10/16/2012 05:10 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2012

Taking the Long View for the Peoples of Sudan and South Sudan

On September 27, in Addis Ababa, the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan laid out a visionary path for the future of their countries. Facing difficult trade-offs, both sides approved a series of groundbreaking agreements on security, financial, nationality and other issues to open the way to a lasting peace and to improve the lives of both the Sudanese and the South Sudanese people.

Despite the peaceful independence of South Sudan in July 2011, the past year has seen tensions mount, borders close, and oil turn off. Sudan and South Sudan can now turn their attention to their economies and the needs for better governance, development and resolution of internal conflicts.

Implementation of these agreements is the next priority. The two states need to put in place the agreed-upon demilitarized border zone that will reduce the danger of armed clashes. Second, the two states need to restart oil production, which will allow South Sudan to enjoy the profits of its own sovereign resources and Sudan to benefit economically through fees. In addition South Sudan has agreed to provide $3 billion over three and one-half years to ease Sudan's loss of 70 percent of its oil reserves when South Sudan became independent. South Sudan negotiated an agreement that provides protections to prevent any malfeasance and secures access rights to transport its oil out through Sudan, the only current access to market. South Sudan made a bold offer on all these oil issues, which Sudan accepted. The result will enable both economies to invest in their own recovery from decades of conflict. For South Sudan -- only in its second year of nation-building -- resumption of oil revenue will mean that clinics will be restocked with pharmaceuticals, children can go to school, basic government services can resume, and life will improve for the average citizen.

Perhaps even more exciting is the prospect for lucrative trade at the borders. Restarting cross-border trade will immediately benefit the people living along the border who have experienced sky-rocketing prices and fuel shortages. This cross-border trade could provide economic gains that rival or even exceed oil exports. If cooperation proceeds as planned, Sudan and South Sudan will also work together for debt relief and for international investment.

As the governments must work together, so must the people. These agreements preserve the deep cultural and economic relationships between the Sudanese and South Sudanese. Agreement on a "soft" border will preserve traditional and nomadic ways of life. The Four Freedoms agreements will allow for the movement of people across the border so they can maintain their residences, work, and property in the other state. A pension agreement for South Sudanese retirees who served the Sudanese government will honor the promises of support. Proper border management in line with African best practices will make it possible for border communities to become places of shared investment and not flashpoints for conflict.

This momentum should be capitalized on to complete the two issues not resolved -- a process for determining the final status of disputed border and claimed areas, and for the disputed region of Abyei. Borders need no longer be a reason for conflict in Africa, and the parties were close to agreement on this matter. Abyei proved more difficult. The AU High-Level Implementation Panel made a proposal on Abyei that should be referred to and endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council and subsequently by the UN Security Council.

Still, serious internal challenges continue to plague both countries. Violating international norms and its basic responsibilities to its people, Sudan continues its fight in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, bombing civilian areas and refusing to allow urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the people caught up in the fighting. Ending these conflicts must remain at the top of Sudan's and the international community's priorities. South Sudan continues to struggle with its own internal challenges of building a new democracy that respects human rights while managing internal conflict in places like Jonglei province. An external reconciliation cannot compensate for a much-needed peace at home.

Both countries will still struggle to overcome the suspicions and tensions accrued from decades of war. But in taking the long view, Sudan and South Sudan have taken a chance on each other in hopes of ushering in a new era of collaboration and mutual benefit. These agreements are the best chance for the Sudanese and South Sudanese to know the peace for which they have long yearned.