North-South Border Dispute Could Ignite Civil War, Sudanese Official Says

A disputed 20 percent of Sudan’s north-south border could ignite a new war in the country, a top aide to President Umar al-Bashir said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

A new war “could be worse” than the two-decade civil war that ended in 2005, presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie told the Qatar-based television channel today. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the former rebel movement that now governs the southern region, is now “better armed,” Nafie said.

Bashir’s National Congress Party says the border must be agreed on before a referendum in which Southern Sudanese will decide whether their semi-autonomous region will split from Sudan and form an independent country. Southern Sudan accounts for as much as 80 percent of the country’s 490,000 barrels of daily oil production.

The referendum, scheduled for Jan. 9, is a major component of the 2005 peace agreement that ended two-decade war between the south, where Christianity and traditional beliefs dominate, and the Muslim north. About 2 million people died in the conflict and more than 4 million were displaced.

Bashir’s party wants a “political agreement” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on the entire border between the two regions, as well as on how they will share foreign debt obligations and oil income, before the vote is held, Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior National Congress Party official, said in October.

SPLM officials have threatened to organize their own referendum if the north tries to delay the poll, saying there’s no need to agree on the border beforehand because Southern Sudanese across the country will be eligible to vote, not just those living in the south.

Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum via the Cairo newsroom at mmazen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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