The Price of Oil

BBC News - Ban Ki-moon condemns Sudanese air raid on South Sudan

via BBC News – Ban Ki-moon condemns Sudanese air raid on South Sudan.

The past few months have seen sporadic fighting in the oil-rich areas along the two countries’ undemarcated border, prompting concern the violence could escalate into a full-blown war.

When South Sudan voted for independence, they knew they would have a steady income – oil.  The problem lies in selling it, however.  Because the new country is landlocked, it relies on pipelines through Sudan to ports on the Red Sea.

In January, South Sudan decided to shut down oil production, which provides 98% of the government’s revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.

The growing dispute has escalated into air raids and ground fighting in areas along the border.  If it is not resolved soon, a repeat of the 22 year long civil war is possible.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s President Kiir has arrived in China for a six-day visit during which he will meet his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.

China has traditionally been an ally of diplomatically-isolated Sudan, but observers say Chinese officials are likely to push for an end to hostilities between the two countries.

China is the major buyer of Sudanese oil, so they have a vested interest in solving the problem quickly.  Sudan takes almost a quarter of the South’s oil as payment for export fees.  Since the oil is the main source of government revenue in the desperately poor nation,  South Sudan is upset with what they call the “theft.”

How will this crisis be resolved?  What effect will the dispute have on oil prices?  How many more refugees will leave their homes due to the fighting?  And how will the South Sudan government pay for all the infrastructure they need if they can’t export their oil?

The following is from Human Rights Watch, via Nicholas Kristof

Worst-Case Scenario Comes True

via Ivory Coast: Massacre in the West, Siege in the East | FP Passport.

War has returned to the Ivory Coast in the shape of massacres, mercenaries, a besieged capital, and a humanitarian nightmare. Over the last week, a political deadlock that was by all accounts frozen has become a heated contest on the battlefield. Make no mistake: This was the worst-case scenario mapped out for the Ivory Coast back in November when this crisis began.

Caritas, the Catholic charity, estimates over 1,000 people were massacred in Duékoué, possibly by Ouattara’s men.  This includes children according to the only Westerner in the town:

the BBC’s Andrew Harding  writes that he counted 20 corpses in just one city block, children among them.

Now reports from Abidjan indicate that Gbagbo is using human shields to protect the presidential palace.

Even more worrisome is the fact that residents of thst city are trapped in their homes, unable to buy food and necessities.

Residents of Abidjan today warned that they were running out of phone credit. Water has been cut off to parts of the city, so young women and children are often visible on the streets, scurrying with buckets to fill.

So what happens next?  It’s likely that Gbagbo will be forced out, but that doesn’t mean peace.  The election was close, so if Ouatarra is vengeful, his supporters and opponents could continue the fight.

This is about more than two men’s egos at this point. It’s about a country, back in civil war. And if we’d like to prevent a protracted armed conflict, maybe it’s time to start plotting out options if it comes to that.

Update: from the BBC

UN troops and French helicopter warships have attacked 2 of Gbagbo’s military bases in Abidjan.  According to the news sources the bases were being used to fire mortars and other heavy artillery that was hitting civilian neighborhoods.

Violence Intensifies in Ivory Coast

via BBC News – Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo supporters ‘join army’.

Thousands of supporters of Ivory Coast’s disputed President Laurent Gbagbo have gathered at an army base to enlist, amid fears the crisis could destabilise West Africa.

The young activists were heeding a call to join the army from a key ally of Mr Gbagbo, Charles Ble Goude.

He urged them to fight supporters of Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised as the winner of last year’s elections.

The conflict is certain to escalate, and possibly destabilize the whole region.  Refugees are flooding across the border into Liberia, which just ended a civil war.  The needs of the refugees are straining the limited resources of that country.  Other refugees are heading east into Ghana.

Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, used to enjoy the highest living standards in West Africa.

The November election was supposed to reunite it after a 2002-3 civil war but Mr Gbagbo refuses to cede power.

There are 9,000 UN Peacekeepers in Cote d’Ivoire, stationed there to monitor the 2003 cease-fire.  They have been providing security for Mr. Outtara, winner of the November elections.

The UN helped organise the election and says that Mr Ouattara won – a position endorsed by the African Union, which has said Mr Gbagbo should stand down by 24 March.

What happens next?  Most likely more violence, as grown men use the poor to fight for them.

  • 435 killed since disputed election
  • 500,000 forced from their homes
  • 9,000 UN peacekeepers to monitor 2003 ceasefire
  • Election intended to reunite country
  • World’s largest cocoa producer
  • Previously seen as haven of peace and prosperity in West Africa
  • Alassane Ouattara recognised as president-elect
  • International sanctions imposed to force Laurent Gbagbo to go

Continuing Trouble in Côte d’Ivoire

via BBC News – Ivory Coast: Rebels take western town Zouan-Hounien.

Ivory Coast rebels fighting to oust President Laurent Gbagbo have taken control of a town in the west of the country, Mr Gbagbo’s forces confirm.

The rebels, who control the north of the country, seized the town of Zouan-Hounien in an overnight attack.

Witnesses say unrest has spread to the capital Yamoussoukro, and the UN has warned that the country is at risk of relapsing into civil war.


16 million people, half under the age of 15, in a country the size of New Mexico, with over 60 different ethnic groups – a recipe for disaster.

The country has 3 distinct regions – northern Sahel, southwestern forest, and southeastern lagoons.  Once upon a time, the Ivory Coast was a model of a stable African state, but the situation has deteriorated in the country that is the world’s leading producer of cocoa.  Since the troubles began after the election of Alassane Ouattara as president, exports have dropped.  Former President and loser of the election Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down, and a stand-off has ensued.  UN forces are protecting the new president as fighting rages around the country.

Separately, the UN’s refugee agency says the number of civilians fleeing west to Liberia has surged.

“Until mid-week we were seeing around 100 people crossing the border daily. But over the past 24 hours alone, the numbers coming across have swollen to 5,000 people,” the agency said in a statement.

African leaders have urged Gbagbo to cede power to the winner, but they have not been successful in their requests.

What will happen next?  Most likely, another un-civil war in another African state.

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