Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 24, 2011

War Preliminaries In Sudan

There is a bit of a war going on around the town of Abyei in Sudan. The (U.S. engineered) partition of Sudan into North and South is somewhat agreed upon but there is no decision on who will own the town and area of Abyei and the accompanying oil fields. Forces from both sides are currently not permitted in the area.

The UN has an official role in supervising the partition and has peacekeepers on the ground. But its real role is somewhat weird. Back in March the South asked UN peacekeepers to stay away while it was killing some northern rebels and the UN did stay away:

The southern military has told the U.N. that more civilians could be put in harm's way because of the military campaign, but according to internal U.N. security reports, the U.N. mission has agreed to follow a request from the southern military to suspend operations in the contested area inside Jonglei.

The South attacked several rebel sites, killing whoever all along, while the UN forces stood down.

Then last week southern troops attacked Abyei as well as UN forces:

According to the U.N., southern troops started the clash Thursday by attacking a column of northern troops and U.N. troops peacekeepers who moving away from Abyei. The U.N. condemned the attack. A U.N. spokeswoman, Hua Jiang, said Tuesday that no U.N. troops were killed.

On Saturday some northern troops moved into Abyei and some hundred of them were killed while they chased away the southern forces. The northern troops pulled back again. Then looters took over. Yesterday the UN asked the North to come back and to stop the looting:

The U.N. mission in Sudan said gunmen were burning and looting in Abyei town on Monday and called on the Sudanese Armed Forces to intervene to "stop these criminal acts."

Then again the UNSC says those northern troops shall leave:

France, which currently holds the presidency of the UN security council, called on the northern army to withdraw immediately.

Which is it? Stop the looting or leave?

My hunch on this is that the UN feet on the ground do know that the South is the real troublemaker here, but that the "western" parts in the UN security council are trying to put the blame for the fighting on the North.

The UN Security Council is currently visiting in South Sudan and it had planned to go to Abyei on Monday. That was of course canceled.

But why did this escalation happen during the UNSC visit?

Inner City Press sees some similarities to the Georgian attack on Russian troops that led to a short war. I agree. The South seems to have provoked this spat in the hope, partly fulfilled, that the "west" would press the North for it in spite of the facts reported by the UN folks on the ground.

Anyway. All of this is just foreplay, information warfare for the real war that will soon come back to Sudan. You will remember that back in 2008 some hundred tanks and many other weapons were delivered to the South. Some of them, previously pirated, under U.S. Navy protection.

When those tanks are seen in action, the real war will have begun.

Posted by b on May 24, 2011 at 02:38 PM | Permalink


Interesting piece and timely. Either on the BBC or NPR's All Things Considered, mention was made of military action in the contested Sudan region, and the implication was that it was the north attacking the south. Thanks much for the additional info.

Posted by: jawbone | May 25, 2011 8:52:20 AM | 1

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