A painting of the White Nile River by Mitch Cope. (UMHealthSystem / flickr)
On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the world's newest country. After a referendum in which 98 percent of voters favored independence, some 30 heads of state celebrated the nation's independence. Together with the crown prince of Norway, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and the political leadership of the North, the officials affirmed collective acceptance of South Sudan's sovereignty. And the international community breathed a sigh of relief, as the vote, which was mandated by the 2005 peace agreement between the North and South, was meant to bring the 55-year conflict to an end.
But the referendum and the South's formal declaration of independence have not produced a lasting peace, yet. Despite the mediation of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, negotiations before independence (and since) left several unresolved issues to fester: How much the South would pay to transport oil through the North, where the actual border would lie (especially the status of the disputed region of Abyei), debt sharing, and what the citizenship status of South Sudanese remaining in the North, and vice versa, would be. In addition to tension surrounding these questions, a wider opposition that includes the three major Darfur rebel movements, the Northern arm of the Southern political movement, is growing. It is making this moment all the more precarious for Khartoum. In fact, the tangle of contestations and conflicts across the country marks the most serious challenge to the survival of Omar al-Bashir's Islamist government since it usurped power more than two decades ago.
What the South will pay to ship oil north to Port Sudan is the divisive matter at present. Eighty percent of Sudan's oil reserves are in the South. The newly created South Sudan initially offered one dollar per barrel -- the standard international rate -- and a one-time cash transfer of $2.6 billion to help with the North's budget deficit. Khartoum refused the offer, demanding $36 per barrel. When the South refused to pay