Two Sudans in crisis

From the March-April 2012 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

Two Sudans in crisis

Since South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011, multiple conflicts erupted between the two Su­dans and within each country. Enormous human suffer­ing resulted, with hundreds if not thousands of deaths, rapes, forced displacement and increasing hunger.

A central thread of the conflict is the struggle over oil. South Sudan has most of the oilfields, while Sudan has the oil pipeline to reach the outside world. Billions of dollars are at stake, with Sudan seeking high rev­enues to transport the oil, which South Sudan refuses to pay. South Sudan has stopped pumping oil. Both countries depend on oil revenue. But the conflict over oil should not obscure the fact that the crucial struggle has been the right of self-determination of the Suda­nese people, South and North.

The peoples of what is now South Sudan waged a decades-long struggle for the right to determine their future. They now have a country of their own, which re­mains under the threat of attack from Sudan. Recently, aircraft from Sudan bombed a South Sudan camp of displaced civilians.

Within South Sudan itself, there have been clashes of rival ethnic groups. Thousands have been killed in disputes over cattle. These are disputes of long stand­ing, which had been somewhat diminished during the struggle for independence.

The most egregious events are within Sudan. The military under Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir wages wars upon its own people. There are simulta­neous rebellions in Darfur, in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, and in Blue Nile State against al-Bashir’s genocidal rule. Thousands of civilians have been murdered, more thousands forced to flee their homes; rape has become a common weapon of war.

There is an ethnic dimension to these horrors, with al-Bashir seeking to make an Arab-Black di­vide the determinant. Any who oppose his dictatorial rule and seek self-determination are met with repres­sion. Recently, hundreds of students at the University of Khartoum who had protested against unemployment and rising prices were beaten and arrested in pre-dawn police raids.

—E.W.

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