21 March 2011

Kenya: Sudan's Debt Relief Plan is the Right Step


Sudan is the largest country in Africa but ironically it is also the most indebted.

It is facing a serious debt crisis for quite a few years. Finally, the National Congress Party (NCP), which is the ruling party in Sudan and the Southern People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have agreed that a debt relief amounting to $38 billion must be requested to the creditors.

It is worth mentioning that Southern Sudan will become a separate country in July 2011. NCP and SPLM had a meeting at Bishoftu earlier this month. The meeting, which lasted for 6 days, focused on reducing the national debt of Sudan.

Both the parties agreed that seeking debt relief from the international creditors is the best possible solution right now. This move can bring back financial stability in the country and help the economy to get back to its feet. Both the parties expect that the soon-to-be created Southern Sudan will also benefit from this step.

Representatives of NCP and SPLM will try to convince the creditors that Sudan is at a critical moment and undergoing major political changes. It this juncture, the country cannot afford to be economically insolvent. Thabo Mbeki, the Chairman of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) told the press that he hopes to see two sovereign states of Sudan with sound economy.

The meeting at Bishoftu is significant because the two parties also discussed about issues concerning the division of natural resources like oil. The parties will sign a treaty on handling of oil resources before 9th July. Another round of meeting will follow in April 2011.

Southern Sudan will issue its own currency after independence. However, it would take some time to prepare the economy and withdraw the previous currency. The IMF will help southern Sudan to reorganize its economy after independence.

Mr Mbeki said that Southern Sudan is supposed to keep trade relations with the mother country. In spite of the cordial discussions about mutual trade and economy, the oil rich region of Abyei remains a sensitive issue. Both the parties are fighting over it and this has forced as many as 20,000 people (as per data from UNHO) to leave their homes.

Abyei has witnessed extensive violence between the local communities in recent times. There has been a suggestion that the local residents should decide which country they want to join. But there are disputes between NCP and SPLM on who could vote if an election takes place.

There will be further meetings to settle issues about five disputed territories.

Reed is a political commentator.

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