The United Nations on Wednesday called for a ceasefire between Sudan and Southern Sudan as fighting intensified along what will be an international border on July 9, when the south’s separation becomes official.
Tensions have escalated for the past several days in Southern Kordofan, which lies along the border of the north and the south. Southern Kordofan is the north’s only oil-producing state and was a key battleground during the civil war between 1983 and 2005.
Fighting broke out in Kadugli, the capital of the state, well as in outlying areas, causing more than 7,000 civilians to flee and seek refuge.
Georg Charpentier, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said that an immediate ceasefire is needed to protect civilians and allow humanitarian organizations to provide emergency relief.
On Tuesday, the U.N. said that at least six people were killed in the capital, four of which were police officers and two were civilians. However, as humanitarian organizations on the ground have been trying to assess the exact number of affected people in Kadugli and elsewhere, ongoing fighting has been hindering their efforts, according to a statement from the U.N. Mission in Sudan.
Last month, violence and looting in Abyei, a town contested by both north and south, displaced about 100,000 people, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency.
On Tuesday, Southern Sudan accused the north of deliberately closing all commercial routes between the two countries, reported the Sudan Tribune.
“The government in Khartoum has directed its security apparatus and other armed groups to intensify monitoring of commercial activities along the border areas,” Stephen Dhieu Dau, minister of Trade and Industry in Southern Sudan, told the Tribune. “This has resulted into stoppage of vehicles that are carrying goods including food items to the south.”
End May Be Near for al-Bashir
In 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity, and murder, for perpetrating the genocide in Darfur. The ICC has issued two separate warrants since for his arrest.
On Wednesday, the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the U.N. Security Council that al-Bashir continues to commit crimes against humanity and that he and allies refuse to admit their role in the region’s carnage.
They “continue denying the crimes, attributing them to other factors (such as inter-tribal clashes), diverting attention by publicizing ceasefire agreements that are violated as soon as they are announced, and finally proposing the creation of special courts to conduct investigations that will never start,” Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.
Associate Professor of Economics at Santa Clara University in California Michael Kevane said that al-Bashir’s ouster after the succession is a distinct possibility.
Kevane said that al-Bashir’s merit in the eyes of the north sharply decreased since his indictment and is now in danger of disappearing after the south succeeds, leaving al-Bashir vulnerable to an overthrow.
“In some sense, the one major virtue of al-Bashir in terms of the north is that he was capable as a dictator of inflicting significant pain on the south, the same way he did to Darfur,” says Kevane.
But with southern independence, al-Bashir’s one virtue “is now rendered useless. And so we might see a lot of jockeying within the north to oust al-Bashir,” Kevane said.
Youth in northern Sudan are very aware of the Arab Spring revolts surging across North Africa, Kevane said. “At present, the situation in Khartoum with the urban street movement is the most significant wildcard.”
A youth movement, he said, could easily turn into another civil war and/or a movement to oust al-Bashir.
Kevane said that the battles in Abyei and Southern Kordofan are border demarcation tussles, with the north trying to establish its borders as far south as it can.
Three areas, Abyei, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan, are slated to have their own referendums to decide which country they will belong to after this month.
The allocation of natural resources, including water, gold mines, and oil, are key topics of negotiation between the northern capital of Khartoum and the southern capital, Juba.
Khartoum announced Wednesday that it reached an agreement with the south that both sides will lobby foreign creditors to relieve the country’s $38 billion debt and that both will accept responsibility for the debt if relief is not granted, according to a report by Bloomberg.
After succession, the new country of Southern Sudan will have over 70 percent of the Sudan region’s oil reserves, but the current export pipeline runs through the north, giving the north leverage to bargain for a portion of oil revenue.
Kevane said that currently invested oil companies, among which China is a major player, are aiming to keep their interests intact and are pursuing relations with both governments in Sudan.