WASHINGTON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - South Sudan makes its debut for western oil
companies, aid organizations and agribusiness this week at a U.S.-backed
conference aimed at setting Africa's newest country on the path to economic
development after decades of poverty and conflict.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir will lead the official delegation to the
Washington meeting, which comes just days after the U.S. Treasury eased
sanctions to permit foreign investment in the country's oil sector.
Kiir will address the conference on Wednesday and is expected to lay out his
plans to regulate investments, organize public finances and boost the
transparency of oil revenue management to entice western oil majors such as
Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
"We're seeing a strong outpouring of interest amongst investment partners in
the private sector in their oil economy," said Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID), the chief sponsor of the
"I expect you will see significant private investment in the sector, which
is why it is important that South Sudan abide by international norms around
transparency and makes sure that the proceeds of those investments are
invested back to improve the lives of the people," Shah told Reuters in an
The two-day Washington meeting, which will also be addressed by U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, represents the Obama administration's
effort to jump-start the economy of South Sudan after its independence from
Khartoum in July.
South Sudan accounts for around 75 percent of the formerly united country's
500,000 barrels per day of oil output. Oil revenues could make it one of the
wealthiest countries in the region - at least on paper.
But South Sudan and Sudan still face disputes over sharing oil revenues and
ending fighting in a border region, keeping tensions high between the two
neighbors which fought a civil war for decades before agreeing to a peace
deal in 2005.
BUILDING FROM SCRATCH
An influx of adventurous entrepreneurs has helped fuel a small business boom
in South Sudan, which remains desperately poor and in need of almost
everything from bridges and banks to office furniture and private security..
Roughly the size of France, South Sudan has just about 100 km (60 miles) of
paved roads. Hospitals and schools are still scarce. Oil accounts for some
98 percent of government revenues.
Stephen Hayes, the head of the Washington-based Corporate Council on Africa,
a business association, said companies were interested in South Sudan but
realistic about the prospects for operating in one of the least developed
regions in the world.
"The positive thing is the amount of attention that it is getting from other
countries. There is a lot going into it to make it work," Hayes said, adding
that winning contracts for development projects would be the first order of
business for most companies.
Among those due to participate in the Washington conference are Marathon
Oil, Halliburton Co and Google , organizers said.
The three guarantors of Sudan's 2005 peace deal - the United States, Britain
and Norway - have each agreed to pilot assistance in specific sectors of the
Britain will help South Sudan improve public management and anti-corruption
efforts; oil-rich Norway will help develop governance of the oil sector; and
the United States will lead on encouraging private sector investment and
boosting agriculture - seen as one of the country's most promising sectors.
Shah said improved inputs such as hybrid seeds for maize and more nutritious
varieties of sweet potatoes could boost farmer output by as much as 300
percent, securing South Sudan's own food supplies and opening the
possibility of future food exports in a region plagued by recurring famine.
Despite the potential, South Sudan remains shadowed by its northern neighbor
Sudan, which remains subject to U.S. sanctions and has seen its own economy
nosedive after the South's secession.
Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy who helped shepherd South Sudan to
independence after a referendum last January, said the international
community would keep up pressure on both sides to resolve disputes,
including over oil revenues.
But he said the conflict in border areas including Southern Kordofan and
Blue Nile states, where there have been allegations of human rights abuses,
made it unlikely that Khartoum would soon get the economic help it needed -
throwing a question mark over efforts to stabilize the broader region.
"What we have been saying to them is you've got to get back to resolving
these conflicts at the negotiating table so people can turn to the economic
situation," Lyman told Reuters.
"Unfortunately I think there are people in the regime who are taking a very
military approach to these conflicts." (Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing
by John O'Callaghan)
Sudan border fighting displaces over 400,000 people-U.N.
Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:41pm GMT
KHARTOUM Dec 13 (Reuters) - About 417,000 people have been displaced in
Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as a result of ongoing
fighting between the army and insurgents, the United Nations said on
Fighting broke out between Sudan's army and SPLM-North rebels in June in
South Kordofan which borders newly-independent South Sudan. Violence spread
to the neighbouring northern border state of Blue Nile in September.
About 82,000 people have fled both northern states to South Sudan or
Ethiopia to escape fighting, U.N. officials told reporters in the capital
Khartoum. Some 35,000 people from South Kordofan have fled to Khartoum to
stay mostly with relatives.
The humanitarian situation was deteriorating, especially in areas controlled
by the SPLM-North, as U.N. and aid agencies were still being denied access,
said Peter de Clerq, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.
"We have made many interventions with the government in terms of going back
to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, so far we have not yet been successful in
accomplishing that," he said.
"We are in no position to verify the actual needs on the ground as we are
simply not there...we have little information," he said.
Sudan said it would continue to deny access, citing security reasons.
"The government cannot allow NGOs to these areas at least this time because
the government cannot guarantee their safety. Still there is
fighting...there is kidnapping," said Mohammed Fadlallah, acting
commissioner of the official Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).
He said Sudanese aid agencies were providing aid in government-controlled
areas to where some displaced persons had been returning.
North and South Sudan regular trade accusations of supporting insurgencies
on each other's territory. Their armed forces clashed at Jau in a region
claimed by both sides last week in a rare direct confrontation.
The two countries are already holding tense talks over issues such as oil
and debt that have been unresolved since South Sudan seceded in July.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Matthew Jones)
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Received on Tue Dec 13 2011 - 14:53:33 EST