opinionBy Ateny Wek Ateny
Oil has been one of the root-causes that led to second civil war in the Sudan from 1983 - 2005. In 1978 when the oil was discovered in commercial quantity in the then Upper Nile Region's province of Bantiu, General Nimeiri made a decree to re-name the Western Upper Nile area as 'Unity Province'.
The Nimeiri's regime did also decree some plans to transport the exploited Southern oil to Port Sudan through pipeline - something the students had vehemently opposed. Students riots erupted all over the South Sudan - in what the students that time had seen as an attempt by Northern Sudan to steal Southern Sudan's oil. It was where oil was discovered or other natural resources are where the North had thought should be uniting the people of Sudan. Anyhow, that is history.
However after having gained its independence on July 9, 2011 and having taken more than 75% of oil production South Sudan and Sudan are still being united in oil issues. As, if the oil has been curse as something in which the producing country cannot benefit from it alone, South Sudan' own natural resources are now the reason for its continued suffering.It was the human resource that led into foreign slave traders incursion into our country nearly two centuries ago, then came the armed poachers trading in elephant tusk, ebony trees, wild animals, Gold, Copper, then grazing issue amongst bordering tribes (which is now making the demarcation of the borders almost impossible) - as borders became matters of certain Arab nomads claiming some grazing lands that do not naturally belong to them etc. On its discovery in the 1970s it was the oil that the North was having an eye on it. Two million of our beloved men/women perished in a war to save our oil from being taken to benefit our oppressors; more than 80,000 men/women died in combat fighting the forces in Khartoum payroll - just to prevent oil from being taken; thousands of widows, orphans and wounded heroes/heroines are helplessly walking today without husbands, no fathers/mothers, no limbs, no legs - but for the same reason - deprived of good lives by the war of oil; hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese had sought refuge in neighboring countries, and in Diaspora for the same thing, as they run from the enemy that had wanted to kill them in order to take their oil; while in Diaspora we did jobs that are far lower than what our qualifications could land us - just for the hope that South Sudan shall one day be independent and the oil will be ours - the list is long. In all of the above, oil has been the only hope from which to compensate hundreds of years of marginalization, deprivation, downtrodden, hegemony and imposed poverty.
Unfortunately, oil is still tying the lives of two Sudans together - both South Sudan and the Sudan do not have the capacity to separately and independently cater for themselves. Without sharing the oil proceeds the war is imminent. While the oil belongs to the landlocked South Sudan, international ports and the pipeline belong to Sudan. Yet, there is another side of story - the international community. While the international community sees South Sudan as fragile state with bad/weak economy, the Sudan is vulnerable - given its high demand in hard currency to run its 50 years old economy. The Sudan is making war to force South Sudan into some kind of oil deal, and the international community had seemed to have approved this.
As the International Community, has recently threatened both counties with sanctions, if the they did not reach any kind of agreement on oil, the economies of the two nations have already reached the state of near-collapse. The concerns of the international community are well-founded - the two countries are defiant for nothing. That is why the issue of the soldiers who get killed in action in the defense of South Sudan from Khartoum's aggression on daily basis the international community is not interesting to consider. Whilst the Sudan is hiding its near-economic collapse and the possible end to NCP regime, South Sudan is hiding its head in the sand.
The stories uttered by our ministers on the wake of the decision to shut-down oil productions - that South Sudan economy will never collapse, were mere literatures aimed at fooling the people of South Sudan, let alone miscalculation on how to run the V8s together with austerity measures. It is expected to hear such stories to have come from those who can never be affected, come what. South Sudan economy is not better than jungle-economy. Our economists are either forced by the culture of defiant for nothing to want to hide the truth, or their economic forecasts were wrong. More than 2 months without salaries is a good lesson learned? We have seen for few days how difficult is for anyone to cater for basic needs. South Sudan is a country of government' salaries - and without such dues coming, that is the end. Everything in South Sudan is connected to government officials getting salaries.
Finally, to answer the above question, I asked one high profile government official yesterday on how he sees South Sudan's future without oil flowing again! And he frankly answered "the government will not be able to pay salaries for ever ............ then he paused to conclude" judging from the situation which is now living with almost every South Sudanese - failure to strike a deal on oil, will be failure and the collapse of our economy (God Forbid). But this economic collapse shall never come corrupts guys' way and their loved-ones.