Sudan and rebels agree to split oil revenue

Dec 21, 2003 (dpa)

The Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group have agreed that north and south Sudan will receive an equal share of the country's oil revenues, a source close to the talks told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa Sunday.

Fifty per cent of oil revenues will go to the north and 50 per cent will to the south, said the source, who asked not to be named.

The money is supposed to be distributed in the south by a government which has yet to be formed, he said.

The division of oil revenues is one of several controversial issues in the ongoing wealth-sharing negotiations in the Kenyan lakeside town of Naivasha between the Sudanese government and the southern-based Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Another controversial aspect of wealth-sharing is whether the south will be able to establish its own banking system with currency.

"There's a proposal that until a new currency is issued, then there must be two currencies operating simultaneously: the New Sudan pound in south Sudan and the dinar in the north," said the source.

"There's a proposal from the SPLM/A to have a Bank of South Sudan," he said.

The Kenyan mediator of the talks, retired General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, was unavailable to confirm the contents of the talk.

He told dpa earlier Sunday that the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A have agreed in principle to share oil revenues and were in the process of working out the exact percentages.

The two sides were expected to reach an agreement on wealth sharing Sunday. However, Sumbeiywo said he did not "want to speculate" on whether an agreement would be signed that day. "We're still waiting for an agreement," he said. Sources say a wealth- sharing deal could be reached within the next few days.

An unequal distribution of wealth between north and south Sudan has been one of the factors fuelling the country's civil war, which has been raging since 1983 and has claimed an estimated two million lives.

The conflict ostensibly pits the largely Christian, African south against the Islamic, Arab north, but analysts have said the war is as much about a struggle for resources and power between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government based in the north as it is about religion and culture.

People living in the oil-rich south do not have an equal share of the country's vast oil revenues, the SPLM/A said. Scores of national and international human rights investigations have accused the government of bombing and violently displacing southerners from oil- rich areas.

Sudan produced an average of more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day last year and is now producing up to 300,000 barrels a day. Oil revenues now account for about 70 per cent of Sudan's total export earnings, according to U.S. government statistics.

Once the two sides have agreed on wealth sharing, they still have to agree on power sharing and the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan - the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and Abyei. Technically speaking, they belong to the north, but should beg under the jurisdiction of the south, according to the SPLM/A.

The two sides are expected to sign a comprehensive peace deal early next year.

Peace talks between the government and SPLM/A began in Kenya last year. Early into the talks, they signed a historic agreement that confines Islamic law to the north and gives southerners a chance to vote in a referendum six years hence on whether to secede from the north.