South Sudan-North Sudan: potential conflict over a barrel

By Alpha Furbell

Since South Sudan separated from the north almost two years ago, oil production has stalled.

Although most oil reserves are in South Sudan, north Sudan still has enormous influence on the production of oil. North Sudan controls the oil refinaries, pipelines and transport highways from the inland production areas to the ports, allowing the oil to be exported to major buyers such as China and Europe.

Disputation still remain between the two countries as they have yet to settle the conflict  over their border areas, including the oil-rich Abyei region. The position of the Abyei region was left undecided when South Sudan separated from north Sudan after almost three decades of civil war, which caused the deaths of an estimated two million people, including women and children.

Although South Sudan and north Sudan signed an agreement to resume oil production, both countries are building their armed capabilities in the border areas. The military build-up is a clear indication that both al-Bashir, president of north Sudan, and Salva Kiir of South Sudan are opting to resolve the dispute in the oil rich Abyei region, militarily. Both presidents are warlords, having fought against each other for more than two decades: they understand war better than politics.

It is highly likely that the two countries will return to full scale war if the international community, including the United Nations and other major stakeholders in Sudan, do not intervene to effectively assist the two countries reach a permanent and acceptable deal over border areas and oil production.

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