EDITORIAL: STANDARD DIGITAL NEWS, NAIROBI, KENYA, NOV. 20. 2012, SSN;
It is unfortunate that the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan has dragged on to the extent that the South can no longer meet its international obligations. But probably the worst hit foreigner in this conflict is Kenya, which also happens to the largest trading partner in this region.
The importance of South Sudan to Kenya and the regional East Africa Community (EAC) is too critical to be left at the whims and tyrannical tendencies of the Khartoum Government. After participating in the birth of South Sudan, Kenya has been exploring the possibility of linking the rich oil fields of South Sudan to Kenya`s yet to be built Lamu port, providing this landlocked country with a vital route to the sea.
This is if a railway line linking the city of Juba in Sudan to Lamu, an idea first sold to the Kenya Government by the late John Garang de Mabior then leader of the Sudan People`s Liberation Movement (SPLM), becomes a reality.
The discovery of commercial oil deposits in South Sudan has created renewed vigour on the Lamu Port and Lamu Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET).
It is against this background that the ongoing forex shortage in South Sudan should be seen.
Sudan President Hassan Omar Al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit are old warhorses and commanders, but above all else, friends that know each other very well having been Head of State and Vice President of a United Sudan.
These statesmen stand on the threshold of history should they move fast to settle their differences on sharing of oil revenues before further damage is done to regional trade and the economy of this region.
We urge leaders of the two countries to iron out their differences over borders, oil revenues and the disputed region of Abyei.
Kenya has remained a passive bystander in this conflict so far but should now step in, if only to protect Kenyan businesses operating in the Sudan, including airlines, commercial banks and other private enterprises.
The hardline stance taken by extremists on both sides of the negotiating table, should not only be discouraged but that other regional wellwishers, including Kenya should also weigh in, just as it has done to restore sanity in neighbouring Somalia.
We urge for speedy resolutions on such sticking points as the region of Abyei, which is claimed by both sides, how much South Sudan should pay Khartoum for transporting its oil and demarcating the common border.
In January 2012, the South shut down oil production, accusing Sudan of being somewhat economical with the truth about its oil, and the two countries` economies have been seriously damaged as a result.
The fact that the Sudans are reliant on oil revenues to drive their budget means these disagreements cannot be allowed without causing severe damage not only to the economies of the two but the entire East Africa region.
Interesting some 75 per cent of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. This means that the Juba administration must begin to think seriously of how they will build their own oil pipeline, probably through Kenya to the sea and still retain the Sudan line.
We hope that South Sudan will resume exporting oil through Sudan on by the end of this month if recent announcements by the country`s Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu, is to be believed.
In the meantime, we also hope that Kenyan business affected by the forex crunch will not pull out from the territory as preparations are being made for oil production to resume.
Eighty per cent of the oil preparations in the Republic of South Sudan are said to be in place and that oil production could resume any time soon.
We expect the two governments to keep their word on the deal signed in Juba to discuss strategies for resumption of the production, which included modalities of operation both between the two governments and the oil companies.
This will bring an end to South Sudan`s economic problems especially the pressure as a result of the shutdown of the oil production early this year after failing to agree with Sudan on transportation fees among other issues.
Kenya stands to benefit greatly if there is a resumption of oil production in Sudan as this event will assure the country`s investment and business in Sudan of stability and returns.
There is a lot at stake in terms of employment and contribution to the country`s economy, to allow the Sudan to slip back into chaos and retarded development. END