Sudan and South Sudan Keep Up Their Border Attacks

Published April 14, 2012

Josh Kron, New York Times, 14 April 2012

MOMBASA, Kenya — Sudan and South Sudan engaged in a second day of direct military clashes and aerial bombardments on Saturday in what the South described as a “limited war” between the two nations that will continue indefinitely “off and on.”

A South Sudanese military spokesman said fighting had broken out between the two armies near the town of Kersana as Sudanese armed forces advanced to try to retake the Heglig oil fields, which Sudan had controlled from 2005 until South Sudancaptured them on Tuesday.

“This is intense fighting,” said the spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer. Because the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the Sudan armed forces “have refused the peaceful demarcation of the border,” he said, “this kind of conflict will not stop.”

The African Union called South Sudan’s seizure of Heglig “illegal” last week. Nevertheless, South Sudan said it would consider marching its armed forces back into Abyei, another contested area with high symbolic value for the two nations.

Sudanese Army soldiers stood guard Thursday in Southern Kordofan, which a 2005 pact granted special status to seek autonomy.

On Saturday, Colonel Aguer said, Sudanese aircraft were heavily bombarding Heglig and areas up to Kersana, about 20 miles away, and he warned that the precious oil facilities at Heglig could be destroyed.

After capturing Heglig, South Sudan said it would suspend oil production there, in line with its policy in a dispute with Sudan on how to share oil revenue.

Colonel Aguer also said an Antonov bomber — commonly used by the Sudanese Army in conflict regions like Darfur and the Nuba Mountains — flew over South Sudan’s capital, Juba, on Friday night.

A Sudanese military spokesman confirmed direct fighting between the two armies outside Heglig, and said “hundreds” had been killed on both sides.

“We are advancing on Heglig from the north,” said the spokesman, Al-Sawarmi Khalid, who added that fighting had moved to an area much closer to Heglig than Kersana.

But Mr. Khalid denied accusations that an Antonov had flown over Juba, and said the Sudanese Army was “fighting inside our own country.”

Tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have been brewing since the South’s independence from Sudan last year, but the military conflict exploded in a flash in the last week.

After months of an intense dispute over oil, against a backdrop of an insurgency in Sudan that it accuses South Sudan of supporting, South Sudan captured Heglig, which it said Sudanese forces had “abandoned.”

From Abyei to the special-status states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, Sudan’s military has stamped a heavy footprint on regions the two nations are fighting over.

South Sudan’s capture of Heglig was a return strike, but it said it was “prepared to withdraw” under certain conditions — including a demilitarization of the border region. Nevertheless, Sudan said its forces would soon “liberate” the city, and fighting was reported on Friday.

“Emergency diplomacy at the highest levels — particularly if Beijing and Washington work together — could pull the warring parties back from the brink,” said John Prendergast, director of the Enough Project, an American organization that works to end genocide and crimes against humanity.

But in Juba, at least, the mood was somber. “I think we are headed back to war,” said a South Sudanese government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such matters. He added that there was no “quick fix” for the problems between the countries.

See original article published here:

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