Despite what most observers consider a success in the transition of Sudan into two separate states, there is still a great deal of unrest in both countries. A conflict has been raging in Sudan since last May that has arisen from issues never fully resolved in the civil war because people in those states, particularly in the Nuba Mountains, fought in alliance with the South. Though they remained in the North, their issues were to be resolved in a process called popular consultations. Those consultations did not get finished and a ‘very serious’ conflict broke out, in the words of Ambassador Princeton Lyman at a press briefing today.
The UN and the U.S. are very concerned about predictions made by the Famine Early Warning System Network that warn of a major humanitarian crisis in those areas, particularly Southern Kordofan. By March, they feel that a large number of people, as many as a quarter of a million or more, will will reach what they call emergency status, which is one class short of famine and constitutes a very serious food emergency. The Sudanese government has resisted efforts by the administration and the UN to assist in relief efforts. Part of their arguments against receiving aid is that they ‘learned a lesson’ in Darfur, meaning that if they let the UN in, it will result in a peace-keeping mission and result in human rights charges against the Sudanese administration and further loss of territory. They further argue that they are concerned that food aid will reach supporters of the SPLM in the North and that the situation really isn’t that serious.
To complicate matters, there is also conflict between Sudan and South Sudan about the sharing of oil revenues. Most of the oil in the two countries originates in the South, while the refining and distribution facilities are in the North. The North has imposed increased tariffs on Southern oil and has blocked ships carrying it from leaving port. In response, the South has threatened to shut down all oil production and move to build pipelines to Kenya. Needless to say that with this much at stake for both countries, this is a very dangerous game.
In the South, hostilities between regions and ethnic groups that was temporarily mollified by the independence movement are now beginning to show up again. Recently clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups in Jonglei have resulted in the death of several individuals (perhaps several hundred) and widespread displacement of civilians. Fortunately, UNMIS was able to inervene and prevent a major conflict in one incident in Pibor, but there is still the threat or reprisal attacks. South Sudan is still a fragile state and we can only hope that all the ethnic, political and economic conflicts can be resolved as soon as possible.
Source: U.S. State Department