The ongoing clashes in Sudan between the northern Sudanese forces’ and the pro-south supporters have now escalated to an extent that the US President Barack Obama has called on both sides to show restraint.
Urging both the north and the south to “live up to their responsibilities” in order (to avoid another civil war, President Obama may have been hoping to defuse tension. However, too much is at stake for mere external calls for peace.
Even as Southern Sudans fate were sealed by the referendum — granting it almost 100 per cent consensus to become independent — that Khartoum grudgingly accepted, every day that draws closer to the independence date in July is proving increasingly unnerving. The two sides are now engaged in fighting to wrest control from the other, in one contentious part or the other.
The oil rich region of South Kordofan is witness to the bitter fighting that has been unleashed. Bordering the areas that will secede as South Sudan in July, it hosts precious oil reserves and more importantly groups that are supportive of the South. Allegedly, Khartoum has unleashed a campaign of intimidation against the pro-south groups and is indulging in ethnic killings, aerial bombardments and forced displacements.
With South Kordofan now in the line of fire, one fears a reversal of the recent truce that was reached between the two sides after violent clashes in Abyei whose own quest for independence was sidelined for the present as the independence for southern Sudan topped the agenda. Abyei itself is a disputed part of Sudan that is claimed by both the North and the South. Ironically, most of Sudans oil reserves fall to the share of the South. Besides, sharing of oil revenues, borders and the shift of people from one side to another are issues that require more than talks. A strong commitment, impartiality and concerted efforts are needed to reach amicable solutions without relapsing into violence and instability. But given the propensity to unleash force at every pretext it is a bigger challenge than envisaged. Still there is hope considering how Sudan managed to break the violent stranglehold of civil war that mercifully ended with the 2005 UN brokered agreement.
The division of Sudan even though long anticipated was not going to be easy. Therefore the preparedness to meet any hurdles should have been in place, especially in areas that were high risk in terms of violence. It is hoped that the Sudanese leadership does not fall into the trap of delusion and wreck the fragile stability in the country. What has been decided by the Sudanese people must be honoured in spirit and letter with the least amount of violence.