Recently I received this email from Beny Ngor Chol, one of the subjects of Courageous Journey. It serves here as an introduction to the tragic events now occurring in the disputes over sharing oil revenue and defining the border between north and south.
Beny from Unity State
I have been very busy with what is happening in my hometown back in Unity State (Panrieng), South Sudan.The Sudan government has been bombarding the civilians in our homes and attacking our military base at the South Sudan border which has led to the fighting that has occurred along the two countries borders. However, the international community is blaming the victim (South Sudan’s government and its people) instead of blaming the Sudan government. They are asking our troops to withdraw from the oil area moving southward despite the fact that the oil area is within South Sudan’s border. This has made me question the stand of the international community in regard to Sudan’s long [north/south] civil war that has taken millions of civilian lives and displaced over 4 million people.
I will attempt to trace the major points of the conflict in recent days, although the disagreements and attacks from the north have been on-going since the Republic of South Sudan became a separate nation 9 July, 2011.
Earlier in the month negotiations between the two countries that were being mediated by the African Union broke down in Ethiopia.
April 20, 2012: In a video message at the White House, President Obama urged Sudan and South Sudan to end their fighting and begin negotiations to settle the intensifying conflict. He put part of the onus on the government of Sudan, which he said “must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments.”
“Likewise,” Obama said, “South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and it must cease its military actions across the border.”
The United States, the United Nations and the African Union condemned South Sudan for sending troops into Heglig earlier this month and driving the two countries to the brink of war. But South Sudan has reason to believe that Heglig (the area that they call Pantho) is legitimately part of South Sudan’s Unity State, per the 1/1/1956 agreement.
April 16, 2012: The South Sudanese communities around the world, known as the South Sudan Volunteer Initiative (SSVI)* have sent a petition with over 1000 signatures to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, with copies to the United States and others in the international community, calling for stopping “the ongoing carnage being committed by Sudan and facilitate an immediate return to the negotiation table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.”
The petition further states, “…we find it shocking to see the level in which [Sudan] has been able to easily deceive the international community on the current crisis….This redrawing of the map in South Sudan by the regime in Khartoum as a result of oil discovery is clearly documented, and thus the reason for the continuous attack on South Sudan, an apparent campaign to annex South Sudan’s oil producing state of Unity to the North.”
The document lists acts of atrocities committed by the Khartoum government against South Sudan, including a raid and looting of Vice President Riek Machar’s home in which seven of his relatives were rounded up and taken to an unknown location. The international community is urged to “act now.”
April 29, 2012: Sudan declared a state of emergency on Sunday along much of its border with South Sudan as the momentum toward all-out war continues to build after weeks of clashes over disputed areas and oil. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s decree gives authorities in the border areas wide powers to make arrests and set up special courts. It was issued a day after Sudan detained three foreigners and a South Sudanese near the border and accused them of spying for South Sudan, a charge the South denies.
South Sudan, meanwhile, said Sunday that it would remove its security forces from the contested region of Abyei in response to demands from the African Union and the United Nations Security Council. “We are not occupying any contested area,” said South Sudan’s minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
But reports of fighting continued through the weekend. On Saturday, Sudanese aircraft bombed Panakuach, a town near the border in Unity State, Mr. Benjamin said. And on Sunday, South Sudan’s army said clashes with what it called a militia group backed by Sudan left 21 people dead in Malakal, near the border. (Information by ISMA’IL KUSHKUSH and JOSH KRON/New York Times.)
May 2. A note from Beny who is a leader in the SSVI sent me this note today: “The task force committee for this group will hold the first meeting this week end in Kansas City, Mo stay tuned for the outcome.”