Crisis Intensifies Between Sudan, South Sudan

The crisis between Sudan and South Sudan is heating up, with the north branding its recently-independent southern neighbor "the enemy." This follows two weeks of bitter fighting in the disputed, oil-producing border area between the two Sudans.

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The crisis between Sudan and South Sudan has intensified with the north branding its recently independent southern neighbor the enemy. This follows two weeks of bitter fighting in the disputed oil-producing border area between the two Sudans. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is monitoring developments from her base in Dakar, Senegal and joins us now.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Good morning, Ofeibea.


NEARY: Now, Ofeibea, just bring us up to date on what is happening in Sudan and South Sudan right now.

QUIST-ARCTON: Let's just take the recent past. Now, we're talking about the Sudanese air force apparently bombing South Sudan positions on its territory. Sudan says it is bombing rebels that South Sudan is harboring.

Now, on the other side, South Sudan has occupied Sudan's largest oil field and both the United Nations and the African Union are telling South Sudan to withdraw its forces. But South Sudan says it's not taking orders from anyone until Sudan stops its air force bombing - aerial bombardments that it says is killing civilians and most recently apparently hit a U.N. peacekeeping base.

NEARY: Well, what exactly started this latest fighting?

QUIST-ARCTON: Oil. The main problem between the two Sudans, and we're talking about South Sudan that seceded from the north in July last year, has been this unresolved issue of A, oil; 2, borders; and 3, identity and citizenship. But it's the issue of oil that has really flared up of late.

A couple of months ago, South Sudan said it was going to stop oil production because Sudan in the north was overcharging for use of the transit line that exports South Sudan's oil from Port Sudan in Sudan. Sudan says no, this is a market price. And that is what we're going to charge.

NEARY: What are the African Union and the U.N. saying about this conflict between the two Sudans?

QUIST-ARCTON: That both sides should stop before the civil war is reignited between the two Sudans. And we're talking about a civil war that was Africa's longest. And that was only resolved with a peace deal that the U.S. helped to broker in 2005. So we're talking only seven years of relative peace between the two Sudans - a referendum that chose independence for South Sudan. And now within months, September, after independence in July, the trouble and the fighting and the saber rattling started again.

NEARY: So now that South Sudan is an independent country, is this, technically speaking, still a civil war or something else?

QUIST-ARCTON: Now it would be war - all-out war between two neighbors. The real issue is that Sudan relied for its economy on the oil that was produced mainly in the south. But since its secession, separation, independence, of course most of the oil fields now lie in South Sudan. And I think that is what both sides just can't used to.

It's an intractable problem, but it is one that can only be politically negotiated and resolved, say the U.N., the African Union, the White House and everyone else. But it seems that the two Sudans are deaf to any sort of mediation, any sort of negotiation at the moment.

NEARY: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Dakar.

Thanks so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.


NEARY: This is NPR News.

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