Not too late to halt Sudan’s new civil war

Sudan's Khartoum government has been accused of an "act of war" for its attack on the key border town of Abyei. Sudan tanks have rolled into the town. Here, Sudan tanks are displayed in a parade through the streets of Khartoum.

Since the eve of South Sudan’s independence this July renewed conflicts have erupted all along the shared north-south border threatening to plunge north Sudan into a new round of full-on civil war.

A brief report published this week by the International Crisis Group, a think tank that works to defuse conflicts before they explode, says that while the spread of fighting is a concern it is not too late to stop it.

Weeks ahead of South Sudan’s 9 July secession fighting erupted in the disputed region of Abyei on the border between north and south.

Then, as southerners celebrated in their new capital Juba, bombing and ground attacks tore through South Kordorfan, an oil-producing state next to Abyei.

Shortly afterwards the simmering conflict in the western region of Darfur reignited with Darfuri rebels reportedly linking up with those in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains.

This month Khartoum launched an offensive in Blue Nile state, adjoining South Kordofan, and there are fears that tensions in the east may also turn violent.

In ‘Stopping the Spread of Sudan’s New Civil War’ the ICG points out that Khartoum, under President Omar al-Bashir, is the aggressor. Having seen where dissent and rebellion led with the independence of the south Bashir is eager to squash pretenders to his rule rather than negotiate with them.

But Bashir’s uncompromising hardline stance is pushing the various rebels together and the groups are busy trying to launch a unified challenge to Khartoum.

The ICG calls for concerted international diplomatic efforts to ensure peace and warns the consequences of failure are dire.

“There is a real possibility of a new era of protracted civil war in Sudan if key international actors are not able to contain it. Fighting could quickly expand both within Sudan and spill over into South Sudan,” says the report.

“What is urgently needed is a new approach -- supported by the key external actors, including friends of Khartoum -- to deal with the internal crisis in the North.”