Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Global Witness, an NGO focused on the investigation of natural resources related conflicts and corruption, published this week a report on the oil revenues in Sudan with the central claim: the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) cannot verify the oil figures published by the Government of National Unity (GoNU), a fact that fuels mistrust between the two already mistrustful ruling partners. According to Global Witness discrepancies between Khartoum's figures and other estimates of oil production, including reports of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, range from 9 to 26%.

According to CPA wealth sharing arrangements the government's net oil revenue from oil wells in Southern Sudan is divided as follows: income from export sales above a benchmark price (currently $ 65/barrel) is allocated to the Oil Revenue Stabilisation Account, 2% to the oil producing states/regions in proportion to output, what is left is split 50:50 between GoSS and GoNU. For GoSS, this share equates to 98% of its income, making it the most oil-dependent government in the world. What GoSS cannot verify according to Global Witness is the total from which it gets its share, 50% of what?

Jotting down CPA rows quite a list of disputed figures immediately come to mind, oil production volumes, Southern Sudanese IDPs in Northern Sudan 2 - 2.9 m or 518 000, Southern Sudanese just 21% of the 'nation' (8.2 m), Darfur's population 4.09 or 2.15 m. Not to mention the grand and obscene numbers' war of Darfur's dead, Bashir's 10 000 admitted dead, Save Darfur's 400 000, Eric Reeves's well over 450 000, and the UN's 200 000 - 300 000.

A new figure to join the ones above is the death toll of assumed 'tribal violence' in Southern Sudan. The UNMIS regional coordinator for the South said 1200 since January this year and 250 000 displaced; AFP quotes another UN source and claims 2000. In the last six incidents it has repsonded to MSF has counted 1057 deaths and 259 injuries. The figure of all figures of course is the human price of the CPA and its discontents: 1.5 - 2 million lives lost during the civil war.

Is there a lesson here, I claim no, figures do not tell us any truths. In the census dispute numbers were cited to support a 'racial' agreement on constituency and power. In Darfur, mortality figures had to satisfy the label 'genocide' despite no settled cut-off point, so they kept going up and up, they reached a peak, and then Adada and Agwai announced recession. And as long as it is called 'tribal' violence, and 'inter-ethnic' conflict, the figures from the bloodshed in Southern Sudan are wrong, they are telling us the wrong message.

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.