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Khartoum, Juba relations key to regional stability

By editorial | June 11th 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

History teaches that everybody loses whenever the world allows some countries’ worries, whether legitimate or not, to get out of hand.

Take the case of  Sudan and South Sudan. During their long and bloody war, their economies were not only wrecked but also adversely affected those of their neighbours, particularly in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya who had to cope with millions of refugees; at the very least.

And now, even before the ghosts of that civil war have been fully laid to rest drumbeats of war, albeit on the economic front, are being heard from Khartoum. And it has often been observed that a slide from an economic to a shooting war is all too easy in that part of Africa.

Sudan’s Information minister Ahmed Belal Osman warned on Sunday that the government plans to close the pipelines carrying oil to the North for export within 60 days if Juba continues its alleged support for rebel groups. He also revealed that Khartoum has put on hold nine security and economic agreements it had with South Sudan.

His warning, though regrettable, did not come as a surprise because they followed an order from President Omar al-Bashir the previous day.

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Despite repeated denials from Juba that it supports rebels fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, there  are credible reports that the shut-down of the pipeline, that was opened less than two months ago after it was shut down in January last year following a row over export fees, has started.

Political savants may be forgiven if they suspect that the latest sabre-rattling in the North has more to do with the power games going on around President Bashir than Juba’s alleged support for rebels.

After all, Khartoum must be well aware of how difficult it would be for Juba to prove it is not supporting the rebels fighting from outside its own territory.

But whatever the merits or otherwise of Khartoum’s case, the reality on the ground is that the latest development could have far-reaching consequences unless the regional and international community urgently steps in to defuse the crisis before the oil stops flowing completely.

It is going to be that much more difficult for the two sides to get back on track if the situation is allowed to get out of hand and they both need peace to rebuild their economies.

South Kordofan Blue Nile ,oil
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