Thursday, April 19, 2012

Conflict between Sudan and its southern neighbour reaches dangerous levels

(Source BBC)

 The conflict between Sudan and South Sudan seems to have reached a dangerous stage, that could at any moment develop into full scale war. The BBC quotes Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir who during a rally of his National Congress Party, said his main goal is now to "liberate" the people of South Sudan from its rulers following recent border clashes.
Bashir described the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which has ruled South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011, as "insects" that needed to be eliminated.
Fighting between the two countries has now spread to another area, further adding to fears of all-out war.
South Sudan seized the Heglig oil field - generally recognised as Sudanese territory - eight days ago. On Tuesday fighting broke out north of Aweil in South Sudan, about 100 miles (160km) west of Heglig.

 The International Crisis Group (ICG) said about the background of the conflict: 
 The exact cause is vigorously disputed, but the flare-up is the predictable outcome of negative trends: conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; lack of agreement on transitional economic and financial arrangements between the two countries; Khartoum’s seizure of Southern oil; South Sudan’s decision to stop oil production; and sporadic cross-border attacks and bombings. It occurs amid mutual recriminations: of Khartoum arming Southern rebels and the SPLA providing material support to its former brothers-in-arms now fighting for the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as political support to members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) seeking to topple President Bashir.

 In part to prevent the resupply of the SPLM-N, the Sudan Armed forces have also bombed refugee camps and towns in South Sudan and recently attacked Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. Complicating matters are divergent views within the capitals and hardliners seemingly working to undermine negotiated settlements, as demonstrated by the scuttling of the much anticipated North-South presidential summit on 3 April.
The end result is that, following renewed clashes, the SPLA has taken control of the disputed Heglig oil fields and stopped about half of Sudan’s 115,000 barrels-per-day oil output. 

According to the  ICG the economy of Sudan, which already suffered heavily from the cost of last year's separation and from Juba's decision in January to stop the export of Sudan's oil through its pipelines, cannot afford the losses the capture of the Heglig fields entail. But Juba, that lost almost 98% of its income since its oil production has all but stopped, is in much the same position.

According to the ICG the current conflict is fundamentally rooted in the unimplemented provisions of the 'Comprehensie Peace Agreement' (CPA) betwen the two counytries, such as the status of Abyei, the cancelled popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and disputed borders, as well as unresolved issues stemming from separation. The two countries must still reach detailed agreements on many divisive issues, such as the joint exploitation of oil, transitional financial arrangements, citizenship, security and trade. The ICG recommends that the UN Security Council put pressure on both presidents to set their differences aside and finalize the negotiations. Also it expresses the hope that friendly countries might try to convince Khartoum that it is high time to overhaul its political system and remodel it along more stable and democratic lines. 

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