By Oghogho Obayuwana
LAST month, Sudan and South Sudan signed a historic agreement in Addis Ababa, one of the nine various accords framed as agreements and covering a range of issues that both “brotherly” nations have been negotiating since 2010.
Tensions had brewed between the two countries soon after the South got its independence in July last year.
For neighbouring countries, such as Ugandan and Ethiopian, the equation has always been a simple one: A prosperous and peaceful South Sudan means billions of dollars in trade and investment for those two countries and also for east Africa’s Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
But a return to war, or significant violence or tensions with the north, will be a disaster for the revenues of every country in the region and could mean an influx of refugees.
Now, although three-quarters of Sudan’s 500,000 barrels a day of oil are produced in the south, the country’s only way of exporting it is through the north’s pipelines; hence this requires cooperation between Khartoum and Juba.
Apart from sincere talks between both countries, diplomatic alliances featuring immediate neighbours have also been at work.
For instance, South Sudan looks like the most likely candidate if the East African Community (EAC) is enlarged to include countries beyond its five current member states- Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Today, diplomatic watchers believe handing membership of the EAC to South Sudan would give it immediate clout against Khartoum, while also improving its security.
But enough glimpse has been given and lessons can also be learnt in coming to terms with the reason why the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir, decided to allow bilateral negotiations to prevail over other calculations and thereafter to be prepared to implement the agreement reached, which is an African home-bred conflict resolution model.
Clearly, without the Addis agreement, the hearts of the rest of the world could in the days to come, bleed, while diplomatic watchers hallucinate over what could be an advanced form of tensions, such as characterised the “relationship” between Ethiopia and Eritrea, even after the latter won its independence.
The nine landmark agreements that promise to sniff out the fire of tension between the two countries were framed initially in accordance with the Post Referendum arrangement of negotiations, as provided for in Section 67 of the Southern Sudan Act 2009, and as elaborated upon in the Mekelle Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of June 2010.
Fortuitously, the parties were enlarged in the negotiation of outstanding Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) issues, as the world watched, have also now reached several marginal agreements relating to CPA, as well as to post-session issues.
Interestingly, the agreements cover Security Arrangements, Status of Nationals of the Other State, Border Issues, Trade and Trade Related Issues, Cooperation and Central Bank Issues, Post-Service Benefits, Specific Economic Matters and Oil, as well as on Broad- range Cooperation.
The matter of agreeing on security in post-conflict situations is always the first. Little wonder it was also taken into consideration by both parties in Addis.
In this case, the agreement reaffirms the commitment of the two states to renounce war and implement all the security and other arrangements reached in previous negotiations, including agreements relating to the immediate withdrawal of any forces to the side of the border.
Specifically, the two states agreed to operationalise the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), in accordance with the administrative and security map presented to them in November last year.
For instance, the agreement makes provision for special arrangements for the “14 Mile Area” that involves the complete demilitarisation of the area overseen by the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) and supported by mechanisms under the JPSM.
The parties are also expected to maintain the status quo of the joint tribal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes. Most importantly, the parties also agreed to open the 10 agreed border-crossing corridors linking them.
The open lesson, among others, is that the parties agreed to implement all the security agreements reached in previous negotiations.
Quite often, parties fail to do this in other instances, a good example being the Abuja Accord between the government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel groups.
Regarding the framework agreement on the Status of Nationals of the Other State, which was first initialled on March 13, this year, this particular agreement provides principles and mechanisms for the treatment by each state of the nationals of the other state.
Here, the key principle is the freedom of residence, movement, economic activity and right to acquire and dispose off property, which each state is to assure for the nationals of the other state.
The agreement also establishes a joint high-level committee to oversee a range of issues relating to nationals of the other state.
In the Addis Accord, the parties agreed to elaborate the four freedoms to facilitate their full implementation within the two states.
Experts think the gesture of the parties to subject themselves to be peer reviewed, using the four freedoms, is a landmark decision that should be emulated by all involved in conflict resolution elsewhere.
The third major agreement, which relates to border issues, including the sensitive matter of demarcations, is also worth reckoning with.
It is all about the consolidation of a range of issues relating to the overall management of the border.