A war no one can win

NAI researcher Redie Bereketeab on the current crisis in Sudan

Tension between the bordering states of Sudan and South Sudan has escalated into armed conflict over the past few weeks. The current conflict began when South Sudanese troops attacked the city of Heglig in Sudan and occupied it for 10 days before withdrawing.
– The attack doesn’t make sense to me. South Sudan could anticipate retaliation from Khartoum and, perhaps worse, losing the goodwill of friends in Europe and the US. Indeed, there was strong condemnation by the AU, UN, EU and US, says Redie Bereketeab, a researcher at NAI with a special focus on the Horn of Africa.

Heglig is an oil-rich area, accounting for half of Khartoum’s total production thus the strong reaction from the government in Khartoum. Much of the infrastructure has been destroyed in the fighting. It is still not clear whether the damage to the oil-facilities was caused by troops from Juba or by the retaliatory bombardment by Khartoum.
The UN and AU are pushing Khartoum to halt the bombardment, but Sudan is intent on retaliating for the invasion and on forcing Juba to stop supporting the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (an alliance of the SPLM-N and various Darfur rebel groups).
– In Khartoum people are bitter at the peace-agreement. They feel that they are giving and giving, yet South Sudan keeps making new demands. Also, if Khartoum hadn’t agreed to an independent South Sudan, it would never have been internationally recognized, as in the cases of Somalialand and West Sahara. An arbitrary declaration of independence by South Sudan would have been considered to be in breach of AU Charter for violating sacrosanct colonial borders. A unilateral independence would not have been accepted by the AU or, consequently, the UN. Many Sudanese thus feel a sense of betrayal by their brothers in the South Sudan and the international community, says Redie Bereketeab.
He believes that the next weeks, even months, will continue to be tense for Juba and Khartoum. In the long run, however, there is no alternative to negotiations, since the conflict is disastrous economically for both countries.
– Before the occupation of Heglig, South Sudan was perceived as occupying the moral high ground and could count on the unquestioning support of its important friends. The recent strong condemnation by its supporters, including the US, represents a huge diplomatic setback, says Redie Bereketeab.

Seminars on Sudan

NAI along with the Life & Peace Institute have recently hosted a series of four seminars on the subject Sudan: North in the Shadow of the South. The final seminar took place in the Swedish parliament and included a debate among a panel of experts. Many topical issues were addressed during the seminars.
– A common theme stressed by several of the speakers is that sustainable peace is not achievable if the two countries are viewed separately. I hope that Sweden and the other Nordic countries are now prepared for an engagement in Sudan, not only by way of humanitarian aid but also to explore new ways of peacebuilding, says Peter Karlsson Sjögren, executive director of the Life & Peace Institute.

Watch the seminars on film
Seminar 19 April, Stockholm, Sweden: 'The role of civil society in peacebuilding in Sudan today". Speakers: Dr. Yasir Awad, Life & Peace Institute, and Dr. Buthaina Ahmed Elnaiem, University of Juba/Bahri, Sudan. (60 min.)

Seminar 12 April: 'The border between the North and the South: current status and challenges from a peacebuilding perspective'. Speakers: Dr. Øystein Rolandsen, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdulgaffar, Khartoum University. (48 min.)

Seminar 29 March: 'Environment, climate and the Sudanese conflict'. Speakers: Dr. Gunnar Sörbö, CMI Bergen and Dr. Guma Kunda Komey, Martin-Luther-Universität, Halle-Wittenberg. (46 min.). From the seminar series 'Sudan: North in the shadow of the South'.

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