Monday, 5 March 2012

Sudan border tensions reach boiling point

The confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan along their disputed border seems to be reaching a boiling point, with dozens killed in fighting and accusations that Sudanese jets have bombed targets within South Sudanese territory.

Tension has risen steadily over the past month, as rebels with links to the South Sudanese government have attacked towns on the Sudanese side of the border and Khartoum has responded by launching raids along the disputed boundary region.

At the end of February Sudanese rebels claimed to have killed 150 government troops in a border battle, prompting the Sudanese government to threaten retaliation against Juba for its alleged involvement. Although South Sudan denies supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North, it is widely seen as a convenient proxy for Juba.

On 2 March, the South Sudanese government accused its northern neighbour of massing troops along the border and also said that some Sudanese military units had penetrated as far as 10 miles into South Sudan's oil-producing Unity state. Airstrikes against oil facilities were also reported.

The rise in violence suggests that attempts to demarcate the border, which were agreed last month, will come to nothing. Even the proposed demarcation process would exclude five disputed areas, underlining the distance between the two sides on the issue.

Control of oil-producing areas is one of the most contentious issues – almost all production is located in what is now South Sudan, although the export infrastructure is located in the north. Disputes over revenue-sharing have led Juba to shut down production, crippling its own oil-dependent economy but also seriously damaging northern Sudan.

The recent rise in border tension suggests that Khartoum is testing to see whether it could seize oilfields by force without provoking an international crisis.

Sources: Sudan Tribune, AFP

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