Sudanese government, rebels strike deal on wealth-sharing

Jan 06, 2004 (dpa)

Sudan's government and the country's main rebel group have finalized the details of a wealth-sharing arrangement and plan to sign a formal agreement Wednesday, a rebel official said Tuesday.

"For the first time in the history of Sudan, the oil-producing regions in the south will be given some of the wealth so that they (the southern government) can manage their affairs and meet their responsibilities," Yasser Arman, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

Half of the country's oil revenues will go to the north and half to the south, said Arman. There will be a similar division of taxes and other non-oil revenues, he said.

Supervising oil operations and contracts will be a National Petroleum Commission, to be run jointly by the Sudanese government and the SPLA, said Arman. He said "four experts from each side" would be represented on the commission.

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 United States government statistics.

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 SPLA 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 in the country's vast oil revenues, the SPLA had argued until now.

In addition to the sharing of revenue, the two sides have also worked out details of the country's banking system, said Arman.

He told dpa that, according to the agreement, Sudan is to have a single central bank with two branches.

The southern government will run the southern branch according to "international financial standards," while the Khartoum government will administer the northern branch "along Islamic financial norms," said Arman.

For a limited time, Sudan will also have two currencies; the Dinar in the north and the New Sudan Pound in the south, said Arman. He said more details of this and other aspects of wealth sharing would emerge at Wednesday's signing.

The next step for the two sides will be to agree on who will govern the three disputed areas in central Sudan; the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei.

Government officials claim that the areas fall under Khartoum's jurisdiction according to terms established at the time of independence, while the SPLA has said people living in those three areas experience the same repression and marginalization as southern Sudanese, and should therefore be included in the south.

The Kenyan mediator of the talks, retired General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, told dpa the two sides have made some progress on that issue.

"They have said they have been discussing it alongside wealth sharing, so they will go on it now," he said.

Before a final peace agreement can be signed, the Sudanese government and SPLA also have to decide on how to share power. Sumbeiywo would not say when a final deal is expected to be reached.