Rival Sudan forces to quit border ahead of independence

Former southern rebels in South Kordofan
Image caption Former southern rebels in South Kordofan are to join the northern army or disarm

Rival Sudanese forces have agreed to withdraw from the north-south border, ahead of the south's independence next week.

The deal agreed in Ethiopia comes after fighting in two border areas, Abyei and South Kordofan, which has forced some 170,000 people from their homes.

When the troops pull out, they are to leave a 20km (12-mile) buffer zone along the border.

The fighting had raised fears that the 21-year north-south war could resume.

This agreement, brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, follows separate deals to end the fighting in Abyei and South Kordofan.

It is to be monitored by international observers.

Abyei is claimed by both sides, while the fighting in South Kordofan pits northern forces against mostly ethnic Nubans who fought for the southern rebels during the civil war but now find themselves in the north.

The BBC's Peter Martell in the southern capital, Juba, says the agreement is not as easy to implement as it sounds, as parts of the border are still contested and it has not been demarcated.

He says the deal will come as a relief to many in Juba but people will be keen to make sure it is implemented.

On Tuesday, it was agreed that the former southern fighters in South Kordofan would either be integrated into the northern army or disarmed.

The agreement, mediated by the African Union, also covers the neighbouring Blue Nile state, which has many former southern fighters but which has been relatively peaceful.

The document stresses that any disarmament will be conducted without force.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council endorsed the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to keep the peace in Abyei after a previous deal to make it a demilitarised zone.

The two sides are still to agree on how to divide Sudan's oil wealth after independence.

Some 75% of the oil fields lie in the south but the pipelines flow north to the Red Sea port of Port Sudan.

At present, the revenues are supposed to be shared equally.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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