African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki reports that Sudan and South Sudan have agreed on how they will share the oil riches Sudan controlled before South Sudan gained independence.
After a protracted civil war between mostly Muslim north Sudan with separatists in the south who are mostly Christian a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement was reached in 2005. However the peace was fragile as many tribal and political conflicts continued exacerbated by disagreements about the location of the border and control of oil facilities.
A referendum on South Sudan independence was held in January of 2011. A large majority in the south chose independence. However in the region of Abyei a separate referendum to decide whether it will join Sudan in the north or South Sudan has yet to be held.
Darfur has continued as a region of conflict, the border remains undefined, and until the recent agreement oil has been a divisive issue leading to further conflict. Even so some steps are being taken towards peace with former combatants being reintegrated into society. The agreement on sharing oil resources is a further step forward.
The African Union mediator Thabo Mbekin said:
"The parties have agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil, so that's done,""The oil will be flowing," "What will remain, given that there is an agreement, is to then discuss the next steps as to when the oil companies should be asked to prepare for resumption of production and export,"Mbeki gave no details as to the agreement nor did he predict when production would resume along with exports. Mbeki also reported that the two sides had set a deadline of Sept. 22 for resolving outstanding issues such as security.
The oil dispute began when Juba in South Sudan shut down production after Sudan expropriated millions of barrels as compensation for what Sudan claimed were unpaid fees..
Difficulties still remain. A spokesperson for the Sudanese delegation said:
The agreement does not fulfil the ambitions of both sides.. implementation will start after understandings on security issues."
Border demarcation and security issues still remain as well as the status of the Abyei region. In April of this year conflict along the border almost escalated into full scale warfare. Up to 170,000 people have fled to the south during the conflict.
Hillary Clinton has just arrived in South Sudan's capital Juba on Friday. She offered support for the government of South Sudan. The U.S. helped guide the south through negotiations with the north. While many issues remain to be settled at least the oil agreement is a step forward.
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