Western nations are offering Sudan economic incentives including lifting US sanctions and reintegration with the World Bank to tempt it away from isolation after the south splits next year, Norway said.
The oil-producing south is expected to vote for independence in a January 9 referendum, part of the 2005 north-south peace deal that ended Africa’s longest civil war.
Norway, the United States and Britain represent nations who were instrumental in sealing that accord and are guarantors. “Western countries are increasingly focusing on the need to have clear incentives for the north, of course contingent on the willingness of the north to take part … in a positive way,” Norway’s Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters.
“Removal of sanctions, re-entry into economic institutions, the World Bank, the IMF and so on, investments …that dialogue is going on,” he said in an interview in Khartoum on Tuesday.
He said Norway could also help Sudan with debt relief for its more than $36 billion external debt.
Western nations fear that once the south splits, the north will become increasingly isolated and Islamist, especially as President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide. In the 1990s Bashir’s government hosted Osama bin Laden.
“The hope is that this approach will tilt it in this more open, more pluralistic direction,” Eide said.
Norway, a major oil producer, has been advising both north and south on cooperation over Sudan’s about 500,000 barrels per day of crude, which lies mostly in the south with the infrastructure in the north. It has also provided technical help on extraction and revenue management.
“We are looking at ways to take more gains out of each field … this is a question of money and technology and you balance the cost to the gain,” he said, adding Norway could raise the yield from Sudan’s oil from 18 percent to 20 percent.
The minister said properly-managed oil revenues would help the impoverished south develop.
“It’s going to start as a weak state — they have some institutions but those institutions have very limited capacity,” Eide said. He said Norway was helping to strengthen government, political parties and civil society.
“(Government is) also tax collection, border guards and all the nitty gritty institutions that you need to get things going and a lot of that has to be built almost from scratch,” he said of the south. “What I do not want to see is that we do it for them,” he said of donor nations.
Sudan’s north-south war killed about 2 million people and destabilised much of east Africa. Eide said he believed there was enough incentive for both sides not to return to violence, blaming aggressive rhetoric from the north and south on building leverage ahead of end-game negotiations.
The former foes have still to agree on post-referendum issues including how to continue sharing oil, sharing assets and the debt, citizenship of millions of southerners and nomads who have built lives across the border and on demarcating the disputed north-south border itself, where much of the oil lies.