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War Comes Closer in Sudan

Last summer’s creation of South Sudan, widely hailed as a victory for the humanitarian lobby, is looking less successful by the day. First, there was a series of minor skirmishes along the disputed border with Sudan; then this escalated into Sudanese raids on Southern towns. Last week, things reached a new and even more critical stage, when South Sudanese troops occupied the disputed oil town of Heglig, responsible for nearly half of the north’s oil production.

Now the North is striking back. Khartoum issued a unanimous resolution declaring the government of South Sudan an “enemy of Sudan” and calling for a complete overthrow of the government in Juba, the WSJ reports. This resolution has been backed by government officials:

Mr. Abdelaty, the Sudan government spokesman, said Khartoum is no longer fighting to dislodge South Sudan from Heglig and “will go all the way to Juba,” the Southern capital. “We shall mobilize all our resources to fight SPLM until we topple their government,” he said.

It has been less than a year since the separation of South Sudan from its northern neighbor, and already it appears very likely that war will break out again. There were good reasons for the separation, and one hopes that the new state can overcome its rocky start the legacy of many years of war.

But the latest outbreak of hostility looks more like a window into the future of a troubled continent than the last gasp of a painful past. The contested frontier between the two Sudans roughly corresponds to the continent’s volatile Christian-Muslim divide, reflects bitter tribal differences and involves the kind of rich resources behind conflicts in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The humanitarian crowd may need to face up the reality that some problems just don’t have solutions, at least not in the short term. I hope I am wrong, but the two Sudans may need to do some more fighting before they are ready for peace. The prospect is a ghastly one, not least because of the toll a new round of war will impose on the weakest and most vulnerable.

Via Meadia has a profound respect and admiration for those working to keep the peace in this and other world hotspots, and we wish them every success. But when it comes to the level of planning, VM suggests that the world should operate under the assumption that these efforts will fail. It’s better to be prepared for a humanitarian catastrophe that doesn’t occur than to be unready for a disaster that actually comes.

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  • Anthony

    “…looks more like a window into the future of a troubled continent….” In a nutshell that phrase sums it up.

  • Luke Lea

    “The humanitarian crowd may need to face up the reality that some problems just don’t have solutions,”

    Yes, it is terribly sad. Mightn’t the same logic apply to large swaths of Asia?

  • Luke Lea

    Or we could take the long view: it will take generations. And they may have to do it mostly on their own. Family structure (outbreeding) may be key:

    tribes site:

  • Luke Lea

    that link was supposed to be:

  • Mark in Texas

    Some problems have solutions but they are violent solutions. Just because it is not nice doesn’t mean it is not true.

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