Sudan: Omar Bashir promises friendly separation

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President Omar Bashir Tuesday promised to recognize the secession of southern Sudan if that choice prevailed in the referendum scheduled for January 2011. But in the short term, at least, the south’s oil will continue to transit the North.

An amicable separation? Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir Tuesday promised a respectful secession from the south, should the Southern Sudanese opt for self determination in a key referendum scheduled to take place January 2011. “The National Congress Party favours unity. But if the result of the referendum is separation, then we in the NCP will be the first to take note of this decision and to support it,” he said. “We will be good neighbours,” promised the Sudanese president.

Omar El-Bashir made the announcement at a ceremony marking the 5th anniversary of the end of civil war between North and South in front of an audience made up of Sudanese politicians, diplomats and spectators at a stadium in Yambio, the Western Equatorial region of the country.

“Omar El-Bashir’s speeches about the secession of southern Sudan call for caution, it is a pre-election period and El-Bashir wants to be re-elected,” an international relations expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity analyzed. “The Sudanese president is sending signals to show that he has changed. Contrary to what he did in the past, he is showing that he is extremely eager to get re-elected properly,” says the Horn of Africa specialist.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 by the central government in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA, former southern rebels), provides for the holding of elections (presidential, parliamentary and local) in April, followed by a referendum for the self determination of southern Sudan, a landlocked area with significant oil reserves, in January 2011.

Oil will still be pumped and exported through the North

Estimated at nearly six billion barrels (fifth in Africa), Sudan’s oil reserves remain the greatest challenge for the 2011 referendum. Differences persist on this issue between Mr. Bashir party and the SPLM. Much of Sudan’s oil is found close to the North-South border regions and within the South. The oil is extracted and transported via a pipeline in the north towards the Sudanese port where it is exported.

About 60% of the total revenue in Khartoum and 98% in the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan come from oil royalties.

Despite his public support for self-determination last fall, Southern Sudan President, Salva Kiir, revealed Tuesday that oil would be pumped through the north for processing and export until the south constructs its own facilities.

Several experts agree to the fact that the possibility of constructing another facility to transport oil from the south to the north remains highly unlikely in the short term, as this could demand considerable time and money. In the meantime, South Sudan ‘s oil will continue being pumped and exported through the north, even if the option of self determination wins.

“Omar El-Bashir speeches does not, in the least, hint on future economic relations between the two divides should the secession of the South become reality” says the specialist. According to him, “Any kind of economic agreement between the two parties could not or can not be done anywhere else but behind the scenes. Let’s wait and see.”

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