10 July 2012
President Jacob Zuma has congratulated South Sudan on the country’s first anniversary of independence, offering South Africa’s continued support for peace and development in the country even as relations with north Sudan remain fragile.
South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July 2011. Its birth was the culmination of a six-year peace process which helped bring an end to the long-running conflict between South Sudan and Sudan, of which it was formerly a part.
Zuma said in a statement on Monday that South Africa would continue to support efforts to create an environment for the entrenchment of democracy and development of government institutions in South Sudan.
Security, oil issues
With one year having passed since the official declaration of South Sudan’s separation from north Sudan, the two countries so far seem to have failed to establish good neighbourly relations.
Despite confirmation by the politicians of both sides to establish relations, recent events prove that the historical differences between the two sides are deeper than they appeared.
The outstanding issues, including the sharing of revenues of oil, which is produced in the South and exported via north Sudan’s oil infrastructures and ports, were among the most prominent differences that prevented the establishment of normal ties between Khartoum and Juba.
The oil dispute reached its peak when South Sudan decided on January 20 to stop pumping its crude oil, due to differences over the fees for exporting the South’s oil through Sudan’s ports.
The decision had negative consequences for both economies, as Sudan lost three-quarters of its oil revenues, pushing the Sudanese government to adopt far-reaching economic reforms but causing a rise in prices of basic commodities that prompted demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the citizens of South Sudan are suffering from lack of development and basic services together with high prices of basic commodities.
‘Both sides struggling to adapt to separation’
The two countries almost slid into a comprehensive war when South Sudan’s army occupied Sudan’s oil-rich area of Heglig on 10 April.
According to observers and analysts, the relationship between Khartoum and Juba will not return to normal unless the security and oil issues are resolved.
Sudanese expert Mohamed Hassan Saeed says events following the separation of South Sudan have proved that the security issue is still a major threat to stable relations between the two countries, with the oil dispute adding further tension.
“Full normalisation in the relations between Khartoum and Juba cannot be achieved without exploring a settlement for security issues between the two countries,” Saeed said.
“The standing issues at the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas as well as Abyei should be resolved first, and then the two sides can search for an agreement to restore pumping of the South’s oil through Sudan to meet the demands of the two country’s peoples.
“Definitely, the current disputes are the outcome of the separation, because both countries are facing difficulty in adapting to the new situation,” Saeed said. “The South is suffering from difficulties of building a state from nothing under chronic tribal conflicts, scarcity of resources and lack of infrastructures, while Sudan is suffering from economic, security and political issues.”
‘No choice but to work together’
Abdul-Azeem Ahmed, a Sudanese political analyst, believes that the two countries have no choice but to work to establish constructive relations based on common interests and mutual benefits.
“Whatever the differences are, they will eventually resort to favouring cooperation and normalisation of relations, because that is the most realistic option,” Ahmed told news agency Xinhua.
“It seems there is an urgent need to resolve the joint issues within a political framework, because both countries need stability and development,” Ahmed added. “They also need to create opportunities to change the negative feeling of regional isolation”.
South Sudan was officially declared independent on 9 July 2011 in a celebration that was attended by around 30 African heads of state and representatives of regional and international organisations.
The relationship between north and south Sudan witnessed continued tension for about two decades until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the two sides in January 2005 to end the longest civil war on the African continent.
In accordance with the CPA, a referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan was conducted in January 2011, in which around 98 percent of southern Sudanese citizens voted for independence.