Rains cool off war in South Sudan (+video)
The six month rainy season gives time for Sudan and South Sudan to make progress in resolving differences. But the wet weather will strain the sanitation systems in refugee camps.
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Now the question is how to resolve those lingering issues.Skip to next paragraph
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- How to draw up final borders between the two countries, something that the peace agreement failed to do? South Sudan briefly occupied the Heglig oil fields north of the designated dividing line, and has since withdrawn, but South Sudanese claims on Heglig – as well as the town of Abyei – remain fixed in the minds of many politicians in Juba.
- How to divide up revenues from oil production? South Sudan is landlocked, and must pump its oil out through pipelines controlled by Khartoum, paying Khartoum substantial fees for this service. South Sudan – which cut off all oil production last month – argues that Khartoum is charging too much, but Khartoum argues its prices are reasonable, given that South Sudan has no other alternative. Khartoum, too, bears the distinct challenge of downsizing its government, a government that it must pay for now without those missing three-quarters of its previous oil revenues.
- How to deal with hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese, still living in northern Sudan, whom Khartoum considers to be stateless. Aid groups like the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees managed to persuade Khartoum to extend its deadline to help move southern refugees down to South Sudan, but South Sudan is barely able to meet the needs of its own population, let alone take on hundreds of thousands of newcomers.
- How to handle the armed separatist rebellions in Sudan’s borderline states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile? During the 20-year civil war, local populations supported Garang’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which now rules in South Sudan, but the peace agreement said that South Kordofan and Blue Nile states must resolve their future status through ill-defined “popular consultations.” Local SPLA members expected referendums, which would allow for secession. Khartoum rejected that idea. Armed rebellions now paralyze both states, with SPLA soldiers taking and holding territory, Sudanese war planes bombing villages, and civilians forced to take cover in caves of the Nuba Mountains.
- Finally, how to deal with the growing refugee crisis from the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. UN agencies and international aid groups warn of a growing food crisis, as thousands of villagers who once were self-sufficient through farming have been unable to plant their crops because of the fighting. The stream of refugees coming into South Sudan now numbers into the tens of thousands, well beyond what the current refugee camps can handle.
"After more than ten months of fighting, with no sign of peace, we're on the path from crisis to catastrophe,” Oxfam's deputy country director for South Sudan, Johnson Byamukama, said in a joint statement with other aid groups.
For refugees, the rains will actually make matters worse, as tens of thousands of villagers strain the current sanitation systems in refugee camps.
“The coming rains could make life for refugees unbearable and bring the threat of waterborne disease. The world needs to wake up to the true cost of conflict for people who have already suffered so many years of war."
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