The Two-Way
2:09 pm
Sun April 29, 2012

State Of Emergency Raises The Stakes In Sudan

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 9:48 am

Sudan has declared a state of emergency as tensions mount along the disputed border it shares with its new neighbor, South Sudan.

As the AP reports, declaring a state of emergency gives the government expanded powers of arrest. On Saturday, Sudanese officials claimed they had arrested four people, including three foreigners.

Disputes over land in the oil-producing border area between the two countries have re-ignited hostilities in recent weeks. South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011, but failed to resolve some critical issues before it gained its independence.

It's not just oil rights that haven't been established, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells weekends on All Things Considered. It's also how revenues from that oil are shared, where exactly the border between the two nations is, and what rights citizens have. The current crisis is making one thing clear, however.

"It seems that oil has become the weapon of, if not war, certainly of conflict," Quist-Arcton says. Here's how she outlines what's behind the dispute:

"Most of the oil is now located in the South, but the North is saying that the South should pay much more for use of its pipeline that takes the crude oil for export down to Port Sudan at the Red Sea — which is in Sudan proper, in the northern part.

"South Sudan is saying, 'No, you are trying to cheat us. We are a new nation; we need this resource — that is how we are going to build our post-war country. And you are not going to blackmail us.'"

Both nations can ill-afford war. The countries are depleted after 50 years of violent conflict, first as a single-but-divided nation, then as two separate countries. The stakes are high; Sudan lost much of its economic force when it lost the oil fields that the previously united nation shared.

And yet both leaders have practically called their people to arms, Quist-Arcton reports. In the North, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he is going to crush the "insects," as he calls the leadership in South Sudan.

Many people say they're prepared to fight if it comes to that, but many also say they cannot afford to.

Also alarmed are the countries that have been trying to help the two nations reach a settlement. That includes the U.S. and also China, which gets about a fifth of its oil imports from the disputed region.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Tensions are rising between Sudan and its recently independent neighbor, South Sudan. The countries separated last year after a bloody civil war, but disputes over land in the oil-producing border area between the two countries have now reignited hostilities. There are fears of a return to war. Four men have been detained by the authorities in Sudan on suspicion of spying for the South. And now, the Sudanese leader has declared a state of emergency in some border zones.

We're joined now from the South's capital, Juba, by NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Ofeibea, can you explain exactly what is going on now between Sudan and South Sudan?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Mounting tension and mainly over the critical issue of oil and sharing of revenues. Of course, there is the border zone and the status of one disputed area, Abyei, and citizenship rights. All these are issues that were not resolved before South Sudan gained its independence last July. And I was right here for Independence Day on the 9th. And it seems that oil has become the weapon of, if not war, certainly of conflict.

RAZ: Is there likely to be any resolution in the coming days or weeks, or does war seem inevitable?

QUIST-ARCTON: Many South Sudanese, many Sudanese will say to you, no, we can't possibly go back to war. That's what's happened between these two neighbors, first, as a divided united nation and then as two separate nations for 50-plus years that neither Sudan can afford to go back to war. But this issue of oil and the revenues and how they should be divided, because most of the oil is now located in the South, but the North is saying that the South should pay much more for use of its pipeline that takes the crude oil for export down to Port Sudan at the Red Sea, which is in Sudan proper, in the northern part.

South Sudan is saying, no, you're trying to cheat us. We are a new nation. We need this resource. That is how we're going to build our postwar country, and you are not going to blackmail us. Everybody is saying but these issues must be discussed around their negotiating table. There has got to be dialogue. There's no point in innocent lives being lost, even though the stakes are so high because, of course, Sudan has lost much of its economic force, because it's lost most of the oil fields, which were in a united Sudan only nine months ago.

RAZ: Ofeibea, you are in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. What are people telling you there? Are they worried?

QUIST-ARCTON: It's kind of mixed emotions, Guy. You have many South Sudanese who are saying we are not going to give up our long fought for independence. So many people have lost their lives. And both leaders have almost called their citizens to arms. You get lots of Sudanese and South Sudanese saying that they are prepared to fight if it comes to that, but many others are saying they cannot afford to fight. They cannot afford war. And you have President Bashir in Sudan saying that he is going to crush the insects, as he calls the leadership here in South Sudan.

So both are using the language or war. That is really putting fear into not only people locally but those abroad as well who have been helping the two Sudans reach a peaceful settlement. And that includes the United States and, of course, China, which gets a fifth of its oil imports from the disputed border region between the two Sudans.

RAZ: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking to us from Juba, the capital of recently independent South Sudan. Ofeibea, thanks.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.