South Sudan embraces old enemy Sudan, now rocked by protests


South Sudan embraces old enemy Sudan, now rocked by protests
South Sudan's Oil minister Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth (R) and Sudan's oil minister, Azhari Abdel Qader arrive for a ceremony marking the restarting of crude oil pumping at the Unity oil fields in South Sudan, January 21, 2019.

In Summary

  • Embattled Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is receiving words of support from some unlikely places as he faces deadly protests calling for him to step down.
  • South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of brutal fighting marked by the mass abduction and enslavement of children, scorched earth ethnic cleansing and famines.
  • Yet now the former arch-enemies describe themselves as the best of friends, bound together by a desperate need for oil revenues and peace to allow them to flow.

Embattled Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is receiving words of support from some unlikely places as he faces deadly protests calling for him to step down.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of brutal fighting marked by the mass abduction and enslavement of children, scorched earth ethnic cleansing and famines.

Yet now the former arch-enemies describe themselves as the best of friends, bound together by a desperate need for oil revenues and peace to allow them to flow.

“When your interest is so intertwined, you are like a conjoined twin,” South Sudan’s oil minister, Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth, told Reuters in the capital of Juba. “For us, the solution is not to remove Bashir, the solution is to improve the economy.”

On Monday, Gatkuoth and his Sudanese counterpart jumped over a slaughtered cow, part of a traditional ceremony of welcome marking the start of increased production at Unity Oilfield near the two nations’ joint border, where less than a decade ago they fought tank battles against each other.

Some buildings were still pockmarked with bullet holes, and a large dark stain marked a place where a pipeline had been hit.

The north-south rapprochement comes as violent protests ripple across Sudan, demanding an end to soaring prices and Bashir’s 30-year rule. But although South Sudan spent decades fighting Bashir, the idea that he might fall worries many of his former foes.

South Sudan has just emerged from its own five-year civil war. Some from the south fear chaos in the north could derail their own peace deal, which Sudan helped broker and guarantee.

In return for peace, Sudan gets money. Landlocked South Sudan has most of the oil, but Sudan has the pipeline and port it needs to export it.

Sudan receives roughly $9-$11 for each barrel of South Sudan’s oil that flows through its pipeline. The arrangement marks an abrupt departure from years of animosity.

“Both (sides) have previously armed rebels against each other,” said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a think tank. “Times have changed.”

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