African Union’s Blueprint for Resolving South-North oil Dispute is Deficient and Lopsided

By: Peter Lokarlo Marsu

January 30, 2012 (SSNA) — The new proposal advanced by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), and designed for a feasible panacea to settle the oil dispute between the Republic of South Sudan and the government of Sudan does perceptibly make intriguing loci for deliberations. On the outset, it would seemingly be noteworthy to explore the gist of the draft proposals, as this could enable anyone to determine the substance of the entire proposal put forward by Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the chief mediator mandated by the African Union to reconcile the interpretations of the parties at dispute, namely the government of South Sudan and the government of Sudan in an attempt to construct a mutually-shared perception in a bid to affably resolve their oil dispute. The proposals submitted by AUHIP to the parties as stated in the next paragraph below visibly call for profound and painstaking scrutiny.

The African Union proposed that the government of South Sudan be allowed to export its oil without any portion of it being seized by the government of Sudan and that the Republic of South Sudan would then provide Sudan with 35,000 barrels of oil per day for Khartoum’s sole needs. This would next be followed by time-framed negotiations on the transit fees to be paid to the government of Sudan for the use of its pipelines. Apparently, this proposal appears to be quite fascinating in that it leads one to wonder whether the time frame recommended by the AUHIP’s mediators would emphatically see an end to the protracted wrangle between Juba and Khartoum without first cautioning Khartoum about its demand for the $32 in a barrel. I must first pose the following two questions:

1. What makes the AU mediators so confident that the two parties would make a swift rapprochement leading to constructive adjustments and consequently the resolution of the dispute, given the huge ambiance of mistrust between the two parties that emanated from half a Century of Khartoum’s ruthlessness on the people of South Sudan?

2. What if the parties don’t reach an agreement owing to largely Sudan government’s unmitigated lack of correct judgment faculty and fair-mindedness reflected in the country’s conduct that led it to demand from South Sudan the bizarre and unmatched price of $32 per barrel?

Apart from paying Khartoum for the refinery and pipeline rental, giving Khartoum 35,000 barrels per day does not make sense at all. South Sudan should not be made hostage to Khartoum and asked to treat Sudan preferentially. Khartoum had filched and still continuing to steal South Sudan oil. Why would the AU advise the government of South Sudan to offer Sudan 35,000 barrels per day in addition to the official fees to be agreed upon? This is where the AU mediators need to learn and value the art of evenhandedness. South Sudan, albeit a new nation on the globe, would never accede to being treated underhandedly. Has the AUHIP ever wondered as to why Khartoum insists on charging the Republic of South Sudan the most excessive and unparalleled price of $32 per barrel for transit fees. Again this is where the AU has to be in the dock for applying asymmetry or lopsidedness in its dealings, thus forming the main cause for some of its failures in addressing the continent’s problems.

Second, the fact that on countless occasions, various Sudanese governments and politicians had concluded numerous agreements with South Sudanese leaders and shortly thereafter abrogated them without the slightest prevision as to future implications, question both the credibility and practicability of the AU’s the proposals currently on the table in Addis Ababa.

It was nearly four decades ago when the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity oversaw an accord that was to be short lived. This was the well publicised Addis Ababa Agreement of March 1972. While the peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) was acclaimed as a distinctive paradigm of a negotiated peace settlement in Africa and the third world in general, it was actually ephemeral, only to be consigned to the garbage bin of history eleven years later by the government of Sudan. It seems that an identical scenario is reemerging, involving almost the same players, but two of the actors slightly bear modified labels, namely: the government of the Republic of South Sudan (formerly SSLM, then the Southern Sudan regional government), the African Union (the Organisation of African Unity) and the government of Sudan. There is no way that the government of the Republic of South Sudan would consent to being pressed hard by the AUHIP to reach a pointless agreement with the government of Sudan, and only to be ditched in a short while.

Third, the government of South Sudan has inked an initial agreement or what might technically be described as a memorandum of understanding with the government of the Republic of Kenya, to the effect that an oil pipeline would be constructed from South Sudan to the port of Lamu in Kenya, which will certainly be in the best interest of the two countries. To demonstrate their serious intentions the South Sudanese authorities have shut down oil production in the entire country, protesting the theft of its oil by the government of Sudan and it is very unlikely that the oil would again be exported through Sudan. Now another question is: Where do the AU’s lopsided proposals fit in this highly charged political matrix?

Do the AU mediators intimate that South Sudan should retract its clear objective of shutting down the oil production in the Republic of South Sudan and allow once more the oil to flow to the international markets through Sudan’s pipelines? What guarantees do exist to ensure that Khartoum would not again resort to diverting millions of barrels of South Sudan oil to its secret underground storage facility? Apparently, such proposals by the AU mediators are seemingly skewwhiff and thus should be spurned by the government of South Sudan.

Forth, the same AU is advising the government of South Sudan to pay $4 billion to the government of Sudan to fix the latter’s pathetic fiscal gap. This notion definitely sounds ludicrous. In the first instance, it is not incumbent upon the government of South Sudan to salvage Sudan’s economy. The regime’s obsession with multiple wars and penchant for brutality are to blame for the status quo. Up to this moment, the government of Sudan is zealously bent on destabilizing the Republic of South Sudan. Khartoum has recently bombed South Sudan’s territory and the AU has not even raised a voice of condemnation of Sudan’s barbarity and its absolute absence of conventional norms. South Sudan should never pay Khartoum free money as maintained by the National Parliament of South Sudan. I would rather suggest that such considerable sums be spent on other expedient programs which could feasibly include purchasing of a credible and effective anti-aircraft defence systems such as the Russian S-300 currently in use by a number of countries including Brazil, and other relevant western systems for the South Sudan army in order to daunt Khartoum’s relentless aerial assaults on the people of South Sudan along the common border.

The AU must comprehend that giving Khartoum such staggering amount of money would actually:

i. Bolster the regime’s capacity for Killing its own citizens as well as the civilian population in the Republic of South Sudan;

ii. Enable the government of Sudan to revive its program of offering illimitable support to the Uganda’s notorious LRA rebels alongside other subversive groups operating in South Sudan to destabilize the latter as is the case at the moment;

iii. Encourage the regime in Khartoum to Fund and fan tribal wars in the Republic of South Sudan to demonstrate to the world its misgivings about granting independence for South Sudan.

Ultimately, filling the coffers of the adventurous regime in Khartoum is tantamount to funding the killing spree, the maiming, the extrajudicial slayings and the countless instances of rape in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile and Darfur regions. I hope the AU mediators would think twice and swiftly refrain from being a party to such a horrifying drawing by asking Juba to pay the $4 billion of free money to Khartoum.

Hence, it becomes a tricky business to grasp the philosophical wisdom involved in the AU thoughtless prescription and guidance. If anything, the African Union should consider a substantial and broad package of sanctions against the government of Sudan for being the source of instability in the region, and not the award of massive funds to the regime that is obsessed with administering and superintending killing theatres.

Additionally, the AU mediators must realize that it’s South Sudan’s destiny at stake and Juba would hardly afford to succumb to another stint of fiasco on the negotiation table as it did occur in Addis Ababa in 1972, this time by signing a detrimental oil agreement under the aegis of the pestering and less politically sensitive continental organisation. Furthermore, I piquantly stand by the government of South Sudan, firstly in its stupendous decision of stopping the oil production in the whole country, and secondly for unfalteringly declining to reach an agreement with the government of Sudan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Alas, there is yet another worrying issue that Juba must prioritize and follow up to ensure that South Sudan’s oil is secured from being purloined by unknown banditti, and that is: to make regular and surprised inspections on the oil sites. Such vital tasks must be carried out by South Sudanese technicians so that those oil fraudulent companies are prevented from illegally pumping out the oil in collusion with Khartoum.

Furthermore these oil companies must be sternly warned of severe consequences if apprehended in the act of stealing. One is saddened to learn that Petrodar Oil Company still as of 27 January 2012 involved in pilfering the oil in Upper Nile state as disclosed by South Sudan’s minister of petroleum and mining Mr. Stephen Dhieu Dau and that 40,000 barrels per day were being illegally pumped by the company. This must immediately stop or else Petrodar or any other company involved in unauthorized acts risk being shown the door, as there are hundreds of oil companies waiting on the fence. As the oil wells remain closed, there would be no need for the company personnel including the engineers to reside at the premises, only South Sudan government soldiers should be permitted to guard the various sites until the companies are told what Juba has decided upon, as they take their orders from the government of South Sudan and no longer from Khartoum.

Finally, I implore the people of South Sudan particularly our national Parliament in Juba to stand firm and refuse to be swayed by anyone or submit to unwarranted pressure from any party, whether the AU, UN or Khartoum and whether through sheer brinkmanship in the case of Sudan or the application of undue pressure and cajoling by the other parties. I suggest that the National Parliament and the Council of state craft a bill and pass it speedily to the effect that the two Houses support the signing of the oil pipeline memorandum of understanding with the government of Kenya. This action could assist the government of South Sudan in transacting its business normally with other parties such as the AU or the government of Sudan as it is blessed with a mandate from Parliament. My country men and women, South Sudan is definitely destined to become a great nation on the African continent despite the grim portrait being displayed. Therefore all must work together with the leadership of the country in order to realize that impressive dream.


The Author is a former Casual Lecturer in the Graduate School of Business and law (GSBL) at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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