By Brad Phillips Watching developments in the two Sudans is like watching a time bomb tick away.
The framework of "relative" peace is unraveling. South Sudan shut off all oil production in response to the theft of $1 billion worth of oil by northern Sudan (ending at least 350,000 barrels of production per day) and the outrageous extortion terms of $32 per barrel in transit fees demanded by Khartoum. Southern officials said they prefer to keep their oil safe in the ground rather than watch it be stolen by their old rivals. This action represents a loss to the South Sudan government of more than $35 million per day.
South Sudan is in its infancy and lacks the most basic infrastructure. Consequently, it is more dependent on oil than Khartoum. At present, 98 percent of South Sudan revenue comes from oil. Juba has already announced severe budget cuts to handle this catastrophic loss of revenue. But the longer this game of chicken goes on, there is a greater possibility of a return to war, or even the total collapse of the world's newest state.
Khartoum has the upper hand unless the South finds a way to finance its operation using oil as collateral. Unfortunately for the South, the biggest challenge seems to be that the value of its proven reserves may not be worth the cost of financing construction of a new pipeline.
To the north, the NCP government in Khartoum is scrambling to diversify its income sources. The government already announced it has exported $400 million worth of gold, which exists in abundance. Moreover, China has given Khartoum a five-year extension on its debt payments. And the Obama administration has offered Khartoum debt forgiveness conditional on further implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This takes some pressure off of Sudan dictator Omar al-Bashir as he faces internal threats to his power base due to a massive unsustainable debt of $36 billion and now 80% less oil revenue.
Meanwhile, the military battles rage on in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States as Khartoum attempts to subdue or exterminate its indigenous African populations. Daily bombardment of civilian areas and economic isolation is widening the humanitarian crisis and causing a flood of refugees to pour across into South Sudan.
Dr. Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations, forecast that the crisis in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions will reach a Level 4 Humanitarian Crisis before the end of March, 2012 -- affecting the lives of an estimated 500,000 people unless a massive intervention by the international community takes place.
But Omar al-Bashir continues to block all access to foreign NGOs, raising the stakes and calling the bluff of his adversaries - sanctions, ICC indictments and diplomatic pressure notwithstanding.
South Sudan has entered negotiations with Kenya and Ethiopia about pipeline projects to ship Southern crude to more friendly ports. But building pipelines and refineries takes time - time which Juba simply does not have. If and when this time bomb explodes is anyone's guess, but the challenges that lay ahead in 2012 for Sudan appear daunting.
All of this troubling news in Sudan is a reminder to us of the urgent need to pray. I believe God uses the many difficulties He sends our way to train us and also to remind us of our continued dependence on Him. I know the churches in Sudan, especially those undergoing persecution, are experiencing more intimate fellowship with God. Please make it a habit to pray for this ministry and for those we serve for strength, courage and perseverance.
As a ministry, PPF has been uniquely positioned to serve as a bridge between communities of believers in the USA and the persecuted in Sudan. Your part in this work is essential and appreciated.
Delivering crisis relief in remote areas such as the Nuba or Southern Darfur, providing clean water, building and supporting medical clinics, supporting discipleship and development projects, or being an advocate on behalf of the persecuted are some of the many ways that you are making a difference as you partner with this ministry.
As God continues to provide through your generosity, we will continue to do all we can to serve the persecuted and suffering in Sudan.