26 November 2012

South Sudan's Oil 'May Take Time to Resume' Due to Khartoum's 'Impossible' Demand, Kiir Says

Juba — The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, warned on Monday that the lifeline of his country's nascent economy, oil exports, may take time to resume due to demands by neighboring Sudan that Juba disarms the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N)

Speaking at the opening session of the governors' forum at Freedom Hall in the capital Juba, Kiir described Khartoum's demand as impossible, saying that disarming the rebels is "not our responsibility"

"The SPLM-N has been recognized by the AUHIP [African Union High Level Implementation Panel] as having a political base that needs a

solution. The SPLM-N should instead be negotiating directly with Sudan government," Kiir said.

He went on to add: "This is impossible. We are in a different country and SPLM-N is in a different country. How can a foreign army cross to another country and disarm forces there? It cannot happen."

Land-locked South Sudan has recently postponed its plans to resume oil production via Sudan after Khartoum insisted, during talks between the two countries on implementing a border security deal involving the establishment of a 10-km buffer demilitarized zone along their 1800-km common borders, that Juba disarms the SPLM-N which controls parts of the borders in Sudan's southern regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the insurgents have been fighting the government for the past 16 months.

Sudanese officials said that resumption of oil exports hinges on Juba severing its ties with the rebels who fought as part of South Sudan's army during the second Sudanese civil war whose end with the 2005's Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) paved the way for South Sudan's secession from Sudan in July last year. But Juba says SPLM-N is no longer a part of South Sudan army and receiving no support from it.

The security deal was agreed along with 8 other agreements covering a host of post-secession issues under AUHIP mediation in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 27 September.

Despite the security deadlock, however, President Kiir said that all efforts are underway to negotiate with Khartoum. He further reiterated South Sudan's commitment to peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two nations.

"We are still negotiating with our neighbor. Last week, we sent a letter to Khartoum communication our readiness to discuss the Joint Political and Security Mechanism to resolve all these issue. President Bashir [Sudanese leader] called me to confirm he received the letter," Kiir said.

South Sudan shut down its oil production in January this year following a bitter dispute with Khartoum over the fees required to export its oil through pipelines and export terminals in Sudan. Prior to the shutdown, oil revenues accounted for up to 98% of the country's annual budget.

Kiir cautioned that in light of the current impasse over security, oil exports "may take time to resume". He deplored the fact that South Sudan is still dependent on imports of food commodities from the neighboring countries in order to feed its people. He also said that the country exports none item and plans for resumption of oil was not stopped.

He urged the governors of his country's ten states to work hard and ensure South Sudan becomes economically independent and food secure by 2014.

In South Sudan, only 4% of the country's arable land is effectively utilized for agricultural activities, yet the sector accounts for

nearly 80 percent of economies of rural households.

South Sudan is classified as one of the poorest countries in the world despite its great potentials and has continued to maintain some of the worst indicators of countries that are backward.

For instance, 73% of men and 84% of women are illiterate; 4.7 million of its 8 million populations are food insecure; 50% of its civil servants are estimated to lack the appropriate qualifications and 87% of the population lack access to basic health care.

A 15 year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school while the country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with 2,054 per 100,000 live births.

Only 110km of road are estimated to be paved in the whole country while an estimated 7,000km of roads are expected to be constructed and paved.

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