VERY worrying news from central Africa. With the newly independent South Sudan in ever more violent confrontations with its northern neighbour Sudan, will we see war once again between them?
KHARTOUM, April 18th (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Wednesday his “main goal” was to free South Sudan’s citizens from the ruling SPLM party following a series of border clashes between the neighbouring countries.
“Our main goal is liberation of the southern citizens from the SPLM,” he told members of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, referring to the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
“The story began in Heglig, but it will end in Khartoum or Juba,” he said, referring to a disputed oil-producing region, adding that there would be “good news” from the border region in a few hours. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
al-Bashir, President of Sudan claims that his “mail goal” is to liberate the people of the neighbouring sovereign state, which was a part of Sudan but broke away this year, from its governing party. South Sudan and Sudan have been in on-off conflict ever since a referendum on independence passed with ~99% approval. My blogs on the topic are above.
The reference to Heglig is very worrying. Troops from South Sudan advanced deep into Sudanese territory on April 10th – they captured its most valuable oilfield, Heglig. This was the largest confrontation since the south’s seccession last July.
22 people died yesterday on the border, when a Sudanese soldier opened fire. Seven South Sudanese and 15 Sudanese soldiers died.
Heglig is in the wilayat (province) of South Kordofan. During the civil war, this province was one of the heaviest fought over. It was meant to have so-called ‘popular consultations’ on whether it would be part of Sudan or South Sudan. However, due to the ongoing internal conflict between the Sudanese army and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, particularly the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), these were suspended by govenor Ahmed Haroun who is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Similar happened in the province of Blue Nile, nearby.
The conflict has escalated in recent weeks. On the 26th of March, Sudan claimed an attack by South Sudan on Heglig – South Sudan claimed it was acting in self-defence. The next day, the Sudanese Air Force launched attacks into oilfields in Unity, in South Sudan. In early April, the South Sudanese fought back, capturing Heglig.
Now, MPs in Khartoum have claimed that the “government of South Sudan is an enemy and all Sudanese state agencies have to treat her accordingly” and that its ruling party “must be fought until it is defeated“.
Now, with President al-Bashir weighing in, it seems ever more likely that the Sudanese forces will move into South Sudan, with the aim of crushing South Sudanese forces on the way to the capital, Juba.
Oil is crucial for this conflict – most of Sudan’s oilfields, which formed a core of its GDP, left along with South Sudan. However, the refineries and distribution network was located still in Sudan major. Thus, tensions have been high ever since separation. Heglig is the largest of Sudan’s remaining oilfields and it will not be easily given up. Both sides seem ready for war.
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