Africa

Sudans set deadlines to resolve outstanding disputes

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, left, welcomes South Sudan President Salva Kiir, at Khartoum airport on 8 October 2011
Image caption The two leaders need to resolve a number of tricky post-separation issues

Sudan and South Sudan have set deadlines to resolve disputes that remain outstanding since they became separate countries in July.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said several committees had been set up to deal with all the issues.

He was speaking alongside South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who was visiting the Sudanese capital Khartoum for the first time since independence.

The leaders insisted that, despite the tensions, they were committed to peace.

"My brother al-Bashir and myself are all committed to ensure none of these issues take us back to war," Mr Kiir told a joint news conference.

"There might be some elements on both sides that would like to take us back where we came from, that is war, but I repeat here that we left the war since 2005, and we are not going back to it again."

South Sudan became independent on 9 July after two decades of civil war that left some 1.5 million people dead.

But relations between the two have been strained by a failure to agree on how to share Sudanese oil revenues and assets as well as its debt burden, and how to deal with the ongoing border tensions and the disputed region of Abyei.

"We have agreed to have committees and have given them deadlines to reach a solution on all the pending issues," Mr Bashir told the news conference.

Mr Kiir's visit has not unblocked the deadlock, but the mood was positive, the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum reports.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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