civil society groups and
others more say in governance.
"There are a lot of challenges that need a collective approach by all. One
party will not do it, or a number of few parties cannot do it. These are
national issues that concern all, must be taken by all," he told Reuters in
"The SPLM thinks that they can do things alone. Two minds are better than
one, and when it comes to the nation, we need all."
He said the ruling party had bloated the government to an unnecessary size
to accommodate its cadres, adding far more ministers, members of parliament
and other officials than the country's population of 8 million justified.
At independence, the government added 96 seats to parliament to absorb
politicians returning from the north, 66 seats for other political parties
and 50 more for the council of states, bring the total to around 382 seats.
"With the meagre resources that we have now, we have a very huge
government," Akol said. "The axe must fall on this huge government. We don't
South Sudan officials often dismiss concerns that the country's interim
constitution and power structure are not democratic, saying the nation is in
a transitional process.
President Salva Kiir in his independence day speech said a "democratic,
inclusive and accountable" government was "critical to the future of our
"THE ECONOMY IS STAGNANT"
Sudan's decades-long civil conflict devastated the south's economy and
infrastructure, apart from oil. South Sudan, which is nearly as big as
France, has only about 100 km (60 miles) of paved roads.
The International Monetary Fund said last month South Sudan's oil output,
which accounts for about 98 percent of government revenues, will halve by
2020 without new finds.
Akol said not enough had been done to plan for that. "They are not even
thinking about what happens when the oil runs out."
"We must set in place fiscal and monetary policies that will ensure that the
economy expands. The economy is stagnant now. We don't have any growth at
all because there is no production, we are only consuming," Akol said.
Akol said Western powers the country depends on for aid money had not put
enough pressure on the SPLM to govern inclusively. "On the contrary, they
just turn the other way."
Journalists have also raised worries about freedom of speech. Two weeks ago,
online newspaper Sudan Tribune said one of its journalists had been arrested
over an article in a Juba-based newspaper that criticised Kiir.
"I, as a leader, may be given the opportunity to talk and say something, but
if this is not inclusive of everybody then it is a favour. It doesn't look
like a right," Akol said.
He said the interim constitution, which will last for about five years,
gives too much power to Kiir and not enough to the country's 10 states.
"The president has a lot of executive powers. He can dissolve an elected
government or dismiss an elected governor." (Editing by Jon Hemming)
ANALYSIS-Oil ties will prevent Sudan war, despite posturing
Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:42am GMT
* Tensions running high after refugee camp bombing
* Posturing could hinder talks over oil, Abyei
* Little appetite for full-scale war on either side
By Hereward Holland
JUBA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A suspected Sudanese air strike on a refugee camp
in South Sudan will not trigger a return to war but belligerent posturing on
both sides will complicate and slow talks over oil transit fees and other
Juba and the United Nations accused Sudan of bombing Yida camp in Unity
State last week, plunging north-south relations to the lowest point since
the South seceded in July, the culmination a 2005 peace deal that ended
decades of civil war.
Khartoum has repeatedly denied the charges and accused the South of backing
rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, two war-stricken states on the
northern side of the tense and poorly demarcated border.
Analysts say the tensions may make it harder for the two to agree on a
transit fee to pump the South's oil through Sudan's pipelines, contested
border areas, transitional financial assistance and debt - all issues left
unresolved at the split.
Degenerating relations may also make it less likely the two will soon find a
compromise for the disputed border region of Abyei that Khartoum seized in
May after an attack on an army convoy blamed on southern troops.
"If the conflict were to get any worse ... obviously in the immediate term
that would have a negative impact on the negotiations," Chris Phillips at
the Economist Intelligence Unit in London said.
"They're not in a good place now anyway, so they would deteriorate even
Sudan and South Sudan are expected to resume oil talks next week in Ethiopia
after negotiations collapsed over the summer. In the past week both sides
have ratcheted up their rhetoric.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International
Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region, says
he is ready to return to war.
His southern counterpart, Salva Kiir, has warned of Sudan's "pending
invasion" and the possibility of an oil war.
LITTLE APPETITE FOR WAR
But despite the bellicose pronouncements, decades of brutal civil war have
left citizens on both sides of the border with little appetite for renewed
Sitting on a plastic garden chair in the dappled shade of his barracks in
Bentiu, the deputy commander of the army in the South's Unity state Mangar
Buong said his country knew only too well the "colours of war".
"On our side, we believe in peace ... we are now just for our own
self-defence," he said, a selection of mobile phones fanned out on the table
in front of him. "In northern Sudan we want them also to be in peace."
Perhaps the biggest factor preventing a slide into full-scale war is a
shared interest in the continued flow of oil, which comes mostly from the
South but reaches clients through a pipeline to the Red Sea terminal in Port
"Their mutual reliance on oil was the single greatest disincentive to a new
war in Sudan," said Zach Vertin, an analyst at the International Crisis
Group, referring to the interim period between the peace agreement and
"That's still the case. But now that the South is selling its own oil and
talks have yet to produce a deal, that dynamic may be changing," he said.
That does not rule out the possibility that the two sides could continue to
wage a damaging proxy war through rebel militias on both sides of the
border, further undermining confidence and hampering talks, analysts say.
Sudan and South Sudan regularly accuse one another of backing insurgencies
in their territory, and just as often deny the other's accusation.
Sudan's army is fighting the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N)
on its side of the border, while militias under the umbrella of the South
Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) have attacked towns in the South's Unity and
Upper Nile states.
Many of the SSLA's ranking officers were members of the Sudan Armed Forces
(SAF) prior to the secession, and some of their commanders live in Khartoum.
Sudan denies the South's assertion that the SAF is supplying them with
training, a rear base, facilitating weapons transfers and supplying mines
that have killed dozens in recent months. Arms experts suspect otherwise.
Some experts also question Juba's statements that South Sudan's army has no
connections to SPLA-N units fighting the Sudanese army in South Kordodan and
Any low-level, hit-and-run attack on the oil fields by these rebel groups
would have a serious impact on production, because it would lead to an
evacuation of expatriate oil workers, without whom the rigs cannot function.
South Sudan says that 1,300 Sudanese oil workers pulled out of Unity state
at independence, leaving a skeleton staff of just 300 expatriates and a
handful of South Sudanese to keep oil flowing.
Production in Unity state is already down 25 percent against
pre-independence levels, an official said last week.
For now, oil fields are unlikely to become a target because the SSLA's
interests appear aligned to Khartoum, said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin from
political risk consultancy Control Risks.
"As long as the two Sudans share oil revenues, the northern government and
its proxies will have no interest in disrupting oil production," Gallopin
When the South seceded, it took with it three-quarters of the roughly
500,000 barrel per day oil production, causing Khartoum to ask Arab central
banks for $4 billion to prop up its economy this year.
"For both sides, they need to decide if they can actually afford a new war.
Who is going to pay for it? Khartoum are broke," said Phillips at the
Economist Intelligence Unit. (Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Ulf
Laessing and Alexander Dziadosz)
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Received on Fri Nov 18 2011 - 08:24:18 EST