South Sudan to halt oil production in row with Khartoum

Two workers born in the oil reach Southern Sudan state of Unity, stand on the drilling site number 102 in the Unity oil field in Southern Sudan on November 11, 2010.
Image caption Both Sudan and South Sudan are heavily dependent on oil revenues

South Sudan says it will halt oil production amid a dispute over sharing revenues with the Khartoum government.

South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 but the two states have not been able to agree on how to divide their oil wealth.

Most of the oil is produced in the south but is exported from Port Sudan in the north.

Sudan has accused the south of not paying transport fees and said it is taking the revenues in lieu of payment.

The two sides are currently holding talks in Ethiopia to try and reach a deal.

China, a major buyer of oil from both countries, has urged them to resolve their differences.

Oil talks

But South Sudan's Information Minister Marial Barnaba Benjamin told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the cabinet had decided to turn off the taps, a process which could take two weeks.

"We are not benefiting from the oil," he said, accusing Khartoum of stealing it.

Sudan had unilaterally taken crude oil to the value of $350m (£225m) in the space of three weeks, Mr Barnaba said.

The South Sudanese government felt there was no guarantee that oil exported through Sudan would reach international buyers, he added.

Al Obeid Morawah, spokesman for Sudan's foreign affairs ministry, told the BBC that South Sudan was free to do whatever it wanted, but a stoppage would hurt it more than Sudan.

The stoppage may be a tactical move by South Sudan, as both countries are involved in negotiations, Mr Morawah added.

South Sudan has to export oil via the north because it has no port or refineries of its own.

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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