Home inContext Tensions Flare Between North, South Sudan

Tensions Flare Between North, South Sudan

Samara Greenberg

Tensions between Sudan and the months-old South Sudan are on the rise. For the last week, the northern Sudanese government in Khartoum has bombed various southern areas, including oil fields, military positions, and villages along the countries’ disputed border. Khartoum has also accused its southern neighbor of an incursion into the north — a claim the south flatly rejected.

Delegations from both countries are currently in Ethiopia to discuss security issues. Khartoum, however, failed to send the chief of its security delegation, stalling talks. In addition, a meeting scheduled for April 3 between the two presidents — Salva Kiir in the south and Omar al-Bashir in the north — was called off by the latter due to border fighting. During the meeting, the countries were expected to finalize agreements on citizenship and border demarcation. South Sudan has said that the invitation to negotiate still stands.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir attend the Independence Day ceremony in Juba, South Sudan. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)

Also on the negotiating agenda for the presidents is the question of how the Sudans will share oil revenue. South Sudan’s secession removed 75% of the north’s oil fields, but the oil-rich south is landlocked and its pipelines run through the north. Earlier this year, the south’s government in Juba shut down oil production after Khartoum seized oil as compensation for what it says are unpaid transit fees.

South Sudanese President Kiir reached out to President Obama today, asking him to pressure Khartoum to return to peace talks and end the violence. According to a White House statement, Obama “asked President Kiir to ensure that South Sudan’s military exercises maximum restraint and is not involved in or supporting fighting along the border.” The UN and U.S. fear the clashes could re-ignite a civil war between the countries.