A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The War Between the Sudans

 I haven't said anything yet about the nasty little border war that has simmered for the past couple of weeks on the still disputed border between Sudan and south Sudan, but with a new front being claimed west of the Heglig oilfield that has been the focus of most of the fighting to date, and African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki warnig that the two Sudans are "locked in a logic of war," perhaps I should.at least acknowledge what's going on.

I'm in no position to judge the rights and wrongs in the case; border disputes between countries that were once united, especially when fueled by oilfields along a still-not-fully-resolved border, usually are not a straightforward question. Since South Sudan's independence last July, little progress has been made in negotiations on the outstanding issues. Like much of the world, I have major reservations about the Khartoum regime due to Darfur and much else, and wish the new kid on the block well; but there seems to be some indication that South Sudan is responsible for upsetting a delicate balance here by occupying the disputed oilfield at Heglig. There are the usual ambiguities: are attacks in South Sudan carried out by local rebels or by Sudan? Whose claims are to be believed about aerial bombings, aircraft shot down, etc.?

The United Nations and the African Union are trying to bring things under control, and both have a lot invested in the peace process that saw the birth of an independent South Sudan. If I don't comment in greater detail for now it is because I fully acknowledge my own ignorance of the rights and wrongs in this case. I am confident of one thing: after decades of warfare starting as far back as the 1950s and with only brief respites, the last thing South Sudan needs after less  than a year of independence is another war. I hope they realize that.

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