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Sudan and South Sudan are on the brink, again

Sudan and South Sudan leaders meet at a regional summit in Addis Ababa amid oil-management tensions.
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A view of the new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on January 24, 2012. The AU headquarters was built and fully funded by the Chinese government at a cost of $200 million. The building will host this year’s AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital, which brings together heads of state from across the continent. The towering building – Addis Ababa’s tallest – symbolizes China’s strengthening ties with Africa, a major source of foreign investment from China. (Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The leaders of the two Sudans are meeting at a regional summit in Addis Ababa today amid growing tensions between the neighbors over oil.

Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, and Omar al-Bashir, the leader of Sudan, were bitter civil-war enemies. Although the outright fighting is over, the suspicion and enmity are very much alive.

This week, South Sudan began shutting down its oil installations in protest over Khartoum confiscating southern oil, a move it says was to reclaim funds owed by Juba.

More from GlobalPost: South Sudan charges that Sudan steals oil

In the run up to the South's official independence last July, most analysts guessed that Sudan's shared oil would bind them together. Most of the oil lies in the south, but all the pipelines and refineries are in the north.

The two need each other, so the argument went. Instead it has proved increasingly divisive.

Earlier this week South Sudan struck a deal with Kenya to build a new pipeline to export the oil southwards, a move that might offer the south a way around the north. That has angered Khartoum. It's not quite make-or-break at the Addis talks, but fears of a return to conflict are growing.

More from GlobalPost: South Sudan, Kenya agree to oil pipeline

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South Sudan, Kenya agree to oil pipeline

The pipeline would link South Sudan’s oil fields to the port and should be ready in the next year, the BBC reported.

South Sudan plagued by ethnic violence

Since South Sudan won independence, on July 9, 2011, the Murle, many of whom fought with the north during the civil war, have waged war against their neighbors.

South Sudan: 51 killed in latest attacks in Jonglei

This is the latest attack in a series of raids carried out by the Murle group, targeting the neighboring Lou Nuer community in Jonglei.

South Sudan violence spirals out of control

The violence in South Sudan spirals out of control, as the UN continues its humanitarian effort.
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The UN attempts to mitigate the South Sudan crisis by providing food from the UN's World Food Program on January 12, 2012. (HANNAH MCNEISH/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — It started years, even generations ago. The tit-for-tat cattle raiding that kills hundreds of people in South Sudan every year, is getting out of hand.

It was the massacre of dozens, hundreds or even thousands (reports remain unclear) of Murle people by their Lou Nuer rivals in and around the town of Pibor in Jonglei state over New Year, that grabbed the world's attention.

The horror of that slaughter seems only to have fed the warriors' blood lust.

More from GlobalPost: UN troops step in to prevent ethnic violence in South Sudan

Every day this week it seems there is a new report of a fresh attack that leaves dozens dead. These attacks are regarded as being mostly revenge attacks by Murle on Lou Nuer.

The UN mission in South Sudan has tried to ease tensions however, it is not well enough manned, equipped or funded to police a territory the size of France while the fledgling government remains incapable.

More From GlobalPost: UN starts massive humanitarian effort in South Sudan

It is hard to see how the vengeful and deadly raiding can be halted, and every new death is a further blow to the fragile stability of the world's newest nation.

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South Sudan: UN starts massive humanitarian effort

Food has already been distributed to 2,000 people, according to UN spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, the BBC reported. Byrs also said the operation aims to help the 50,000 people who fled the area due to the recent violence.

South Sudan: Jonglei violence displaces "at least 20,000"

The United Nations had moved combat troops to the remote town of Pibor to prevent an attack amid mounting inter-ethnic violence, triggered by cattle raids, between the Lou Nuer ethnic group and the Murle group.

South Sudan: UN troops step in to prevent ethnic violence

An estimated 1,000 people, mostly women and children, have died in ethnic clashes in South Sudan's Jonglei state in recent months, according to the UN.

George Clooney angers Sudan regime

Actor uses star power to shed light on unsexy but critical Sudan.
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George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010. (Tim Freccia/Enough Project/GlobalPost)

George Clooney has done it again.

The Hollywood actor and director has once again used his high wattage star power to shine light on the unsexy but critical situation in Sudan.

And Sudan President Omar al-Bashir doesn't like being in the glare of Clooney's limelight.  

In case you haven't read enough about Clooney, the Los Angeles Times has published a profile of the Hollywood star that concentrates on the star's activism for the people of Sudan.

His continued engagement with Africa is, of course, why we are interested in Clooney. His sustained interest in Sudan — in Darfur, in South Sudan, in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan — has helped to keep the general public's attention on those troubled areas.

And Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project has achieved a great deal by exposing the abuses and military transgressions committed by Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's regime. The satellite images have shown illegal border incursions in Abyei. High altitude photos captured by Clooney's satellite project have shown disturbing proof of mass graves in Sudan's South Kordofan province.

The satellite images are now being used by human rights groups like the Enough Project to make a case against the Bashir regime. In fact 62 members of Congress have recently signed a letter to US President Barack Obama, citing the Satellite Sentinel Project's work in providing evidence of mass graves in 8 locations in South Kordofan province.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan battles rebels in Blue Nile state

The Sudan government shot back by criticizing those Congressmen and women for their letter and for listening to Clooney. "It does not reflect well on the U.S. government when its officials have to rely on activists and movie stars like George Clooney to provide the 'facts,' " said the statement issued by the Sudan Embassy in Washington.

The facts are piling up against the Bashir government. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has just requested an arrest warrant for Sudan's defence minister for alleged crimes in Darfur. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003-04.

The Hague-based ICC has already indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges in Darfur. A senior Sudanese official dismissed the new warrant for the defence ministerf as "ridiculous."

In another development, Kenya and Sudan have resolved their diplomatic row triggered by a Kenyan court issuing its own warrant for Bashir after he was allowed to visit Nairobi in August in defiance of the ICC request. After the Kenyan court issued a warrant for Mr Bashir's arrest on Nov. 28, Sudan ordered the expulsion of Kenya's ambassador in Khartoum, and threatened to expel Kenyan peacekeepers from Sudan and not to allow planes flying to Kenya to go through Sudanese airspace.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula made an emergency trip to Khartoum on Dec. 2 and on his return said that relations with Sudan are now "back to normal" and that no diplomats would be expelled. He said that while the Kenyan government respected the court, he said he would guarantee that Bashir will not be arrested on Kenyan territory. 

Sudan can be confusing. There are the abuses by Bashir's horseback Janjaweed militias in Sudan's western Darfur province, where thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. There is the violence by Bashir's forces along the border between Sudan and South Sudan in which whole villages have been razed. There is the violence against Sudanese opposition groups in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Maybe it's not so confusing at all. Bashir and his henchman do not flinch at using violence against those in Sudan who oppose his rule, especially those who are black Africans and Christians.

Thanks go to George Clooney for helping the public understand what's going on in Sudan.

More from GlobalPost: Clooney's group makes new charges of mass graves 

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Oxfam withdraws staff from South Sudan border

The humanitarian agency has pulled out its staff from the border of Sudan and South Sudan.
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A soldier of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) inspects an unused RPG missile in the ruins of a bombed-out building in the southern town of Rumbek on Jan. 21, 2005. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

The British humanitarian agency Oxfam has withdrawn its staff from the border of Sudan and South Sudan because of growing violence in the area, according to Reuters.

Violence has surged along the tense border since Juba seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal aimed at ending a decades long civil war.

“New bombing raids and a buildup of troops along the border of Sudan and South Sudan over the past few days threaten to escalate what is already a significant humanitarian crisis in the newest country in the world,” Oxfam said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

The group had been providing clean water to 64,000 people in the area, and the agency said it had noticed a build-up of South Sudan troops near the border. Reuters reported that tens of thousands of people have fled into South Sudan this year because of fighting.

The Khartoum government in Sudan was criticized last week by South Sudan, the United States and the United Nations for bombing sites in South Sudan, including a refugee camp. Sudan believes South Sudan is arming rebels in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, The New York Times reported.

According to Voice of America, four major Sudanese rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement, the two branches of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North — have joined together to topple the government in Sudan.  The group calls itself the Sudan Revolutionary Front.

The attacks and increased tension along the new border have some afraid that the conflict could widen into another civil war.

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