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South Sudan/Sudan clash

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In the run-up to the referendum of the independence of the then Southern Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir promised that if the southerners vote yes, Khartoum would be the first country to open a diplomatic mission. Bashir kept his word. On the solemn day of the independence of South Sudan last July, Bashir watched his country's flag lowered and folded, while that of Africa's newest independent and 54th state was unfurled amidst wild jubilation in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Not many people believed that Khartoum would summon the necessary political will to let its southern part go.
From the day of the formal divorce of the Sudans, there were obvious signs that hard times and difficult relationships await both Khartoum and Juba. But it was generally believed and we shared in the optimism that in spite of difficulties ahead, the worst is behind the two neighbours. How wrong we all were. There were outstanding issues of borders and resource control to be tackled, but it was generally believed that both countries will maximise the international goodwill following what appeared like a peaceful divorce after several stormy years of fighting.
We particularly thought that South Sudan which at independence last year had barely 20 kilometres of tarred road in its capital, Juba, would be occupied with the challenge of giving its people better lease of life, after almost five decades of conflict. That is why we at the Peoples Daily were shocked when the South Sudan forces advanced deep into Sudan on April 10, capturing its most valuable oil field in Heglig in the states of southern Kordofan. The claim by South Sudan's army spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer that "Heglig is deep inside our border," seemed an outright provocation.
The International Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has ruled clearly in 2009 that the oil field Heglig is in the Sudanese state of southern Kordofan. For once, South Sudan and its government in Juba got the usual international tongue lashing that is usually reserved for Khartoum. Both the African Union and the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon chided Juba for the provocations and urged it to quickly withdraw its forces. Khartoum, which seemed to lay in wait for any such foolish provocation by its new neighbour, went blush with propaganda and military blitz.
While Juba claimed that its forces had withdrawn from the misadventure, Khartoum insists that they were flushed out by superior fire power. And while the call for a peaceful settlement and return to negotiation was pouring in torrents from the US, European Union, China and others, Khartoum has said that there will be no talk or ceasefire until Juba recants its outlandish claims. Khartoum’s paranoia is understandable. At independence last year most of the oil fields in the former Sudan went to the South, leaving Khartoum with only a measure.
However, we believe that a return to war will be bad for both Sudans, especially for their long suffering peoples. What the clash means now, is that both sides should accelerate negotiations on all outstanding issues agreed upon after the independence of South Sudan. However, we warn in strong terms that the South Sudan government or military reconsider such adventure as the April 10 incursion into its neighbour's territory and desist forthwith.
We had thought that Juba would be too busy with reconstruction and rebuilding the lives of its people after an on-and-off war for more than 50 years. We also urge Khartoum to exercise restraint and seize the international opinion in its favour to promote a more constructive engagement with the rest of the world.

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