Khartoum is preparing to lose most of its state revenue if Sudan’s restive south votes to secede in an independence referendum early next year, taking with it most of the country’s oil resources.
“Frankly … we don’t know if Sudan is going to be split or united,” Abdel al Jailani, the Sudanese minerals minister, told Reuters. “If the south does secede – you know 60 per cent of our budget comes from [oil] – we have to sit and think of another alternative.”
John Duku, the former Sudanese mission chief to Kenya, said a secession was likely after the referendum, which is scheduled for January 9.
“The unity between north and south Sudan has died,” Mr Duku said last week in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. “There is no more unity.”
If the referendum were delayed, southern Sudan’s parliament would vote to secede because “key parts” of a 2005 peace deal between the north and south had been “violated”, he added.
Mr Duku, who is working on the referendum campaign but does not represent the southern Sudanese government, said Khartoum had reneged on an agreement not to apply Islamic law in the Sudanese capital.
Unlike the northerners, most southern Sudanese are not Muslim, counting themselves either Christian or animist.
Cirino Ofuho, the southern Sudanese minister of presidential affairs, said Mr Duku’s views did not represent those of his government. Officials were not supposed to comment on the referendum, Mr Ofuho said. Sudan, which produces about 490,000 barrels per day of crude from 6.7 billion barrels of proved reserves, mostly located in its south, is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer after the OPEC members Nigeria and Angola.
Mr al Jailani said Khartoum planned to expand gold production from the north of the country to make up for lost oil-export revenue.