Marco Werman: The country that South Sudan gained independence from in 2011 is its neighbor to the north, Sudan, and relations between the two have remained tense since then, largely over oil. Journalist Isma'il Kushkush says the new spike of violence in the south has put Sudan on edge. He’s been reporting from the capital Khartoum for the New York Times.
Isma'il Kushkush: People are not surprised that this happened. Like I said, they’re familiar with the politics and the make-up of South Sudan. I mean, the general sense is we expected this. People are concerned about what kind of impact this will have on the economy. South Sudanese oil flows through pipelines though Sudan. This will have impact on the oil revenues. There’s concern that there will be many refugees heading towards the estates that border with South Sudan. And of course, there’s concern over the political impact. There are agreements over issues that are left over from the comprehensive peace agreement that ended the civil war in 2005, so issues like the borders, issues of citizenship; Agreements have been made, but they have not been fully implemented yet, so the impact of these events in South Sudan are of great concern here in Sudan.
Werman: I mean, it sounds like the first big concern is economic and, specifically oil, which is a concern that was shared by Sudan’s Information Minister this past week. Concerns about what’s going to happen to that oil from South Sudan. Apparently, South Sudan pays Khartoum to move oil through those pipelines you were talking about, up to Sudan for export. What is the history of these pipelines? I mean, how is Sudan dependent upon oil production from the South?
Kushkush: When it was one country, most of the oil fields were, and are, in South Sudan, and the pipelines and the refineries are in the Northern parts of the country, in today, what is Sudan, and the pipelines go to the Red Sea, to the port Sudan, where they are exported. When separation happened in 2011, there were disagreements on how the oil revenue would be shared and both countries almost went to war over this last year. But after several rounds of talks, they came to an agreement. South Sudan pays a fee for the usage of the refinery and for the flow of oil through pipelines through Sudan, Sudan gets a percentage of that, and of course, it’s important revenue for Sudan. Before separation, oil was about 75 percent of its source of revenue. Even for South Sudan, this will have a great impact, because oil is 98 percent source of revenue in South Sudan, so any disruption of oil for both countries would have a great economic impact.
Werman: Right, it’s going to hit both sides â€“ Both the North and the South. I mean, despite the brutal and long civil war between what is now Sudan and South Sudan, does the average Sudanese in Khartoum feel like South Sudan really should never have been allowed to break away? Do they feel the country still belongs to them?
Kushkush: There are different views on what the relationship was, and should have been, and should be. There is a percentage that feels that South Sudan should have not been allowed to vote on whether to become independent or not. There are those actually also who believe that it might be better for the South to have its own country, thinking that this would solve the problems of Sudan. Of course, that did not happen.
Werman: Journalist Isma'il Kushkush, speaking with us from Khartoum. He files for the New York Times. Isma’il, thanks very much.
Kushkush: You’re welcome. Thank you.