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However, when South Sudan became independent in a blaze of colorful celebration in 2011, it took 75 percent of the country’s oil with it. But the landlocked nation had no choice but to continue to ship its oil through its former tormenter’s territory to Sudan’s port on the Red Sea for sale to customers abroad. What caused South Sudan’s new president, Salva Kiir, to cut off the oil, however, is that his government believed Sudan’s transit fee was, at $36 per barrel, ridiculously high.
“Khartoum was asking $36 per drum, which is very unusual and not practicable,” said Anne Itto, Deputy Secretary of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party (SPLM). “If South Sudan ever accepts to pay such rent, it is like giving our oil away, as well.”
Another factor that contributed to South Sudan’s decision to embargo the north was that the Kiir government, based in its new capital of Juba, believed Khartoum was stealing oil from the pipeline for its own use. Khartoum’s economic war against the new state also involved reneging on a currency agreement when the two countries split. Sudan was supposed to wait six months to introduce a new currency but did so within a month, which left South Sudan with $700 million of the old currency, the Sudanese pound, which it could not convert.
Juba’s oil embargo on Sudan has also hit its own economy hard, depriving it of 98 percent of its income. But it is determined to stick to its guns and not be subjected to any more of Khartoum’s shoddy treatment. It appears South Sudan is planning to build its own oil pipeline to the Kenyan port of Lamu, avoiding the northern route altogether. Lamu is undergoing reconstruction for this purpose. The Japanese corporation Toyota has said it has developed a plan for the Kenyan pipeline, and a Japanese army engineering unit has arrived in South Sudan to build roads and for other humanitarian projects.
Since independence, South Sudan has built strong relationships with its black African neighbors Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. And it should continue to do so, since a speech ICC-wanted war criminal Omar al-Bashir made last April at a rally indicates he has learned nothing after losing half of his country and remains unrelenting in his hostility towards South Sudan. Bashir virtually declared war on South Sudan when he said: “Either we end up in Juba and take everything or you end up in Khartoum and take everything.”
Sudan also recently would not accept the African Union roadmap for peace with South Sudan at ongoing negotiations in Ethiopia. No major issues, such as border security, could be agreed upon. The border between the two countries continues to be a war zone where conflict could break out at any time. Sudan has also continued its bombing raids on South Sudan and has ethnically cleansed the Abyei border region of about 100,000 Dinka tribesmen who have only now cautiously begun to return home.
In the face of such statements, hostility and military aggression, it appears that, like with the Palestinians, one can “peace process” with the Sudanese all one wants, but peace will never arrive, since they don’t want it. So in the end, if the demonstrations in Sudan grow and spread, South Sudan should not end its embargo, even if an agreement can be reached, since its oil weapon could be the deciding factor in making Bashir vulnerable to a regime change, which would only benefit everyone in the region.
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