Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Africa's Next War: Sudan

Sudan has all but formally declared war on their newest neighbor (and their former countrymen) South Sudan.  That is the message from Sudan's National Assembly, where the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has voted that a state of war officially exists between the two nations.  They are now urging Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir to make an outright declaration of war.

The already poor relations between the two states collapsed last week when the South Sudan military charged across the border and seized the region around the Sudanese city of Heglig.  The South Sudanese maintain that the move was necessary because Sudan was using the city as a base for cross-border military raids and bombing runs against towns and villages in the Nuba Mountains.

But Heglig also happens to be one of the few oil producing regions left in Sudan.  Before the Sudan/South Sudan split last summer, Sudan was an oil exporting nation.  But most of the oil production came from fields located in what's now South Sudan, which has left Sudan with far fewer resources under their control.  Oil continues to be a sore point between the two nations.  Almost all of the oil infrastructure in South Sudan is designed to ship oil north to refineries around Khartoum and export facilities in Port Sudan, both located in Sudan.  The two nations fought over transportation rates for the use of this pipeline network, with South Sudan eventually cutting off all of their exports to Sudan in protest of what they thought was an unfair deal.  While this has been an economic blow to Sudan, it has also been a crushing blow to the fledgling economy of South Sudan, which relies on oil exports for almost 100% of their revenues.

A new war between these two sides is a very real possibility.  For decades they engaged in what was one of Africa's longest-running civil wars.  In 2005, a peace agreement was signed, which stipulated that a referendum on independence would be held in six years.  That vote was held in 2011, with almost 99% of the South Sudanese voting in favor of independence.  The two countries formally split last July.
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