The prospect of a peaceful secession of South Sudan met with an ignominious end yesterday when Omar al-Basheer declared war on South Sudan, vowing to bring down the government in Juba. This is the culmination of one year of off again, on again sporadic attacks from Sudan. The latest round of hostilities, started by an aerial bombardment from Sudan, resulted in South Sudan occupying the Heglig oil fields, that lie on the Sudanese side of an internationally accepted border which neither side recognizes.
South Sudan has had wobbly first year, but it has made some friends. They have maintained close military and trade ties with Museveni in Uganda, as well as proposed a pipeline through Kenya. In addition, South Sudan has long funded JEM in Darfur, who were witnessed fighting alongside South Sudanese fighters On the other side of the unrecognized
border, Basheer grows ever more isolated. He still has an arrest warrant
issued by the Hague for war crimes in Darfur hanging over his head, and
he must find a way to cover the cost of a bloated security and civil
service after losing 80% of Sudan's revenue to the secessionists. As
horrific as the civil war may have been, Basheer may have good reason to
restart hostilities. The Sudanese can field substantially more men, tanks, and aircraft than the South Sudanese. And with an ever smaller revenue stream, Basheer may believe that now is his last chance to retake those oil fields Sudan lost to the partition.
Sudan's previous use of militias as proxies and the prospect of Ugandan and Kenyan involvement may very well turn a war in the Sudan into a larger, regional conflict. While there remains a sliver of hope for a last minute peace deal between Khartoum and Juba, the international community shouldn't hold their breath.