As hostilities break out between Sudan and South Sudan it might be worthwhile to state that, whatever the historical background to this conflict prior to the 2005 Peace Treaty, South Sudan has seized control of Sudan’s biggest oilfield, near the town of Heglig. Moreover, whether Juba likes it or not, a tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on the 22 July 2009 that Heglig was under Khartoum’s jurisdiction. Therefore, while this and other issues such as, how the national debt and the oil revenue should be divided, how 700,000 people have been deprived of their nationality in the north because of family links to the south or religious affiliation, and, of course, border issues, might not always be resolved in Juba’s favour, the fact is the South Sudanese army should withdraw its forces unconditionally.
Of course, when we consider the Omar al-Bahir government’s past and current contempt for international law, we might realise that, for that reason alone, they might not feel compelled to do so. However, and more importantly, despite the real issues of concern between Khartoum and Juba, it is also unrealistic when we consider some of the other factors in the equation. In doing that, it is interesting to read how this breach of international law is being reported in the western media. For instance, we have the New York Times reporting that “South Sudanese officials said on Wednesday that their forces had taken control of a contested town in an oil-rich area along the border with Sudan” with nobody asking who is contesting the town? Of course, it is only the government in Juba that is actually contesting the town and in doing so disputing an international agreement which it is a signatory to. Moreover, although this oversight would appear to be redressed by a statement from U.S. State Department that “it is critical that leaders in both countries immediately exercise maximum restraint,” the fact remains that a modicum of pressure from Washington on Juba could lead to it withdrawing its forces from Heglig before the conflict escalates further.
Therefore, the question we should be asking is what does Washington in fact want? A rhetorical question, of course and when we realise that at the beginning of this year “Washington added South Sudan to the list of countries eligible to receive US weapons and defence assistance”, while also sending military advisors to Juba, the answer is at least implied. A region which can contribute to ensuring energy security beyond the Middle East and where combating Islamic terrorism can provide the pretext for securing those resources, cannot be allowed to remain peaceful. At least, not as long as Khartoum insists on sharing the cake with China in particular. Finally, if you have any doubts as to what this is really about and the nature of the hypocrisy that is sending hundreds of thousands to their deaths, then you might want to click on the following this link.