FIGHTING has spread between the armed forces of Sudan and South Sudan beyond the oilpatch and into the towns and villages south of the border, most recently in Aweil where clashes have resulted in about 20 deaths, writes Barry Morgan.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has shored up his military occupation of Heglig town, just across the border in the Republic of Sudan, and has halted output from the oilfield which straddles the disputed boundary.
White Nile Petroleum Operating Company engineers reported minor damage to infrastructure following earlier fighting around the oilfield, while neither side admits to damaging the facilities, to which both claim title.
In a bid to widen a conflict fast descending into civil war, Khartoum attacked across the South Sudan border at Kuek in Upper Nile State, thereby opening up another front and threatening to derail the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Khartoum has suspended talks on post-independence issues such as border demarcation and oil and revenue sharing, prompting the African Union, United Nations and United States to demand Juba withdraw its forces. The international court ruled in 2009 that Heglig fell outside the borders of the disputed territory of Abyei — which itself is subject to separate boundary demarcation debates — and thus came under Khartoum’s jurisdiction in South Kordofan.
Juba insists the area forms part of Unity State according to 1956 regional boundary arrangements.
Kiir told UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon that he will not take orders from the international community, and if Khartoum did not withdraw troops from oil-rich Abyei then he would move to liberate that territory.