Just fourteen days following President Salva Kiir of South Sudan told that the world in Addis Ababa his political rival, Riek Machar, could never again be a portion of the nation’s politics or government, he signed a historic peace agreement with his key adversary, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), at the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
Thanks to what seems like a dazzling piece of”wonder diplomacy” from the Sudanese government led by Omar Al-Bashir, the border between the two countries was reopened; a permanent ceasefire (although shaky at first) has been agreed; and Machar, the former rebel leader from the minority Nuer tribe is currently due to be reinstalled as South Sudan’s Vice President.
Make no mistake, if an agreement had not been reached, Kiir’s government faced further financial sanctions; Machar faced a return to house arrest in South Africa; and Sudan’s economic conditions and political instability were set to deteriorate. The stakes were high on either side.
What transpired in Khartoum was an outstanding show of diplomatic leverage by Sudan on its southern neighbour. This is particularly so considering the failure of the primary face to face meeting of those two guys in the capital. “We have had enough ,” said South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei roughly Machar.
However, despite the forecast of doom and gloom, both sides signed an agreement that is being hailed with cautious optimism as”historical” even though a lot of what’s been agreed was summarized by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) several years ago. Nevertheless, the treaty includes fair and free elections in around three years’ period and has been welcomed in some quarters in Sudan as a sign that the”2 Sudans” could again be a united nation.
“I’ve spoken to Southerners who say that the decision to separate from Sudan in 2011 was early,” states Yasir Abdullah Ali, a Sudanese political commentator. “This arrangement is the strongest sign yet that reunification would be the most beneficial and workable option for the two nations.”
“The absence of institutions and good governance in South Sudan means that, short of unification, the only permanent solution to the problems of South Sudan is a confederation closely intertwined with Sudan,” he explained.
Whilst there is no dispute that the two countries working together stand a chance of beating major political and financial challenges, others state that talk of unification is, at best, a”pipe dream”. According to political analyst Mawan Muortat from South Sudan, there were”special circumstances” that allowed the peace deal to be attained but speak of reunification won’t ever be on the schedule. He dismissed reunification as wishful thinking.
“What has happened here,” clarified Muortat,”is that the Arab nations have abandoned Sudan in its hour of need, so the situation were conducive to striking an agreement that could bring the odds of peace in South Sudan and bring security and stability to the North of Sudan to allow economic growth. The 2 sides are treading the identical water and therefore need one another to secure a better future”
Those circumstances leave the two nations struggling to salvage their political and economic fortunes. Sudan’s current inflation rate is running at more than 55 per cent while South Sudan’s stands at 83 per cent but was an astronomical 800 percent in October 2016. Some international sanctions imposed by the US on Sudan and South Sudan are still set up.
After agreeing a ceasefire, arguably the attention of this deal was to ensure the South Sudan’s oil fields would become fully operative. Sudan’s offer to guard the oil fields against sabotage, employing a joint drive, appears to have persuaded both sides to resolve the finer points of an arrangement that would finish the 5-year civil war that has seen hundreds of people killed and resulted in a huge humanitarian catastrophe.
Once it is back in operation, South Sudan’s currently dormant oilfield in Unity State would allow it to export to 290,000 barrels a day, a 45 percent increase on its present output. In turn, Sudan could receive up to $26 per barrel to permit the crude oil to flow through its own pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
“There are individuals who will be quite angry that the Sudanese Army will again be on South Sudan land,” Muortat noted,”however there’s now a level of confidence on each side, so it’s an inevitable measure .”
He had been a little taken back when I broke the news regarding the decision to reinstate Riek Machar as Vice President. Indeed, he sounded apprehensive about it.
“Well, is it good news?” I asked.
“Oh yes. Yes… It’s good news, I just want there to be peace,” he said gently after a stunned silence. It looked as though he felt a substantial moment in the battle had came.
It remains to be seen whether this new agreement will hold, but Muortat remarked that the arrangement means a lot for both sides to the battle in the South, and to Sudan. “People are fed up of the violence and many have lost faith in the authorities. Like I said, I really don’t find a unification happening but I think the closer the cooperation between both countries, the better it’ll be.”
However, commentators on either side of the divide appear to agree that if the agreement stays, it will also be a valuable gift to the people of Sudan and also an important means to bring stability to the Nile Basin.