- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sudan and South Sudan are committing “mutual economic suicide” in their dispute over oil, according to a top U.S. official.

Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, said Tuesday that the governments in Khartoum in the north and Juba in the south are “waiting for the other to crumble” as a consequence of their rigid positions.

The South shut off the flow of oil through pipelines in Sudan in January following a dispute over the transit fee it would pay Khartoum.

Oil accounted for 98 percent of the South’s revenue, and the loss of that money has forced Juba to pursue austerity measures.

In Sudan, the crisis has resulted in high food prices and low supplies of gas.

“What’s happening in Sudan and South Sudan is that oil is a weapon that each side is using against the other,” Mr. Lyman said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Now you have both sides committing, in effect, mutual economic suicide.”

South Sudan and Sudan have had an acrimonious relationship since the south became an independent nation on July 9. The two nations moved to the brink of an all-out war earlier this year following attacks across their disputed border.

Despite the violence, Mr. Lyman said officials in Juba and Khartoum insist that they do not want an all-out war.

The economic crisis in South Sudan is compounded by rampant corruption in the fledgling nation. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has accused current and former southern officials of stealing $4 billion.

Most of this money has been deposited in foreign bank accounts, while some of the cash has been used to buy properties, Mr. Kiir said in a May 3 letter to South Sudanese officials. He also has sought the assistance of eight countries to get back the money.

The people of South Sudan and the international community are “alarmed by the level of corruption in South Sudan,” Mr. Kiir wrote in his letter.

“We fought for freedom, justice, and equality. Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people,” he said.