Conflict Simmers Between Sundan, South Sudan

South Sudan is the country that voted to break away from Sudan. They've been jostling for control of border zones, including oil fields. And just as the two sides were sitting down to negotiate, fighting broke out.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Diplomats are straining to prevent a full-scale war between the two Sudans. South Sudan is the country that voted to break away from Sudan. They've been jostling for control of border zones, including oil fields. And just as the two sides were sitting down to negotiate, fighting broke out. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

Hi, Ofeibea.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings. Greetings from this fairly new capital in recently independent South Sudan.

INSKEEP: Yes, indeed. And who's crossing the border there. Whose troops are crossing the border and why?

QUIST-ARCTON: At the moment, we haven't heard of troops crossing borders anymore. That was last month when South Sudanese troops crossed and took the north main oilfield. South Sudan was told to remove its troops, which it says it did, although Sudan says its army drove them out - chased the South out.

I was told yesterday, by a South Sudanese military general, that Sudan's air force is continuing to bomb targets in the south. And General Mac Paul says Panakuach has been the latest to suffer air strikes. They say that Sudan is continuing its aerial bombardments despite being told by the United Nations, the White House, the African Union and everybody else that it must stop.

INSKEEP: OK. So everyone's telling them to stop, but it sounds like from what you're hearing, that they're not. How is this affecting their economies? How is this affecting life?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, neither Sudan nor South Sudan can afford another war. When they were one country, they had a long civil war that ended in 2005 in a peace deal the U.S. helped to mediate. But now, both economies, which are dependent on oil, don't really have oil to depend on.

South Sudan shut down production in January, saying that Sudan was asking for astronomical fees for use of its pipeline, so it said no. Sudan, of course, suffers if it has no transit fees from the South. And it now has much less oil than it did when this was one nation, because most of the rich oil fields lie this side of the border in South Sudan.

So many people are saying, you know, you have got to stop this war-like rhetoric, because neither country, neither economy, can afford it.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also some concern here, not just about energy, but about people? Sudan has ordered some South Sudanese to leave Sudan's territory. What's happening there?

Steve, what we're hearing is that between 15,000 and 20,000 South Sudanese who are in a town called Kosti in Sudan have been waiting for months to take barges, on the Nile, back home to South Sudan, a country many hardly know, but they're no longer welcome in the North.

And this is another of the unresolved issues since South Sudan's independence last July - borders, oil and a case of citizenship. But while there's talk of war, whilst each side is trading accusations with the others, there doesn't look as if there's going to be full peace between the two nations until these issues are sorted out. But everyone's saying that is the priority, leave war aside and try and discuss the issues that will allow you to live peacefully, side by side.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking with us from South Sudan's capital, Juba.

Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

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