Sudan: The North Invades The South

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May 27, 2011: In the wake of the national government’s (Northern Sudan) attack on the Abyei region (May 21), Southern Sudan is calling on the UN for help. Southern Sudan’s leaders have said that the south will not go to war with the north, even though the north has committed an act of war. The southerners are reminding everyone that the last civil war left two million people dead. At least 40,000 southerners have fled from the latest northern attacks. Meanwhile, the north is taking the position that it is enforcing the 1956 border and Southern Sudanese forces must withdraw. The north says that Sudan People's Liberation Army (Southern Sudan’s military forces) are illegally occupying northern territory. At this point in time it appears the northern invasion was well planned. The north had a cover story, too. The north alleged that a southern military unit ambushed a northern unit on May 19 and killed 22 northern soldiers. The south contends the north began skirmishing, on May 19,  with southern forces in the region. On May 20 the skirmishing intensified, then on May 21 the north entered Abyei in overwhelming force. Logistics on both sides is lousy, so moving 5,000 troops into Abyei in two days indicates the north was well prepared. Northern units used combined arms tactics. Attacking northern units had artillery support and some air support. The rapid employment of armored vehicles (tanks) to attack villages in Abyei is another indicator that the north was prepared to take advantage of a provocation –either one committed by the south or a false provocation arranged by the north. Under any circumstances, the attack on Abyei demonstrates that the north is willing to go to war to assert control over border oil fields. Diplomatic solutions will be tough to come by. The attack took place just two weeks after an agreement was reached between the north and south to reduce military forces in the area. The north has a much stronger military than the south and certainly has the edge in offensive capabilities. A southern counter-stroke would take time to organize. Meanwhile, northern forces can threaten the southern oil fields with air and artillery attack.

May 25, 2011: Four UNMIS (UN Mission in Sudan) helicopters received fire from Misseriya tribal militia in the Abyei region. The Misseriya are a pro-north semi-nomadic tribe, and they insisted the UN charges were false. The UN has called upon northern forces to withdraw from the Abyei region.

The US said that several billion dollars in aid and debt relief promised to Sudan (Northern Sudan) may not be delivered because of the northern attack on Abyei and its occupation of the region.

May 24, 2011: Northern Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, said that he will not order northern military units to withdraw from Abyei. Bashir said that Abyei belongs to the north and the north intends to keep it. A northern government spokesman denied reports that the north was bombing civilian areas in the disputed region. Southern Sudan also claims Abyei.

May 22, 2011: Southern Sudan denounced Northern Sudan for committing an act of war by invading the disputed Abyei region. The south claims that 5,000 northern soldiers attacked on May 21 and left many civilians and southern soldiers dead. Some 20,000 people immediately fled the northern attack and have moved to the town of Agok (45 kilometers south of Abyei). The south claimed that the north began skirmishing on May 19 and conducted an air raid on Abyei prior to the main ground assault on May 21. Northern forces have reportedly advanced to Abyei’s southern boundary. This puts the northern forces in position to threaten some of the south’s biggest oil fields.

May 21, 2011: Northern and Southern Sudan both report heavy fighting in the Abyei region. UN observers confirm heavy artillery fire struck southern forces near the town of Abyei on May 20. There was also an air attack on a bridge in Abyei. The south does not have an air force. Northern forces have used tanks to attack at least four villages in Abyei.

May 19, 2011: Northern Sudan claimed that southern forces attacked a northern convoy in the Abyei region. The convoy had a UN escort. Southern Sudan denied the allegation.

May 18, 2011: UNAMID (UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur) claimed that Sudan (northern Sudan) conducted an air strike in the Sukamir area of North Darfur state. Sukamir is 100 kilometers north of the town of El Fasher. This is the second reported air strike in the area within three days. There were no reports on casualties.

May 16, 2011: Southern Sudan has officially rejected the victory of Northern Sudan's ruling National Congress Party's (NCP) gubernatorial candidate in an election in South Kordofan state. The pro-north candidate allegedly defeated the pro-south candidate (a member of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement party) by over 6,000 votes. The state is a region that both north and south claim, and it borders on the Abyei region. The NCP candidate, Ahmed Haroun, is currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

 

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