THE UN Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions on Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan if border clashes between the two continue (News, 6 April).
The 15-nation Security Council reiterated its call on Tuesday for a “complete, immediate, unconditional” end to all fighting. It told Sudan to stop air strikes, and South Sudan to withdraw troops from an oil field that it seized a week ago. Both countries claim ownership of the oil field. An Associated Press report on Tuesday referred to “clusters of dead Sudanese soldiers” on the road to the field.
On the same day, a resolution passed by MPs in Khartoum declared that South Sudan was an “enemy” — a move that international observers fear will lead to all-out war. The African Union mediator, Thabo Mbeki, told the UN that both sides are locked in a “logic of war”.
The largely Christian South Sudan gained independence from the majority Muslim north only last year (News, 1 July 2011), after a prolonged civil war ended in 2005 (News, 14 January 2005).
Charities working in the region have described the latest fighting as the worst since South Sudan gained independence last July.
A UK report, South Sudan: Prospects for peace and development, from a select committee of MPs, this week warned of a mounting humanitarian crisis in South Sudan as tens of thousands of refugees from the north continue to flood in, and inter-tribal violence continues.
The decision by the government of South Sudan to halt production in its oilfield risked an economic crisis of huge proportions, the report said. Oil production in the country was halted in January 2012 because of a dispute with the Republic of Sudan over oil revenues. Oil revenues account for 98 per cent of the government’s budget, and it has been forced to introduce austerity measures.
MPs on the International Development Select Committee called on the Government to put pressure on both sides to come to an agreement on exporting oil through Sudan’s pipelines.
The chairman of the committee, Malcolm Bruce, said: “The key priority now for the UK’s aid programme in the country must be to avert a humanitarian crisis. However, the UK and other aid donors cannot be expected to bankroll the country while it struggles on without oil revenues.”
The International Development Select Committee took evidence from members of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and from the Rector of Bere Regis, Canon Ian Woodward, who is vice-chairman of the diocese of Salisbury’s Sudan Link.
The Committee said that the Sudan Council of Churches must be allowed a “constructive role” in peace-building.
MPs also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping unit in South Sudan, which cost nearly half a billion pounds in its first year.
The head of policy at the aid agency Tearfund, Laura Taylor, welcomed the MPs’ call. “We are pleased that the committee’s report sounds an alarm about the mounting humanitarian crisis, and this must be DfID’s clear focus.”
Further concern was expressed by the World Council of Churches, and the All Africa Conference of Churches, who said in a joint statement that they “deplore loss of life caused by the escalation of the conflict.
“We call on both parties to resist from hardening of positions and instead agree to resolve any differences through talks as they did in the run up to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement” in 2005.
The statement said that the peace agreement should be used as a framework and model for resolving border and other outstanding issues. “In this regard,” it said, “we call upon the government of Kenya, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union, and the international community to double their diplomatic efforts at helping Sudan and South Sudan to de-escalate the military campaigns and sit around the table to negotiate.
“Any full-blown war between Sudan and South Sudan will have security implications for the whole region and precipitate a humanitarian disaster. Therefore it must be avoided at all costs.”