The oil-rich border region between Sudan and the new Republic of South Sudan is becoming a battle zone, with reports of burning tanks and plumes of smoke dotting the landscape.
High numbers of fatalities also have been reported, and the catalyst for the bloodshed has been identified as oil money.
Press and intelligence reports from the region say that South Sudan claims the Khartoum regime tried to build an illegal oil pipeline across Sudan’s border into South Sudan’s oil fields.
There have been reports that money and weapons also are pouring into both Sudan and the recently independent south, which have been in conflict for decades because of the Muslim government’s war on the mostly Christian and animist population in the south..
International human rights groups believe Sudan is trying to incite a renewed conflict. International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst Jonathan Racho said that Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir wants to fan the flames of war.
“The government of Sudan wants to stoke violence in the border regions with the south Sudan. Their ultimate goal is to retake oil producing regions from the hands of south Sudanese,” Racho said.
A former CIA station chief who has asked not to be named confirmed that al-Bashir’s interest in the south is connected to the south’s natural resources.
“Basically, Bashir could care less about the South Sudan and its people, except for the oil in the border regions,” the former CIA officer said.
The former station chief said that Bashir’s may be trying to recapture the oil fields.
“This is what he’s planning to retake I think. Without that oil South Sudan is really just another dirt-poor, poverty-stricken African hell-hole. Frankly I was surprised when [Bashir] accepted independence for the region, so that indicates he had some sort of plan then,” the former station chief said.
The station chief said Bashir has some major supporters.
“He has the full support of both the Chinese communists and the Muslim states,” the former CIA officer said.
The former CIA officer said that South Sudan’s supply line isn’t as reliable.
“South Sudan has the dubious ‘support’ of the U.S. and a little more help from Israel. But they really need a couple of billion to build their own pipeline to get their oil out of the country across Ethiopia or Kenya,” the former station chief said.
A second military analyst who has asked not to be named confirmed that Bashir’s regime is after the oil revenue and found a way to get it.
“Sudan was stealing about half of south Sudan’s oil exports for transit ‘fees’ to the port as it went through,” the military analyst said.
“South Sudan halted oil exports until a pipeline through Kenya is completed next year. This move leaves Sudan perilously short of money,” the analyst said.
The government of Sudan has not responded to WND’s request for an interview.
WND reported last week that while Bashir may be after the oil, the Sudanese strongman has another goal in mind – ethnic cleansing.
Bashir says he wants to purify Sudan by driving out the country’s remaining Christians, and aid workers in the Nuba Mountains say that he has begun strategic demonstrations of air power to systematically drive people into the territory of the newly independent South Sudan.
Racho urges Americans act to put pressure on Sudan’s government.
“We urge the international community to step up its pressure on Sudan to stop its violent activities. We are extremely concerned by the escalation of violence on the border regions and the continuous bombing campaign by the government of Sudan,” Racho said.
Bashir’s trouble at home
Christian Solidarity International USA’s president John Eibner said that even though there’s trouble in the south, Bashir has plenty of problems in his own government and with trouble brewing in Khartoum, he is unlikely to want a war with the south.
“Bashir is more concerned about survival in Khartoum than about retaking the South or toppling the Christian government in Juba,” Eibner said.
“He faces strong rebel armies in Darfur and Kordofan. That’s in the North. He also faces a strong, well-established opposition in Khartoum,” Eibner said.
Eibner’s assessment is backed up by reports coming from the fighting in the border region.
A Pakistani press report says that some of the border skirmish casualties bear the JEM insignia, the Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfur rebel force.
Eibner also believes that South Sudan is steadily working to turn the tide against Bashir’s regime.
“Various credible sources confirm that Juba is supporting the rebel armies in the North. Bashir’s mobilization for jihad is aimed at opponents in the North, rather than the South,” Eibner said.
“There is conflict in the South, and Khartoum probably does provide support. But most of it is inter-tribal and lacks a national political agenda,” Eibner said.
“There is no strong political opposition in Juba that stands any chance of overthrowing Salva Kiir and the SPLA, at least in the short-term,” Eibner said.
Eibner added that a major reason for the south’s security is illustrated by the recent developments that allowed the formation of the new South Sudan.
“Khartoum failed to conquer the South during more than two decades of civil war. It is even less likely that Khartoum would be able to retake the South, now that the South has an internationally recognized government,” Eibner said.
“There’s also a very well financed regular army, thanks to the CPA which Bashir signed and largely respected. The SPLA has succeeded in pushing war out of the South into the North,” Eibner said. “That is where the main theater of war is.”
Then there’s the Lord’s Resistance Army
However, warfare in South Sudan comes from another source. The south is plagued by constant incursions from the extra-national guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Global Response Network Executive Director Tom Zurowski said that the LRA regularly makes raids into the south.
“The LRA has been working in South Sudan for years. They have come through our village many times and have abducted children and have even raped women,” Zurowski said.
“One of the girls from the school we were renovating was taken as one of Joseph Kony’s 42 wives,” Zurowski said.
The Lord’s Resistance Army formerly operated in Uganda, but Zurowski said the group spends most of its time in Congo and South Sudan.
“They are in Uganda the least and Congo the most. The North drops weapons to them in the South. LRA teams walk to where the weapons will be dropped and then carry them back to Congo,” Zurowski said.
The website GlobalSecurity.org affirms that the LRA is no longer a major player in Uganda.
The Global Security fact sheet documents the LRA’s lessened power in a report critical of the U.S. group Invisible Children, which has drawn international attention through a viral video viewed more than 100 million times that calls for targeting LRA leader Joseph Kony
The reports’ criticism included “implying that Joseph Kony and the LRA were still operating in Uganda, which they are not, implying that the LRA is still a large organization, which it is not.”
Even with diminishing power, Zurowski said the LRA still threatens South Sudan.
“They have murdered untold numbers of South Sudanese and displaced thousands and thousands. We are currently resettling 465 families that were raided 2 1/2 years ago. 11 people were cut to pieces and all their homes were burned,” Zurowski said.
Zurowski said his group is returning to work in the south in April to dig a well to supply fresh water in a South Sudan village.