North and south Sudan could go back to war unless they reach agreement on sharing oil revenues and other issues in the countdown to a referendum on southern independence, said a report.
Sudan is “alarmingly unprepared” less than six months before the plebiscite which will give southerners the choice of whether to stay in Sudan or split off as an independent state, said the report published by 24 aid and human rights groups.
The referendum was promised under a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war between north and south, a conflict that killed an estimated 2 million people, reports Reuters.
Northern and southern leaders have still not reached agreement on issues including the position of their shared border and, if there is a split, how they will parcel out the country’s huge debts and oil revenues.
Most of Sudan’s oil lies in southern Sudan but the region is totally dependent on northern pipelines to funnel its crude to the Red Sea. If southerners, as widely expected, choose independence, they would still have to negotiate some kind of deal with Khartoum to get their oil to market.
The report said the two sides faced a complex list of negotiations, any of which could break down and cause tension.
“Whether an equitable agreement can be reached is arguably the single biggest factor that affects the prospects for peace,” said the report, co-authored by Global Witness, the Aegis Trust and other groups.
“The risks are high. It will be politically difficult for both sides to negotiate away oil revenues. If no compromise is reached, a return to conflict is possible.”
Senior members of the north’s dominant National Congress Party and the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on Saturday launched negotiations on “post-referendum” issues, including oil and the nationality of each other’s citizens after the vote.
The report titled “Renewing the Pledge” called on the African and other world powers that witnessed the 2005 peace deal to push both sides to reach their agreements, hold a fair referendum on time and protect minorities in their territories.
It also called on bodies like the African Union not to let the vote distract them from the separate conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where violence spiked earlier this year as rebels boycotted peace talks.
Sudan’s army said it had cleared forces from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement from Adayla in eastern Darfur on Monday. JEM told Reuters no fighting took place.
The International Criminal Court on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to face charges of committing genocide during the government’s brutal counter-insurgency campaign in the region.