Back to Basics
Addis Ababa hosted yet another round of talks between Sudan and South Sudan. Almost six months since Juba decided to shut down oil production and the economic pressures started to show up and bite in both countries. Austerity measures were being taken to face up to the new realities of the simple facts that led to the loss of 98 percent of revenue for South Sudan treasury and some 80 percent of hard currency earnings for Sudan, inflation is climbing in both and peoples’ suffering started to show up clearly.
Trying to sweeten up the bitter economic conditions descriptions are mushrooming describing what is happening as a blessing in disguise forcing the two countries to fight their respective resource curse and turn seriously towards renewable economic production. It is a welcomed move, though late and is being conducted under short term pressure rather than serious long term planning that needs its time, resources and patience to bear fruits.
On the hand, the mounting economic pressures may lead some leaders in both countries to look into their watch to prepare for the other side to crack down first. While Sudan has witnessed some anti-austerity demonstrations, which could strengthen the hands of those calling for regime change in Khartoum, their counterparts in the North are calculating on the World Bank prediction that the state in South Sudan may show signs of collapse from as early as next month.
So far Juba has managed to sustain the hardship making use of the facts that the bulk of people live outside the cash economy, and as such relatively insulated from direct hit; that the issue of shutting down oil production was put into a political framework of economic independence of the newly born country.
On the contrary Sudan is taking austerity measures on a different scale as people were asked to sacrifice from whatever level they used to live on. That is hard and difficult to swallow.
In Sudan, the anti-austerity demonstrations have failed so far to gain wider support outside students’ circles or show a better coordination by opposition.
But for how long such situations could continue. There is quite possibility that economic conditions may push people to the brink and things may go completely out of hand and that is the real danger.
One fact is quite clear and that is there is no way to escape from geography. The two countries share with each other their longest international borders of 1973 km. And people of Bahr El-Ghazal and Upper Nile will always be closer to those of Blue Nile, Sinnar, Kordofan and Darfur than to their kins up north and down south.
It is not only a missed opportunity of interdependencies between the two on various areas of economic cooperation and integration, but because of the state of real and perceived war, a new economic opening of border trade is squandered that could have alleviated the present economic difficulties.
Fingers crossed one hope that this new economic reality coupled with the UN deadline to conclude negotiations will reflect into the outcome of the Addis talks even if in a modest way that can just make a small breakthrough.
By Alsir Sidahmed,email@example.com, 25/06/2012