Weeks of fighting over a major disputed oil field along an ill-defined border between Sudan and the world’s newest nation, the breakaway Republic of South Sudan, has escalated to the brink of war. Welcome to Africa’s newest conflict, something the Obama administration worked hard to prevent.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir — an indicted war criminal dating to his role in the Darfur genocide – told troops in the border state of South Kordofan on Thursday that they won’t stop with just taking back the disputed oil field, but “in a final lesson of force” his troops “shall go all the way to Juba,” South Sudan’s capital, according to the Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, Sudan’s parliament declared that South Sudan’s government “must be fought until it is defeated.”
Suffice to say, the situation is chaotic. Recent weeks saw South Sudanese troops occupy the oil field, called the Heglig, which both sides say is part of their territory (more on this later). Following the occupation, reports began appearing of air and ground attacks continuing into Thursday by Sudan’s military against South Sudanese troops entrenched around the oil facilities. According to the latest reports, the South beat back four attacks this week by Sudanese troops along the border. Philip Aguer, military spokesperson for South Sudan, said the army was “still in its positions.”