Sudanese leaders Bashir and Kiir sign oil and trade deals

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, left, and South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir, right. 23 Sept 2012 Omar al-Bashir (L) called Salva Kiir (R) his "partner in peace"

The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have agreed deals on trade, oil and security, easing tensions that brought them to the brink of war in April.

Omar al-Bashir and Southern counterpart Salva Kiir signed the accords after days of talks in Ethiopia's capital.

They agreed to set up a demilitarised buffer zone and concluded other deals which should lead oil sales to resume.

But the sides have not thrashed out border issues including the flashpoint region of Abyei that they both claim.

South Sudan, where people chiefly follow the Christian faith or traditional indigenous religions, gained independence last year after more than two decades of civil war with the mainly Muslim north.

At the scene

The deal has been described as a "giant step", and that may well be right.

The oil will flow again, helping the economy of both countries. Oil money hasn't always trickled down to the people, of course, so the trade agreement may be more significant. Prices in the border regions of South Sudan had risen sharply because of Sudan's refusal to let commercial traffic over the frontier. Those prices should come down.

But to reach a sustainable peace the Sudans need more than one giant step. The countries did not come to a full agreement on the borders, or on Abyei. That risks future trouble. Two internal Sudanese conflicts, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, were not addressed at all even though they poison relations between the two countries.

On top of this, signing agreements is one thing - implementing them quite another.

Mr Kiir said the agreements signed on Thursday brought to an end the long conflict and hailed a "great day in the history of the region".

Mr Bashir described his Southern counterpart as a "partner in peace" and hinted that there would be talks to open the border.

But the two sides failed to agree on Abyei, which lies on their border and is inhabited by both nomadic herdsmen who are loyal to Sudan and other groups who are closely linked to the South.

And few details have been released about the agreement the two sides made regarding oil.

African Union official Barney Afako told reporters only that the deal would start oil flowing again and boost their economies.

"We have already started the preparations... I believe by the end of the year, the oil will flow," South Sudan's chief negotiator Pagan Amum told the Reuters news agency.

But outstanding issues are thought to remain, including Sudan's demand of compensation after the South nationalised the former country's oil company.

At independence in July 2011, South Sudan acquired two-thirds of the former Sudan's oil but Khartoum retained the processing and export facilities.

A row over how much the South should pay Sudan in transit fees led to the South shutting down production in January this year.

The two countries' economies have been seriously damaged as a result - oil accounts for some 98% of South Sudan's budget.

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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