Articles and Analysies
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Jul 25, 2008 - 7:16:59 AM


Aid, Oil money and Development in Sudan

Who will pay to rebuild the oil-rich area of Abyei which was burned and looted by the northern Sudanese armed forces in May?

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The oil rich town of Abyei in June 2008

The area of Abyei is like the state of Virginia - it is the bridge between North and South Sudan.  Ethnically it belongs to the south.   It is the historic homeland of the Dinka Ngok, a black african tribe.  The area of Abyei is claimed by the arab North because it has oil. It was a battleground between North and South in the Civil War.

On May 14 this year northern forces bombarded the town, looting and burning markets and homes.  Over 60,000 civilians fled to the safety of the South, which is semi autonomous. The town of Abyei was completely destroyed. The schools were completely destroyed.   5 Christian churches were utterly destroyed.  Only the mosque was left standing after the ravages of the Northern soldiers.

"We have been to the centre of Abyei and it doesn't exist any more," said Ashraf Qazi, head of the UN mission in Sudan.  "It's totally charred. It's totally devastated. And it's an absolute human tragedy and it is something that must never happen again."

So far the government of Sudan, responsible for the army which destroyed then looted the town, has not offered compensation to the displaced refugees.  The latest, yes latest, peace agreement avoids the issue of compensating the displaced people.   Human Rights Watch recommends the North and South Governments of Sudan to provide compensation for the victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated by armed forces or militia.  The people will return when the armies leave Abyei.    Then they will have to rebuild their town, their homes and their lives.  Rebuilding Abyei will cost more than US$13 million, estimated by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.   

Where will the money come from?

The International Crisis Group estimates that Abyei's oil fields grossed roughly $670 million for Sudan in 2006, approximately 13 per cent of the country's total income from oil exports that year.  Oil and petroleum products account for 80% of Sudan's exports and 40% of public revenue.  The northern economy has developed with the exploitation of southern oil, although the south remains one of the poorest societies in the world. Southern oil fuels Khartoum's boom.

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the oil revenues from Abyei flow to  Khartoum

Recognizing the danger of civil war, on June 8 in Khartoum the South and North governments agreed a roadmap for bringing peace to Abyei.  The Roadmap Agreement requires the Presidency to fund an interim administration to provide basic services in the Abyei area until arbitration demarcates the North - South border.  There is also an arrangement to share the revenue from oilfields in the area for development of the areas along the North-South border. 

Peace is fragile in Abyei.  There already was a peace agreement in place.  There already was a scheme to share oil revenues.  

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the 22 year civil war between North and South Sudan which killed over 2 millions set up a system for sharing the oil revenues.  The continuing tension between North and South was partly caused by the failure of the North to implement these oil-wealth sharing arrangements. Southern oil was being used to fund northern development.  It was not being used to provide services for the people returning to Abyei after the end of the war.

Instead the civilians returning to their homeland from refugee camps in Kenya and elsewhere were supported almost entirely by handouts from international aid programs.   The UN Development Programme has carried out many projects to recreate civil society in the Abyei area.  The UN and its partners contribute $1 billion to the 2008 work plan for Sudan.  The US contributed $452 million,  the UK gave $196 million, $95 million came from the European Commission and further funding came from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands. Donor countries, meeting in Oslo in early May, had already pledged $4.8 billion for the period 2008 - 2011.

Abyei had already been rebuilt once since the Peace started in 2005. Much of this work will soon have to be restarted, many of the buildings will have to be rebuilt.  The bus station, the police station and the courthouse that was donated by USAid will have to be rebuilt..  The churches and schools that were funded by christian charities will have to be rebuilt.  

Already there have been reports that aid agencies are significantly short of funding for the needs of the displaced people of South Sudan.  The World Food Program would have stopped its air service in Sudan if it had not received contributions from the US, the UN, and Canada.  The UNHCR program for repatriation of displaced persons still needs another $11.4 million for helping refugees return from the camps in Uganda and Kenya.

The donors of aid to Sudan will have to be asked for more money to help the civilians who live in this oil-rich area.  

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