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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Suspicion About Oil Treaty in Sudan--And Continued Human Rights Violations

Can Sudanese Oil Agreement Stand Up Against Continued Human Rights Violations?
African-based humanitarians expressed skepticism today that the recent oil agreement between northern and southern countries of Sudan can survive the continued human rights and security debate in Sudan. 

"We are glad to hear of the apparent oil compromise between the North and South of Sudan. However, working on the track record of the last 57 years, it is highly unlikely that the Arab North will stick to their side of the Agreement for long," said Dr. Peter Hammond, founder of Frontline Fellowship, an African humanitarian organization in the region. 

"There have been many promises that they have consistently broken," said Hammond. 

 Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, who visited Juba August 3 to encourage the two parties to re-initiate trade, said she welcomes the new oil agreement. "We praise the courage of the Republic of South Sudan's leadership in taking this decision. As I said in Juba yesterday, the interests of their people were at stake." 

However, violence stemming from race and extremist jihad still continues as before, particularly in areas that the predominantly Arab-descended northern Sudan will not relinquish to the culturally black-African south, Hammond said. 

 Islamists of Arab descent routinely attack black African Christians in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, which, although culturally part of the South, was not included in the redrawing of the maps, said Hammond. 

"Ethnic cleansing in the Nuba Mountains has been carried out," he said. "Many tens-of-thousands of civilians in the Nuba Mountains have been displaced fleeing the bombardments and terror attacks." 

The northern Sudan Air Force has bombed ethnic Nuba churches and Bible colleges for religious motivations, said Hammond: "The Nuba continued to be targeted by deadly airstrikes and ground attacks by Muslim militia shouting Allah Akbar." 

Many black Nubians have accused UN-sponsored Egyptian peace keepers of bias towards their Arab-descended tormentors, claiming the peace keepers were complicit in targeted assassination within UN displaced camps, he said. 

The black population of the Blue Nile Province, while mostly Muslim, also suffer violence as they seek to resist northern Arab control, he said. 

Clinton encouraged the northern country of Sudan to come to an agreement on humanitarian access to disputed territories including Kordofan and the Blue Nile, she said. 

"If Sudan would now also take the steps to peace in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, and if it will respect the rights of all citizens, it can likewise give its people a brighter future," she said. 

International pressure may make a difference, said Hammond: the Sudanese government allowed the vote that led to Southern Independence Day on July 9, 2011, partly because of incentives from the US government, including removal from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and the lifting of economic sanctions. 

Domestically, the local protests that led to the new oil compromise might help end some attacks. 

"The Khartoum government is under increasing pressure from protests from their own population in the North which has compelled them into backing off from the threatened conflict against the South – for now," said Hammond. 

However, Hammond, who has experienced first-hand air-strikes, infantry attacks, and death-threats from the northern government, also doubts the new oil compromise because of a similar compromise in 2005 in which the north never paid the south for oil, he said. 

 "One can say that the military attacks are mostly to do with oil. Most of the oil is in the South, and yet the North will not relinquish these areas," he said. 

Hammond explained that the disputed oil rich Abyei region was meant to have a separate Referendum on whether to join the South, or North, but because of violent clashes, the Referendum in this region was indefinitely postponed. 

"The tensions in the border regions were aggravated from the North’s unwillingness to allow voting in the oil rich areas," he said. "Some critical areas in the CPA remained unresolved, such as the final status of the oil rich Abyei Province, which was continually afflicted by violence from the North." 

Noel Stringham, a UVA researcher studying the region, said the government of South Sudan needs this oil agreement in order to continue development in the country. 

"The government of South Sudan will be completely broke unless they make peace with Sudan and resume exporting oil or they get a lot of foreign loans by using their oil reserves as leverage," she said. 

 "The Chinese--who desperately want that oil back online--would probably eventually contribute to a new pipeline if they became convinced that the two Sudans could never resolve their differences," she said. 

"That said 'development' in South Sudan is not the same as a government that can write checks," she said. 

Stringham said if military conflict continues, South Sudan does have the ability to engage and possibly even triumph over its northern neighbor. 

"If you want proof just look at how easily they captured Heglig/Panthou (depending on who you believe has a right to the land) from Sudan in April and how quickly they pulled out after Obama and Ban Ki-Moon called up Salva Kiir and told him to retreat," she said. 

"Basically the military of Sudan is actually very overstretched right now because the new alliance between the Darfur rebels and the SPLA-N--the old allies of the Southern government who live north of the contested border area--has really bogged them down," she said. 

Hammond said he agrees: "If the North could not defeat South Sudan when they were rag-tag rebels in the bush with no outside aid, South Sudan is now in an immeasurably better position." 

 "I would say the North has no chance of defeating South Sudan as an independent neighbor," he said. 

"However, many innocent people will suffer before this conflict is brought to an end."

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