By Steve Paterno
August 2, 2012 — When South Sudan seceded last year, it deprived Sudan of its revenue, since the new country took along about 75% of the oil output, resulting into a whopping billions of dollars gap of Sudanese budget. The regime in Khartoum then thought it could still blackmail South Sudan into exploiting its resources, in order to cover for its budget shortfall.
While South Sudan expected for genuine negotiation and comprehensive agreement on post referendum issues, Sudan insisted to negotiate only on oil and vowed that if agreement was not reached on the matter, it would confiscate South Sudanese oil as a compensation for the use of its facilities and transit fees. Since both parties were far apart on the issue, no agreement was reached within the specified time frame that the regime in Khartoum set in its ultimatum. Therefore, the regime decided unilaterally to confiscate South Sudanese oil and justified the loots as its right for compensations.
In response, South Sudan also decided to unilaterally shut down its oil production. As a result, Khartoum armed forces began assaulting South Sudan—from both the ground and air—with the aim of occupying South Sudanese oilfields so as it can resume exploiting South Sudanese oil. In the ensuing firefights, South Sudanese armed forces managed to repulse the invading Khartoum armed forces and in the process, captured a disputed strategic town of Panthau, which serves both as Khartoum’s strategic military outpost for launching attacks across South Sudanese borders and a significant oil reserve; providing over 70% of Sudanese oil production. The incident heightened tensions between the two countries and raised the specter of all out war.
Nonetheless, since Panthua town is under dispute or rather claimed by South Sudan, the newly independent country declared in the face of aggression that it would just stay put in the town and warned that if Khartoum escalate the violence any further, it was poised to capture all the areas it believes are within its boundaries, because it is the right that South Sudan reserves.
Unfortunately, South Sudanese defensive posture was met by a barrage of international condemnations, including admonition from its powerful allies such as the USA. South Sudan suddenly found itself without a friend and ironically it was labeled as an aggressor, despite the fact that the real aggressor is the regime in Khartoum. South Sudan was eventually pressured into withdrawing its forces from Panthau, in which it reluctantly did.
The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) then passed resolution 2046 (2012), authorizing both countries to deescalate the border tensions by withdrawing all their forces from the flash points and immediately set to negotiate on all outstanding issues. The UNSC resolution established August 2, 2012, as a deadline for reaching on a comprehensive agreement on all the outstanding issues, or else, both countries would be subjected under stiff penalties.
Since then, South Sudan in whole, has been negotiating in good faith and in part met its international and national obligations. In accordance with UNSC resolution, South Sudan withdrew its police forces from Abyei area, a town Khartoum occupied by force. While, Khartoum claims publicly to have withdrawn its forces, it refuses to actually withdraw. With good intention of meeting the August 2, 2012, deadline, South Sudan presented its comprehensive proposal on all the outstanding issues for negotiation. South Sudan even went as far as making a generous offers in its proposals, which among other items include substantial financial contributions for Sudan so as to stabilize Khartoum’s already crumbling economy.
In its part, despite the seemingly progress made in the negotiations, Khartoum is deciding slowly and surely in reinventing the wheels. For example, on the very date both Khartoum and Juba agreed on the resumption of passenger flights between the two capitals, Khartoum instead sent its fighter planes to drop devastating bombs in South Sudan. The UN independently verified this very violation by Khartoum. Even though such aggression would have resulted into harsh penalties against Khartoum by the UN and compelled South Sudan to pull out of the negotiations, nevertheless, Khartoum is never punished and in spirit of peace, South Sudan continued with the talks.
Additionally, Sudan did not only reject the South Sudanese generous proposal outright, but Khartoum even refused to acknowledge the issues under the proposal. According to Khartoum, the only issue up for negotiation is security and without which, no “permanent agreement between the two countries” can ever be reached. This is the very regime that only months ago, it was insisting to negotiate only on one item, which is “oil.” It is this regime’s modus operandi to avoid reaching a comprehensive agreement, since its ultimate goal is to violate agreements it often signs. So, the regimes calculation is that if a comprehensive peace agreement is reached, there is a high degree that most provisions of the peace deal will be implemented into the letter. However, if the agreement is reached only partially, the possibility of violating it is much higher.
With the deadline of August 2, 2012, already passed without any agreement, sanctions must immediately be imposed against the regime in Khartoum for not negotiating in good faith and for not meeting its international and national obligations. After all, this is not the first time Khartoum violates the UNSC resolutions. This regime, which is on a life-support and can die anytime from now, should not be allowed to undermine international norms, blackmail its neighbors, and kill its citizens with such absolute impunity.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at email@example.com