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[Dehai-WN] Foreignaffairs.com: Sudan's Oil Crisis is Only Bashir's First Problem

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2012 22:10:24 +0100

Sudan's Oil Crisis is Only Bashir's First Problem

Blood on the White Nile

 <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/author/andrew-s-natsios> Andrew S. Natsios

February 2, 2012

risis-is-only-bashirs-first-problem?page=show> Article Summary and Author

On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest
country. After a referendum in which 98 percent of voters favored
independence, some 30 heads of state celebrated the nation's independence.
Together with the crown prince of Norway, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon,
and the political leadership of the North, the officials affirmed collective
acceptance of South Sudan's sovereignty. And the international community
breathed a sigh of relief, as the vote, which was mandated by the 2005 peace
agreement between the North and South, was meant to bring the 55-year
conflict to an end.

But the referendum and the South's formal declaration of independence have
not produced a lasting peace, yet. Despite the mediation of former South
African President Thabo Mbeki, negotiations before independence (and since)
left several unresolved issues to fester: How much the South would pay to
transport oil through the North, where the actual border would lie
(especially the status of the disputed region of Abyei), debt sharing, and
what the citizenship status of South Sudanese remaining in the North, and
vice versa, would be. In addition to tension surrounding these questions, a
wider opposition that includes the three major Darfur rebel movements, the
Northern arm of the Southern political movement, is growing. It is making
this moment all the more precarious for Khartoum. In fact, the tangle of
contestations and conflicts across the country marks the most serious
challenge to the survival of Omar al-Bashir's Islamist government since it
usurped power more than two decades ago.

Last week, Bashir told 700 army officers to prepare for war with the South.

What the South will pay to ship oil north to Port Sudan is the divisive
matter at present. Eighty percent of Sudan's oil reserves are in the South.
The newly created South Sudan initially offered one dollar per barrel -- the
standard international rate -- and a one-time cash transfer of $2.6 billion
to help with the North's budget deficit. Khartoum refused the offer,
demanding $36 per barrel. When the South refused to pay earlier in January,
Bashir's government decided unilaterally to divert enough oil (read: steal
it) to make up the difference. Last Friday and Saturday, the South turned
off the spigot, shutting down 900 oil wells. Last week, Juba signed an
agreement with Kenya instead to build a pipeline heading south to the port
at Mombasa. South Sudan says the new route to market could be ready in 11
months; oil experts doubt a project of such proportions could be finished so

Both Khartoum and Juba have a history of brinkmanship. And Bashir is once
again edging up to a precipice -- he seems to think invading the South would
settle the impasse. Last week, along with his minister of defense, Abdel
Rahim Muhammed Hussein, Bashir told 700 army officers to prepare for war.
But the military pushed back. The officers told Bashir and Hussein that they
were appalled at the regime's loose talk of battle. Political interference
by Bashir's ruling political party, the officer said, had weakened the
Sudanese military by repeatedly purging those suspected of disloyalty and
promoting officers based on loyalty rather than competence. There was
widespread corruption in the procurement of weapons -- 200 tanks bought last
year were all defective. And the army was already battling against the
60,000-man coalition army in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan,
and Blue Nile that has been fighting to overthrow Bashir.

The political situation in the South looks less precarious, but there have
been warning signs of future conflict over the last few months. For its
part, in previous years, Juba kept its quarreling tribes united by focusing
their attention on the looming and ever-present (and very real) threat from
the North. But in the past two months, the historic rivalry between the Lou
Nuer and Murle tribes has boiled over -- several thousand may have been
killed. Chronic syphilis has left the Murle largely sterile; to keep from
disappearing, they steal children from neighboring tribes. Ongoing drought
has reduced food supplies, so now they are stealing cattle as well. Fed up,
the Lou Nuer retaliated. South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar -- also
the new country's leading Nuer political figure -- has urged restraint. If
not addressed soon, internecine fighting among armed young men in the
countryside could destabilize the new state.

Indeed, the map of Sudan is divided by more lines than the North-South
border. Since May, an anti-Bashir alliance has been coalescing in the
northern periphery. Last June, Khartoum ordered the Sudanese army to attack
the forces of Abdel Aziz al-Hilu in the Nuba Mountains and attempted to kill
the elected governor of Blue Nile, Malik Agar, and defeat his forces. Both
offensives failed badly. In desperation, Khartoum initiated a bombing
campaign in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states, causing the mass
displacement of civilians. He imposed a blockade on humanitarian and food
aid. Aid workers now predict famine conditions within the next two months if
the blockade is not lifted. On November 12, Agar, Hilu, and the three major
rebel leaders in Darfur formally announced a new alliance to depose Bashir's
Islamist autocracy (the Sudanese affiliate of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood)
and install a secular democratic pluralist state. Khartoum has accused the
South Sudanese government of supplying the rebel alliance with weapons. The
Obama administration repeated the charge. That led to an acrimonious meeting
between U.S. President Barack Obama and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir
late last year. The South has since stopped weapons transfers.

The toppling of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi inadvertently handed the
Darfur rebels money and weapons as well. When Qaddafi came under fire early
last year, the three most powerful Darfuri rebel leaders rushed to support
him (after all, Qaddafi had armed them in the past). He supplied Khalil
Ibrahim, one of the rebel groups' leaders, with a large stash of cash and
surface-to-air missiles. Then Qaddafi was killed, and on December 25,
Sudanese air strikes killed Ibrahim, too. It is rumored that the new Libyan
government provided Khartoum with the coordinates of Khalil's camp in the
bush, where he may have been moving his troops for an assault on Khartoum.
The Sudanese air force -- reportedly manned by mercenary pilots from Iran,
Egypt, and Russia -- is the one reliable element of its military force
standing between the rebels and an assault on Khartoum. Khalil's death may
have given the Bashir government a reprieve from the assaults coming from
the new coalition, but it is likely only temporary.

Khartoum's deteriorating military position parallels a perilous economic
situation. Bashir's government has kept itself in power over the past decade
by subsidizing food and gas prices to keep big cities pacified and by
massively increasing patronage jobs for its Islamist supporters -- the
public sector grew from 10 percent of GDP in the 1990s to 23 percent in the
2000s -- funded with the oil revenues that began pouring into the national
treasury after 1999. But today, Khartoum faces a 30 percent gap between
budget and revenues, as oil revenues abruptly and sharply declined when the
South declared independence and most oil deals transferred to Juba. The
International Monetary Fund has estimated that the North will face a major
economic contraction over the next two years. Bashir will be forced to lay
off tens of thousands of his Islamist supporters and curtail subsidies as
the private sector contracts. Food prices have been steadily rising over the
past year -- the cost of beef doubled in the first nine months of 2011 --
triggering demonstrations in Khartoum last September that the police
brutally suppressed. The 2011 sorghum crop, one of the principal stable
grains, dropped 50 percent below the previous year's, which will fuel even
more food price increases -- and hunger.

Western governments, including Washington, have been slow to react to the
Bashir regime's humanitarian blockade and bombing of civilian targets (there
have been public statements, but little else). The shutdown of the oil
fields last week and Bashir's preparations for war, however, prompted Deputy
Secretary of State William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie
Carson, and U.S. Special Envoy Princeton Lyman to rush to Juba to talk down
the situation. Both the White House and the State Department have sought to
be more even-handed in dealing with North and South Sudan over the past
year, likely part of its broader strategy of accommodating itself to the
Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power across the Arab world. Bashir's party,
along with that of Hassan al-Turabi, is the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan.

Since Bashir's Islamist party first took power in Sudan, more than 1.5
million people have died in wars, both in Darfur and the South. There have
been horrendous atrocities against the civilian population, repeated famines
that Khartoum prevented aid agencies from addressing, campaigns of forced
Islamization against non-believers, and the mass rape of women in Darfur and
the South. This sorry record has driven Khartoum's decline.

The immediate challenge is to make clear to Khartoum that any attack on the
South will be an act of war between sovereign states to which the United
States will respond with its own air assets: The South has a large standing
army and does not need or want ground troops, but it has no air force, which
is Khartoum's greatest advantage. Washington could also try to broker a deal
on revenue sharing that would allow both sides to save face and address the
North's real budget crisis, negotiate an end to the North's humanitarian
blockade of rebel areas, and encourage Khartoum to address the legitimate
demands of the rebel alliance in the North through reform. But absent a real
military threat from the United States, Khartoum may ignore all outside
pressure as it fears its end is near.

-the-brink> Sudan Back on the Brink

 <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/author/andrew-s-natsios> Andrew S. Natsios

Violence in Sudan's disputed region of Abyei threatens to unravel the
fragile peace gained from January's secession vote in the south. Before
full-scale war erupts, Washington must press Khartoum for restraint and
reform -- and fast.



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Received on Thu Feb 02 2012 - 16:10:41 EST
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