Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Both Sudans suffer when talks falter

South Sudan's vow to stop talking with counterparts in Sudan might score political points for both sides, but economically and strategically the countries desperately need each other.

To mark his country's first anniversary on July 9, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir called on his countrymen to be patient. In turn, he promised to pursue peace and economic normalisation with their former compatriots in the north.

"Although the Republic of Sudan has declared South Sudan as their number one enemy," Mr Kirr said, "we still remain committed to peace, good relations and free trade with Sudan."

Fine words, and ones that are being tested. On Saturday, southern leaders called off face-to-face peace talks, accusing Khartoum of bombing a border village while residents slept. Khartoum denied the accusations.

Hostilities might win political points for Mr Kiir at home - as well as for Sudan President Omar Al Bashir, who in recent weeks has faced protests in Khartoum - but economically both countries desperately need each other.

Even as South Sudan's flag was being raised last year, a laundry list of troubles was obvious to anyone who cared to look. There are centuries-old tribal and religious rifts on both sides; responding to every provocation will only deepen these enmities.

The details of border skirmishes will usually be unclear to outsiders, and often the result of localised tribal and territorial disputes. While Khartoum has rejected the suggestion that it fired across the border at the weekend, both sides have been guilty of supporting cross-border violence in recent months. In April, a build-up of forces around the oil-producing town of Heglig almost pushed the two nations into open conflict.

Continuing talks in the Ethiopian capital had offered the best opportunity to resolve these and other issues.

Mr Kiir is correct: his country cannot progress economically without improved relations with Khartoum. South Sudan's budget is in a shambles as oil revenues have been constricted, along with the flow of oil to refineries in the north. The promise of Juba's celebrations last year could turn into a curse for an impoverished people.

That is equally true for Mr Al Bashir. The protests in Khartoum, now somewhat diminished, showed that business as usual was no longer possible; South Sudan's independence, and the dissipation of national oil revenues, will force Sudan to adapt as well.

Last week, Mr Al Bashir and Mr Kiir posed together for a photo op, in a brief flash of detente. It is time for both to stop posing and start talking.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

On our sixth birthday, today’s news told visually

Today in print, we are doing something different: we use only photos, graphics, illustrations and headlines to capture the news in a one-off collector’s edition.

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

 Hassan Abdullah, who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud, an Emirati fisherman, poses for a portrait at the Al Rughayalat Port. Abu Mahmoud was born and raised in Fujairah city and has been working as a fisherman since 1968. “I’m a shark man”, he says, “I was born in the sea.” Silvia Razgova / The National

In pictures: Fishing communities in the Northern Emirates

Fishermen in Fujairah and Umm Al Qaiwain worry that new regulations to protect fish stocks are harming their trade. We look at both communities through the lens of our photographers.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

 Al Maryah Island will host the 114-hectare Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

In pictures: Al Maryah Island rises in Abu Dhabi

Al Maryah has been chosen as the site for Abu Dhabi’s first financial free zone, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, and construction activity in the island has been at a fast pace.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National