The Sudans at War

The Sudans at War

Erin Dwyer

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared war on Thursday against South Sudan after the parliament in Khartoum passed a resolution pronouncing the recently independent South an enemy that “must be fought until it is defeated”. President al-Bashir reinforced the declaration by launching four attacks in a 24-hour period against its former half as fighting along the two states’ controversial border region showed no sign of dwindling.

The swelling violence, which President al-Bashir declared has “revived the spirit of jihad and martyrdom among the Sudanese people”, stems from the South’s vote last year in favor of independence. Provoked by 20 years of civil war that left over 2 million dead and al-Bashir wanted by the the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes — South Sudan’s creation came with critical issues unsettled, namely: a structure for the distribution of oil wealth and defined borderlines establishing the two state’s sphere of jurisdiction.

Southern forces approach Heglig (Photo: AFP)

Recent tensions between the feuding countries met their peak in Heglig, a town located in the disputed border area responsible for producing 60,000 barrels of oil per day. As a critical source of revenue for the North, whose economy was hit hard by a 75 percent loss in oil reserves following the South’s secession, South Sudan’s seizure of Heglig last week provoked a Northern aerial bombardment that killed 5 civilians.

The United Nations Security Council condemned Sudan’s aerial attacks and strongly demanded that Southern forces retreat from Heglig. The UNSC also threatened to implement economic sanctions should violence continue, in an action likely motivated by Washington’s role in brokering the 2005 peace accord that provided the framework for the South’s secession, as well as Russian and Chinese close ties with Khartoum.

The South has agreed to withdraw from Heglig on a conditional basis, but maintains that it had not infringed upon Sudan’s territory based on borders outlined in 1956 by British colonialists. And yet, the countries remain on the brink of a full-scale war. Rather than allow the situation to escalate, Washington must now take the lead and demand the neighbors immediately return to negotiating remaining issues.