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AKOL DOK - 13 Jan 2024

Opinion| A political and economic analysis of Sudan and South Sudan's bilateral relations

On 15 April 2023, conflict broke out in Khartoum between forces loyal to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The conflict proliferated, forcing millions of people to flee Sudan to neighboring countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, and South Sudan.

Following the end of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule in 2019, the Republic of Sudan was progressing toward democracy. On 5 July 2019, The Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FCC) agreed to a 38-month transition process. They established an 11-member Sovereignty Council with five military members, five civilians chosen by each side (TMC and FCC), and a civilian mutually agreed upon.

The FFC nominated Dr. Abdalla Hamdok as the Prime Minister, but the Sudanese military overthrew him on 25 October 2021. Dr. Hamdok was reappointed but later resigned on 2 January 2022 amid protests, and the military retook power and abrogated the agreement for the transition to democracy.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan on 9 July 2011 after decades of conflict and fighting led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the ruling political party in South Sudan.

On 9 January 2005, the SPLM and Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ending the Second Sudanese Civil War and set a timetable for the Southern Sudanese independence referendum. In January 2011, the people of South Sudan voted over 98 percent for independence.

The Sudan conflict has drawn attention to the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan has received hundreds of thousands of refugees, returnees, and migrants fleeing conflict in Sudan. South Sudan and Sudan have an interdependent relationship, and the author will analyze this relationship politically and economically.


South Sudan and Sudan had an acrimonious relationship following South Sudan’s independence. The neighbors disagreed on border issues and pipeline transit fees. In January 2012, South Sudan shut down its oil production to protest Sudan’s high transit fees for transporting it through its northern pipeline. South Sudan exports its crude oil through a pipeline to Port Sudan, Sudan’s Red Sea port.

Sudan was charging South Sudan USD 36 per barrel, far above the industry standard –closer to USD 1 per barrel. South Sudan was producing 350,000 barrels per day (bpd); this was all the revenue lost for Sudan following South Sudan’s independence.

In April 2012, South Sudanese forces attacked the disputed Panthou (Heglig) oil-rich area on the Sudan-South Sudan border. The Panthou land dispute is an extension of the Abyei dispute. Abyei is a disputed area between South Sudan and Sudan.

Under the 2004 Protocol on the Resolution of Abyei Conflict (Abyei Protocol) in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Abyei Area is considered on an interim basis to be simultaneously part of both the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan.

Both countries have accused each other of supporting rebel and armed opposition groups. In December 2013, the relationship was exacerbated when conflict broke out in South Sudan. The Government of South Sudan accused the Sudanese Government of training and arming South Sudan rebels fighting.

Sudan with Uganda and Ethiopia, through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), meditated the end of the South Sudan conflict. In 2018, The Government of South Sudan signed The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCISS) with various opposition groups (SPLM-IO, SSOA, OPP) to end the conflict and form a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity. The signing ceremony was in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

In April 2019, Omar Bashir’s 30-year rule collapsed. The fall of Bashir and the NCP changed South Sudan-Sudan’s relationship dynamics. The Transitional Sovereign Council (TSC) had a better relationship with the Government of South Sudan, led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, than the NCP.

President Salva Kiir was crucial in mediating between the TSC and various Sudanese rebel groups. Kiir’s efforts culminated in the Juba Peace Agreement, an agreement between the TSC and various opposition movements, i.e., Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North, Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, and Sudan Liberation Forces Alliance (SLFA).

On 3 October 2020, The Juba Peace Agreement was signed in Juba, South Sudan’s capital. Egypt, Qatar, the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab League witnessed the Agreement.

South Sudan and Sudan's political relationship began as a rancorous relationship and evolved into both countries supporting each other’s peace and stability. The Sudan conflict will indeed challenge South Sudan and Sudan’s relationship. During Gen. Dagalo’s recent diplomatic tour, which included Kampala, Addis Ababa, Pretoria, Kigali, and Nairobi, he did not visit Juba. South Sudan seeks to mediate between the RSF and SAF and avoid accusations of supporting a particular side. President Salva Kiir insists that South Sudan and the region can resolve the Sudan conflict.


South Sudan and Sudan's dynamic economic relationship revolves around oil, transportation, and agriculture. South Sudan exports all its crude oil through a pipeline to Port Sudan, and South Sudan relies on Port Sudan to import oilfield supplies and equipment. South Sudanese farmers on Sudan's borders smuggle their produce (sesame, sorghum, Gum Arabic) to Sudan. South Sudan is landlocked and relies on Port Sudan and the Port of Mombasa for imports and exports.

South Sudan has over 3.5 billion crude oil reserves, Sub-Sahara Africa's third largest, behind Nigeria and Angola. The South Sudan oil and gas industry is crucial in the young nation's political and economic environment. Oil revenue accounts for 90 percent of the government’s revenue and 60 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Khartoum Government developed the oil industry South Sudan inherited during the late 1990s, developing oilfields, pipelines, refineries, and port facilities. South Sudan’s Petrodar pipeline is 1368 km from Upper Nile State oilfields, and the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline is 1600km from Ruweng and Unity State oilfields leading to Sudan’s Red Sea port, Port Sudan.

Port Sudan on the Red Sea is strategic for South Sudan. South Sudan imports oilfield equipment and supplies through the port. Towns and states on the border use Port Sudan to import goods and products over the port Mombasa of in Kenya.

South Sudanese farmers in the agricultural-rich Renk County in Upper Nile State rely on Sudanese traders to export essential agricultural products (sesame, sorghum, and millet). Sudan smuggles Gum Arabic from cultivators in Renk to international markets. In 2021, Sudan exported USD 111 million worth of Gum Arabic, making it the world's second-largest exporter of Gum Arabic. Most of Sudan’s Gum Arabic originates from South Sudan.

Sudan and South Sudan’s political and economic relationship has changed since the independence of South Sudan in 2011. The fall of Omar Bashir, the South Sudan civil war, and the recent Sudan war have pressured the two nations. South Sudan has a vested interest in the peace and stability of Sudan and vice versa. Both countries must work collectively to enhance their relationship; they are neighbors, share a history, and have a strategic interest in each other’s stability.

Akol Dok is the Founder of Orus Consulting Limited, a business advisory and public relations firm based in East Africa. He is a writer and political and economic analyst and hosts the Akol Dok Show which discusses African political and economic affairs. He can be contacted via

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.