Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 25 July 2009

Abyei ruling is good for Southern Sudan


By Savo Heleta

July 24, 2009 — The recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague have confirmed that the boundary of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms are geographically a part of Southern Sudan. At the same time, the oil rich areas of eastern and western Abyei have been awarded to Northern Sudan.

This was not a simple arbitration and court ruling. The judges knew they were making a final decision about a highly disputed and important region in a country whose top leadership took power in a military coup twenty years ago and has since waged a number of ruthless wars.

The panel of five judges knew that Sudan has just recently ended one of the bloodiest wars in Africa that lasted for over two decades and claimed about two million lives; that the country is currently facing a rebellion and horrific human suffering in Darfur, national elections in 2010, and a referendum on self-determination and a possible secession of the South in 2011.

The judges knew they had to be pragmatic and think what their ruling would do to the situation on the ground.

It seems as if the judges were not making a decision solely based on the court rules and law, but wanted to give something to each side and create a win-win situation from their ruling.

They probably kept in mind that a win-lose outcome would very likely lead to an immediate outburst of violence and conflict between the North and South and bring even worse suffering than what is happening in Darfur since 2003.

Riak Machar, the vice president of Southern Sudan, is quite right when he says that the ruling "is going to consolidate peace in Sudan. It is a victory for the Sudanese people and a victory for peace."

If the court had awarded the territory with the oil fields to the southerners, the Khartoum government would be left with hardly any oil and sources of foreign currency (in case the South chooses independence in 2011) and many angry and well trained and armed Arabs demanding a war against the Africans and "infidels" in the South in order to get back the oil and territory.

Giving the North the two oil fields in Abyei is very likely to satisfy the Khartoum regime and keep the peace between the North and South at least in the short run.

The South, on the other hand, has enough oil that, if managed properly in the future, it can live without the two Abyei oil fields.

After decades of war and suffering, Southern Sudan is finally experiencing a few years of peace and development. The South simply cannot afford any more fighting with Khartoum or anybody else. If the price of peace in the South is the two oil fields located in Abyei, it is a fair price to pay at this time.

Savo Heleta holds an M.Phil degree in Conflict Transformation and Management from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He is the author of "Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia" (March 2008, AMACOM Books, New York). He can be contacted at savo@savoheleta.com

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  • 25 July 2009 07:24, by Salah

    May God saves you president Kiir and may he gives you the wisdom to lead.

    repondre message

  • 25 July 2009 09:05, by jur_likang_a_ likan’g

    It is totally wrong to view the outcome of Abyei issue in this manner. Heglig was not awarded to any state, it is under the control of the presidency. Heglig is still for discussion as it is neither part of Kordufan nor Abyei. Heglig is part and parcel of South Sudan just like Hufrat Al Nahas in Raga in Western Bahr el Ghazal State is - Places plundered by Arabs during the war period. Heglig Oilfields is found in Bentiu. And so it must be because the Arabs with their greed for our resources are land grabbers and nmust be told not confuse things up. One now wonders why the 1956 North-South map has not been implemented. Was it for this purpose? To snatch Heglig!

    repondre message

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