South Sudanese forces retreated from the oil-producing enclave of Heglig on April 20, as northern forces moved in. Khartoum portrayed it as a military victory, while South Sudan said it has ordered its forces out. “The Republic of South Sudan announces that SPLA troops have been ordered to withdraw from Panthou [Heglig],” said South Sudan’s information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin. “An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately, and shall be completed within three days.” In the wake of the fighting, Sudanese President Omar Bashir announced that he will not allow the South to export any oil through the cross-border pipeline. “We don’t want fees from the oil of South Sudan and we will not open the pipeline,” Bashir told thousands of supporters at a Khartoum rally. “There is no oil from South Sudan that will pass through our pure land, so that not one dollar goes to these criminals.” Referring to the South Sudanese as “insects,” he accused them of backing rebel movements in the north’s territory: “We tell the president of insects Salva Kiir, your forces left through force and did not withdraw from Heglig and our men entered it by force and your aggression is continuing in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan…” (Sudan Tribune, April 21)
In a video message recorded in the White House, President Obama appealed to both sides to avoid war. He said the government of Sudan “must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments.” But he added: “Likewise, the government of South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan, and it must cease its military actions across the border.” Seeming to embrace Bashir—who is wanted by The Hague on genocide charges—as a peacemaker, he said: “The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to return to the table.” (NYT, April 21)
See our last post on the struggle for Sudan.