Sudan Heads Toward Split with Final Status Issues Unresolved


Leaders of north and south Sudan agreed on Monday to continue talks on a series of disputes after the south’s impending secession, officials said, a move that will disappoint Western countries hoping for a quick deal.

Sudan’s oil-producing south is due to declare independence on Saturday — a split that was voted for in a referendum promised in a 2005 north/south peace deal.

The north and south, which fought each other during decades of civil war, have yet to agree on the position of their shared border and how they will manage oil revenues.

South Sudan’s independence is a big deal, and it will change things for Sudan and for the region. But North-South interdependence will not end on July 9. For at least the medium term, economic linkages and security issues will involve each country deeply in the other’s affairs. With most of the oil in the South, but the pipeline, ports, and refinery facilities in the North, the two countries will need to work together to make a profit. And with many former Southern fighters or sympathizers still in the North, the border issues unresolved, and violence ongoing, the security questions also loom large. Negotiations over these issues will clearly take at least some time, and the underlying interdependence will remain in place until and unless something dramatic happens, like the construction of a new pipeline from South Sudan through Kenya or Ethiopia.

AFP reports on Southerners who are returning home:

Reports Roundup: Nigeria, South Sudan, Counterterrorism, Africa and Oil

A few recent reports and publications that readers may find useful:

  • Africa Center for Strategic Studies: “Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict.” On causes of and potential solutions for the recurring violence in Jos.
  • Human Rights Watch: “South Sudan: A Human Rights Agenda.”
  • The White House: “National Strategy for Counterterrorism, June 2011.” Discusses al Shabab on page 14, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on page 16.
  • The World Bank: “Is Africa More Vulnerable to Oil Price Increases?”

If you read any of these publications, stop back and tell us your impressions.

Saturday Links: Radio in Somalia, Habré Trial, Southern Sudan, Mauritanian Education

VOA, one of my favorite sources for news on Africa, has been having a tough time in the Horn lately. First Ethiopia threatened to jam some of VOA’s broadcasts, and now al Shabab is banning VOA and the BBC in southern Somalia. Somalis will still have Radio Mogadishu though.

Speaking of Somalia, fewer refugees are heading to Yemen now in comparison with last year.

And speaking of Ethiopia:

A rebel group in Ethiopia’s southeastern Somali region has agreed to lay down arms after decades of guerrilla war, Communications Minister Bereket Simon announced Friday.

Leaders of the United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF) had, after talks with the government, “accepted totally to abide by the constitution of Ethiopia and operate legally and abandon the armed struggle,” Bereket told a press conference.


Created in the 1970s, the UWSLF was active during the 1977-78 war for control of the Ogaden, in which Ethiopia defeated Somalia. But the rebel movement has seen many divisions and became increasingly inactive.

From what I understand the more powerful Ogaden National Liberation Front will continue fighting the Ethiopian government.

Senegal needs $38 million in assistance in order to try former Chadian President Hissène Habré “for crimes against humanity.” I hope they get the funding (more background here).

Three pieces on Southern Sudan: The Guardian has a photo essay on ethnic violence there, Reuters looks at oil troubles, and Reuters AlertNet rounds up expert views on the future of the region after Sunday’s elections.

Students for and against “Arabization” of education protest in Mauritania. And Arab nationalists in Mauritania “announced the setting up of an umbrella group whose ideological reference is the Libyan leader, Mouamar Kadhafi.”

In the Niger Delta, ex-militants debate a return to violence.

What news are you following today?

Goodluck Jonathan Shakes Up Nigeria’s Oil Sector

Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has drawn attention for shaking up the cabinet, replacing powerful ministers chosen by ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua with his own picks, and tasking the cabinet with a far-ranging agenda designed to address Nigeria’s problems.

Bayelsa State, Nigeria

But the BBC says Jonathan’s boldest moves are taking place in the oil sector:

Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked the head of the national oil company Mohammed Barkindo.

He will be replaced by Shehu Ladan, who was himself dismissed from the state-run NNPC by President Umaru Yar’Adua before he fell ill last November.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield in Abuja says the move will be seen as evidence of Mr Jonathan’s determination to remould Nigeria’s political landscape…news of Mr Barkindo’s sacking from the inefficient Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) took the country by surprise and will be read as an aggressively political act.

Jonathan is making some pretty major changes.

China, Sudan, and Oil

Before I get to what I want to say, two caveats:

First, Sudan-China relations are more complicated than one often hears. China’s positions on political issues in Sudan, such as Darfur, have not been static. Moreover, links between China and Sudan are not just economic and political, but cultural. I don’t want to justify or condemn China’s actions in Sudan, rather I want to point out that the two countries interact on levels and in ways that shouldn’t be classified as just exploitation.

South Kordofan, Sudan

Second, oil politics in Sudan are not simple. Just this week, a British human rights group called for a new audit of oil revenues in Sudan, arguing that inaccurate reporting could stoke tensions between the North and the South. The discrepancy in the figures came to light, interestingly enough, because of different numbers put forth by the Sudanese government and the Chinese National Petroleum Company. Tensions surrounding the distribution of oil revenues, both between North and South and within the South, pose a threat to the stability of Sudan. Throw Chinese investment into the mix and matters become even more complex.

With those two caveats in mind (and a third: I am no expert on the international politics of Sudan’s oil), I was struck today by a story on the execution of two Sudanese prisoners accused of killing two Chinese oil workers around 2004. This is not the only incident of its kind:

Foreign interest in Sudanese oil has pushed workers into some of the country’s most remote and insecure corners.

Three Sudanese working with the Yemeni HTC oil company were killed after they were ambushed while travelling between Heglig and Mayom County in South Sudan’s Unity State in October 2008.

Earlier the same month, gunmen abducted nine Chinese oil workers from South Kordofan and later killed four after what China said was a failed rescue attempt.

To put this into historical context, Chinese companies have been involved in Sudanese oil production since 1996. The oil connection has fostered a military relationship, with China providing arms to the Sudanese government and Khartoum sometimes deploying troops to protect Chinese workers.

In geographical context, Sudan may be “China’s largest overseas oil project” (as of 2004, so that statement may be out of date), but China’s presence in Africa is larger than just Sudan. Chinese involvement in Africa has a lot to do with oil and other resources, and these ventures expose them to backlash. For that reason this story about the killing of Chinese oil workers reminds me of other incidents where Africans have targeted Chinese: in Algeria, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Angola, to take a few examples.

Sudan has carried out other executions in recent years, and at least one execution was connected with an incident where foreigners were targeted. So I don’t want to read too much into the execution this week. But it does raise questions for me about how African governments, and China, will manage African backlash against China when it occurs. If the past gives us any indication, more attacks on Chinese workers will happen, especially when contested resources are at stake. I’m not saying that China should or will leave Africa, but it seems that all the players in this equation – African governments, African communities, the Chinese government, and Chinese workers – will, in the years to come, have to deal with complex and sometimes violent politics stemming from their encounters with each other.

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Niger Coup, Islamists and Elections, Chad and the UN

Hungry for more perspectives on the coup in Niger? Got you covered:

  • Joshua Keating compares American responses to coups in Honduras and Niger.
  • Things Seen and Heard offers some advice on staging a successful coup.
  • Reuters has two pieces: one on traders who “rushed to buy [Nigerian] oil after reports of a military coup” in Niger because they didn’t know the difference between the two countries…d’oh! Also, Reuters has a more serious piece speculating about what comes next for Niger.

Thematically related, Kal has some badass graphs about Arab coups.

Another review of Rob Crilly’s book on Darfur – I’ve got to check it out.

Can the US Prevent Islamist Electoral Victories?” Should we?

One reporter’s perspective on Chad and the UN.

Daniel Gerstle on US policy in Somalia.

A new blog I saw (thanks for the link!).

Consider this an open thread.

Saturday Links: Yar’Adua Hands Power to Jonathan, Somalia Closes 3 European Embassies, Niger Mediation Resumes, Ghanaian Oil

Soon, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua will temporarily hand power over to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

IRIN has a timeline, running from early 2006 to the present, of the Niger Delta crisis.

In the course of a book review of Deborah Brautigam’s The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, Howard French offers a positive take on China in Africa.

In most places [in Africa], the Western record is appalling.

There are, however, more immediate reasons why the Chinese need no fancy public relations. The implicit signal they are sending to the continent is one of the most refreshing messages that Africans have received from any quarter in decades.

For China, Africa does not conjure the gut responses that have become common in the West of a dreary burden or a guilty memory. On the contrary, Chinese interest, from eager investment to booming trade, fairly exclaims “we see you not as some hopeless or repugnant cesspool, but as a huge and largely open frontier of opportunity.”

For China’s cash-rich and nimbly opportunistic corporate sector, in particular, what Africa represents can be summed up quite neatly: the future.

Unfortunately I missed Brautigam when she came to give a talk at Northwestern this week. I’ll have to pick up the book.

Somalia is closing three embassies in Europe, due to lack of funds.

What will Ghana do with its oil?

Accra, Ghana

ECOWAS-mediated talks on the Niger crisis resumed on Thursday.

Two on Sudan: over 4 million South Sudanese need food assistance, and the AU has “said the International Criminal Court’s decision to consider adding genocide charges to an arrest warrant for President Omar el-Beshir harms Sudan’s peace process.”

One thing we can all agree on – the situation is delicate.

Feel free to post any links in the comments.

Saturday Links: Nigeria Oil, Somalia Bombing, Senegal Flooding

Several articles explore the situation in the Niger Delta and the changes for oil companies:

The recent suicide bombing in Somalia has also generated considerable discussion in the press.

In another IRIN report, we learn about the continued impact of flooding on school attendance in Senegal.

No confirmed information on the Spanish hostages in Mauritania/Mali that I’ve seen yet, but I’m looking.

What are you reading today?

Niger Delta Stimulus Moves Forward

I believe that the fate of Nigerian government’s stimulus plan for the Niger Delta will be a key factor in determining whether peace holds in the region.

The stimulus is moving forward. Yesterday, the Nigerian Senate approved a budget that includes around $750 million for the Delta. Here’s Reuters’ breakdown of the spending:







The budget increases government spending by 32%, and aims to boost the economy country-wide as well as in the Delta.

“The purpose of the 2010 budget is to accelerate economic recovery through targeted fiscal interventions intended to further stimulate the economy and support private sector growth,” Yar’Adua said in a budget statement presented to parliament by one of his aides.

The budget assumes a price of $57 a barrel for oil. Nigeria has warned that “OPEC has to make sure it does not put too much crude oil in the market because it would drive down petroleum prices.”

Niger Delta Peace Process Pessimism and Optimism

As I’ve said before, there is cause for optimism regarding the peace process in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta. This week, however, there are causes for both pessimism and optimism.

First, the bad news: after “frank and fruitful” talks between the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and Nigeria’s Federal Government last weekend, a military raid on the home of former MEND commander Christian Don Pedro threatened to jeopardize the ceasefire MEND has so far maintained. The raid followed a riot on Monday in which “hundreds of former gunmen looted shops, firebombed a police vehicle and assaulted dozens of people in the oil hub of Port Harcourt on Monday in protest against what they said was the non-payment of their October allowance.”

Leaders on both sides, despite tensions, seem reluctant to pursue conflict. Security forces arrested no one when they broke up Monday’s riot, and MEND leaders responded to Tuesday’s raid with a statement, not an attack.

Troop levels in the Delta are a sore point in general. MEND accuses the Joint Task Force (JTF) of deploying more and more soldiers to the region, though the military says this is not the case. Some Delta residents want all federal troops out now that a mechanism for peace is formally in place.

Spokesman for the Niger Delta state of Bayelsa Adeyi Asara tells VOA the federal government must reciprocate the region’s acceptance of a government-sponsored peace initiative by reviewing the presence of the military.

“It is time for these road blocks to be removed completely from our roads because it is slowing down the economy of the state,” he said. “You are also trying to scare away prospective investors because they might be thinking it is a war zone.  The soldiers can be withdrawn to their barracks and allow the police to do their work.  We have given the federal government our words; no more militancy.  But the people should also be loosened.”

Many former militants have also asked the federal government to withdraw thousands of troops stationed in the Niger Delta.  Security analysts warn the situation in the Niger Delta remains fragile, despite what has been acclaimed as “a highly successful” amnesty and disarmament program.

Military spokesman in the region Timothy Antigha says security forces are not in a hurry to leave and that the government will decide the fate of the military task force deployed in the Niger Delta.

And the last item in the bad news department is that some Niger Delta residents say the amnesty has encouraged former militants to pursue criminal activity. The riots appear to have badly shaken residents and businesspersons in Port Harcourt, though the linked article does not provide evidence that there has been a wave of criminality apart from that incident. Without further reporting, I can’t tell whether people are simply voicing a fear of the militants or whether crime is truly on the rise. If it is, though, political support for the amnesty could take a hit.

Now for some good news, which mostly concerns money flows. As of yesterday, “the Federal Government…commenced payment of arrears of allowances owed former militants in various camps in the Niger Delta.” This article notes that militants have fought each other in the rehabilitation camps, potentially bolstering the crime argument, but if money reaches those to whom it has been promised, perhaps tensions will decrease.

The Nigerian government has also concluded a $1 billion agreement with the EU “aimed at combating corruption and promoting peace in its troubled, oil-producing Niger Delta region” in the period from 2009 to 2013. Perhaps those funds will also boost the prospects for peace and reconstruction. Whether a budget crisis in the Nigerian National Assembly will affect the Federal Government’s ability to undertake a stimulus program in the Delta I can’t say, but in any case it seems money is already flowing to the region.

As an added bonus, relative peace in the Delta may be increasing Nigeria’s capacity to deliver electricity to residents.

So there you have it, evidence for both the cynics and the hopeful. I’ll conclude by saying that we can note both that the peace process is not problem-free and that it is far from over.