Sudan: Fears of a richer independent South behind attacks?

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Despite a referendum on full independence for southern Sudan planned for 2011, there are renewed tensions and uncertainty of peace between northern and southern Sudan after armed militias from northern Sudan attacked 27 UN boats carrying food to southern Sudan on Friday. Reports claim that several people have been killed.

The Gunmen from the northern Jikany Nuer ethnic group attacked the 27 UN boats near Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia; the boats were escorted by soldiers from the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and had been carrying sorghum and other food aid to refugees in the south of Sudan: Eyewitness reports claim that many have been killed and there are many wounded in the hospital.

The UN boat had been traveling on the Sobat river because it is the only way to deliver aid to the poorly-developed south of the country. Michelle Iseminger of the UN’s World Food Program said, “We don’t have information on how many people were killed or injured. But everyone we have talked to has described it as an attack.”

The predominantly Islamic and Arabic North and the Christian South with mostly Black populations have been involved in a 22-year war that supposedly ended in 2005, but tensions have risen every-now-and-then. To this regard, southern Sudan will hold an independence referendum on whether or not it should remain as a part of Sudan by March 2011. This is part of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoun central government and the Sudan’s People Liberation Army.

A census to define how wealth and political power will be apportioned between regions is to be conducted in Sudan: Experts and observers say the census will be the basis of a voter registration process, which will allow national elections in 2010 and set the platform for the referendum in 2011.

However, the problems facing this planned census and referendum include: Disagreements between the north and south over certain requirements under the Naivasha Agreement, the Darfur conflict, logistical challenges, and funding difficulties, experts have said.

Southern Sudan is known to produce over 80 per cent of all Sudanese oil, which contributes to a little over 70 per cent of the totality of Sudanese exports.

Though the two sides (North and South) agreed under a Comprehensive Peace Agreement to equally share oil resources from Southern Sudan, the lack of probity and accountability has led the Southern Sudan government to doubt the clause pertaining to the agreement to share. They claim that statistics from net productions have prompted them to doubt the veracity of a 50 percent share. Thus implying a strong possibility of the North keeping a lion’s share of revenue from resources from the South.

In a recent interview, Aerop Akul mission head in Addis Ababa of Regional Co-operation Ministry of the Government of Southern Sudan said: “It is hard to know exactly how much has been exported from Southern Sudan. We just receive what the government of National Unity delivers as a 50 percent share. But 50 percent of what? We don’t know…”

With the renewed tensions and uncertainty of peace between the North and the South, analysts have expressed concern ahead of the 2011 referendum in which more than 90 per cent of the southern population is expected to vote in favour of the south’s independence to express their frustration due to the lack of development, albeit their region’s resources.

Experts have claimed that the North, which wields most of the Sudanese political power, is afraid that an independent South — rich in oil resources and less arid compared to the North — could leave them with a much lesser economic power.

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