Before the ink began to dry on the 2005 peace treaty, diplomats worried that oil would ignite the cauldron if ethnic and religious strife did not. Oil has been contentious. The GOSS relies on oil royalties for over 90 percent of its budget and argues the north cheated it of $300 million in 2009. Those fields are the source of Bashir's alleged stolen billions. The fields have also bought the northern government China's support in the United Nations.
In the last week, however, Bashir has visited the south and changed his tune. He told the GOSS that he preferred a unitary state but would support the south if it chose to secede. Bashir kept the term secession but conceded to the reality of separation. Bashir's numerous critics contend he is also capitulating to the economic reality of northern Sudan's own oil revenue dependency. A big north-south war would shut down oil production and likely damage the fields. Better to separate peacefully and pump than to wage a war guaranteeing poverty.
Will common economic interest (and perhaps Bashir's personal greed) secure peace between Sudan and Southern Sudan? At the moment, it is a fragile tie -- but one that recognizes economic interdependency despite political differences.
If this recognition of mutual payoff succeeds in avoiding renewed war, it would be a welcome example of political evolution in preference to another round of bloodletting.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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