South Sudan's President, Salva Kiir and Sudanese leader, Omar al-Bashir, last week announced they reached an agreement on the continuous export of South Sudan's oil through its northern neighbour.
The announcement was sequel to a threat by Khartoum last June to block South Sudan oil exports through its territory by September 6, 2013 unless Juba stopped supporting rebels fighting President al-Bashir's government.
Last week's deal however masks unresolved issues between the two countries since South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a peace deal and referendum that ended over 20 years of civil war. The two countries continue to trade accusations over mutual support for rebels while implementation of agreements on border demarcation, the status of the border region of Abyei and citizenship issues, stall.
Landlocked South Sudan 'seceded' with most of the formerly united country's oil fields. South Sudan now has about 75 per cent of oil reserves, but Sudan retains the pipeline infrastructure, refineries and an export terminal at Port Sudan. Oil accounts for approximately 98 per cent of South Sudan's revenue. A row over transport fees led to Juba shutting down production in January 2012. The move lasted 16 months and took an immense toll on both economies, resulting in skyrocketing inflation. To forestall any future conflict over oil, President Salva Kiir last June announced the imminent construction by Toyota of an alternative oil pipeline from South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Lamu.
Khartoum still accuses Juba of supporting rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, an allegation that South Sudan denies. Analysts suspect both governments of backing insurgents across their borders. Last year, violence escalated between the Sudan Armed Forces, SAF and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the North, SPLM-N rebels, resulting in the capture of the strategic town of Al-Kurmuk in Blue Nile last November by SAF. South Kordofan also had its share of fierce battles between SAF and SPLM-N on the one hand, and with South Sudan's military, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA on the other.
Border Demarcation, Citizenship
Border demarcation and citizenship are of prime importance to people of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Not only do these two states have poorly defined borders with South Sudan, the people have for years identified themselves culturally and politically with southerners and as such, have fought with the SPLA against the regime in Khartoum. Despite this, the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA signed in Naivasha, Kenya, left them in Sudan. Moreover, South Sudan's independence in 2011 left people who settled in different parts of the defunct Sudan 'stateless.' Thousands of such people are still stranded in Sudan or on the border.
A referendum on the status of oil-rich Abyei Province located between Sudan and South Sudan is still to be organised. Tens of thousands of people are still displaced from the territory. Abyei's status was to be decided in a referendum in January 2011, but the two sides failed to agree on the terms.
An African Union mediation team last year proposed holding the vote next month with only those residing permanently in the area allowed to participate in deciding whether Abyei should join Sudan or South Sudan. Sudan insists the vote must include Arab Misseriya nomads alongside majority Dinka Ngok tribes people who are aligned with South Sudan.
How well Sudan and South Sudan - inextricably linked by history and geography - continue to coexist, largely depends on how fast they iron out outstanding issues. Without this, it will continue to be another cat and mouse relationship between Khartoum and Juba.