Bashir wants to teach South a ‘final lesson by force’By: Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz
KHARTOUM – Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Bashir threatened war against his newly-independent neighbour yesterday vowing to teach South Sudan a “final lesson by force” after it occupied a disputed oil field.
Appearing in medal-spangled general’s uniform at a large rally in the border province of North Kordofan, the burly military ruler danced side-to-side, waved his walking stick in the air and made blistering threats against the leadership of the South, which broke off last year after decades of civil war.
“These people don’t understand, and we will give them the final lesson by force,” Bashir told the rally in El-Obeid, North Kordofan’s capital. “We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand on Sudan, we will cut it.”
South Sudan separated from the rest of Sudan with Bashir’s blessing last July under the terms of a 2005 peace deal. But since then violence has steadily escalated, fuelled by territorial disputes, ethnic animosity and quarrels over oil.
Last week, South Sudan seized Heglig, a disputed oil field near the border between the two countries, claiming it as its rightful territory and saying it would only withdraw if the United Nations deployed a neutral force there.
Bashir vowed to retake the oil field, which he said was part of Sudan’s Kordofan province. That alone would not resolve the conflict, he added.
“Heglig is not the end, but the beginning.”
Global powers have voiced alarm at the escalation of violence and urged the two to stop fighting and return to talks.
In a dramatic escalation of rhetoric on Wednesday, Bashir said he would ‘liberate’ South Sudan from its rulers, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which fought the guerrilla civil war against Khartoum.
There was no immediate comment from the South to yesterday’s speech.
China, a major investor in both countries, expressed “serious concern” about the increase of tensions and called on both sides to stop fighting, “maintain calm and exercise maximum restraint”.
“China has worked hard to ameliorate the problems between the two Sudans, and we will continue to work with the international community at mediation efforts,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.
Some 2 million people died in Sudan’s civil war, fought for all but a few years from 1955 to 2005 over disputes of ideology, ethnicity and religion.
The countries remain at odds over the position of their border, how much the landlocked South should pay to transport its oil through Sudan and the division of national debt, among other issues.
Both countries accuse each other of waging proxy war through militia operating on each other’s territory.
Sudan’s military – with an air force, tanks and artillery – is far better equipped than the former guerrilla fighters who make up the South Sudan army. In addition to the civil war in the south, Sudan has also fought long-simmering rebellions in Kordofan and Darfur.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes in connection with the Darfur conflict, charges he rejects as political.
The south has tens of thousands of fighters under arms, with decades of experience in guerrilla conflict.
What the fight’s about
Background to the dispute and a look at the oilfield, which produced about half of Sudan’s 115 000 barrel-per-day (bpd) output:
• Fighting has been fuelled by quarrels between the two countries over issues including the exact position of their shared border, control of disputed areas, the status of citizens in one another’s territories and oil payments.
• Sudan lost three quarters of its oil output when South Sudan seceded in July 2011. The former civil war foes have since wrangled over how much the landlocked new nation should pay to export crude via the north to a Red Sea terminal at Port Sudan.
• In January 2012, South Sudan shut down its entire output of 350,000 bpd to stop Khartoum from taking oil to make up for what it calls unpaid fees for transit and use of its facilities.
HEGLIG OIL FIELD
• Heglig contains a large oilfield which Khartoum controlled until South Sudan’s army seized it last week. The field was central to Sudan’s economy, which was already reeling from the loss of oil revenues after the South split off.
• The field is operated by Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. (GNPOC), a consortium of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Sudanese companies. GNPOC said last month it would go ahead with plans to increase output to 70,000 bpd from 60,000 bpd.
• Production at Heglig – known as the Greater Nile Oil Project – began in 1996 with the development of the Heglig and Unity fields, which are now the largest in the area.
• A 450 000 bpd pipeline stretches 1 000 miles from the Muglad Basin to an export terminal near Port Sudan, transporting oil from the Heglig, Unity and surrounding smaller fields.
• The oilfields within the blocks straddle both countries. While the Unity field is fully located in the South, parts of the border area around the Heglig field in Block 2 are still in dispute.
• To back its claim to the field, Khartoum has cited a 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that said Heglig was not part of the disputed Abyei territory. Maps issued by the court appear to put Heglig in the north.
• Juba hotly contested Khartoum’s claim, often citing an internal boundary marked by British colonial administrators, and the ethnicity of the local population. Many southerners call the area Panthou. – Nampa-Reuters