Deadline Looms for South Sudan and Sudan Talks

Filed under: Africa |
Sudan Presidents photo

South sudan has refused to negotiate in good faith

Last week saw a number of significant occurrences in the on-going negotiations in Addis Ababa between South Sudan and Sudan under the auspices of the African Union’s High Level Implementation Panel.

Among other important issues, South Sudan tabled a 67-page document titled Agreement on Friendly Relations and Cooperation (AFRC) between the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan, which outlines Juba’s proposal on the crucial issues under discussion in Addis Ababa.

The document basically makes significant offers to Sudan on security and borders; nationality and protection of the status of nationals of the other state; economic relations; modalities for the determination of the status of Abyei; and the contentious issue of the negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-North rebels, among others.

Some of the proposals presented in the document touch on oil, resumption of oil production, financing of budget gaps for Sudan, and Abyei. On the issue of oil, the South Sudan proposal document substantially raises the country’s offer for the use of the oil pipelines in Sudan from the initial $1/barrel to $7.26/barrel for the use of pipelines operated by Petrodar and $9.1/barrel for those of the Greater Nile Petroleum Company (GNPC).

The document further proposes that for oil production to be resumed in the South, there has to be an immediate repeal of the Amendment to the Petroleum Transit and Services Fees Act 2011, which grants the Government of Sudan (GoS) the authority to confiscate, redirect and/or divert oil from South Sudan in lieu of outstanding tariffs or charges imposed by the GoS without the consent of the authorities in Juba.

Another important provision relates to the financing of the ballooning finance gap accruing to Sudan due to the independence of South Sudan.

The AFRC proposes under wealth transfer to support the GoS to the tune of $8.213 billion over a period of 42 months beginning from the date of the signing of the proposed document. Within this overall amount, direct financial contribution to Sudan is to account for $3.245 billion, comprising direct financial contributions, transit fees and other components, while unpaid oil payments and confiscation will account for the remaining portion of the amount.

Regarding Abyei, the South proposes through the AFRC that its status be determined through an AU/UN referendum to be held no later than 30 November 2012 in which eligible voters should be ‘all members of the nine (9) Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms who register in the Abyei Area to participate in the referendum’ and other individuals who have continuously and consecutively lived in Abyei for not less than three years immediately or prior to the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).

The document also provides for other important thematic issues, as listed above. However, the Khartoum team have rejected the proposal, citing two main reasons.

Firstly, the proposal does not offer anything new and is just an amalgamation of earlier proposals made by South Sudan in the negotiation process.

Secondly, security remains a priority for the Khartoum team and nothing else should be agreed unless security is satisfactorily sorted out.

Following subsequent discussions, the Khartoum team lowered their demand of $36/barrel for the use of their oil infrastructure to $32.2/barrel.

While the proposal made by Juba has not succeeded in breaking the deadlock, which is fast approaching the August 2 deadline, it is significant in a number of ways.

Firstly, it does solidify Juba’s position and clearly provides a benchmark around which the two sides can push for an agreement.

Secondly, given the timing, it could be a political strategy to spell out Juba’s readiness or intention to stick to the deadline provided by the international community for the two sides to reach an agreement. The subsequent rejection by Juba’s counterpart identities the Khartoum team as the visible saboteurs of the process and puts a great deal of pressure on Khartoum. As Khartoum has indicated that the remaining issues cannot be exhaustively discussed and agreed on in nine days or even 90 days, the only hope is that those issues will be resolved going forward.

Effectively, therefore, we are set for a situation where the August 2 deadline is certainly not going to be met. However, given Juba’s documented position and offers, the international community will be put in a tricky situation if it attempts to slap sanctions on both parties.

Since the situation that the August 2 deadline is not feasible given the pace of the negotiations in Addis Ababa, three possible scenarios confront the AU and the international community in specific reference to the existing roadmap.

The first scenario relates to the possible extension of the deadline on the basis of the spirit of the roadmap and against the backdrop of the on-going negotiations. This will pave the way for the two countries to continue discussions under the watch and pressure of the international community with the hope that some positive breakthrough emerges soon.

In the second scenario the international community refuses to extend the deadline and thus imposes the proposed sanctions on the parties in Addis Ababa in the midst of the existing stalemate. Such a move might hurt Juba substantially, given its dependence on the international community, and might end up hardening the will of the two Sudans towards the international community.

In the third scenario the international community insists that the AU’s team of experts put forward their proposals for breaking the stalemate and the two sides are then required, through the use of a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, to adopt and implement the AU’s blueprint.

At the moment, it does appear that scenario one offers the most credible alternative as per the spirit of the roadmap and incremental achievements in Addis Ababa. However, it remains to be seen how shuttle diplomacy, international goodwill and pressure, and the mutually damaging stalemate in the two capitals will play out to cause the desired change in the coming days.